Lifting my 3yo into a swing
Sitting on the ground on a picnic blanket
Being able to take my 3yo roller-skating or ice-skating
Going for walks
Being able to stand long enough to cook a tasty meal
Getting out of bed in the morning without wincing
Playing on the floor with my kids
Feeling physically tired
No sooner had I published that last post than I found this link on twitter.
That’s right; take housing benefit rights away from pregnant teenagers, because the only reason they get pregnant is to get a house. Silly me for thinking there are a plethora of reasons a teenager may get pregnant.
Are we really suggesting, again, that girls are the only ones to blame for teenage pregnancy? Do we really have to go into all the reasons this is bullshit, again?
It has become increasingly apparent to me how pervasive the attitude that boys are better than girls really is.
From birth it seems to be unacceptable to buy boys dolls or anything pink. Heaven forbid someone might think they are a girl, or worse that they might enjoy playing with dolls and will be branded a ‘sissy’. In a message often repeated, boys are told not to be ‘girly’ in their play, in their emotions and in their attitude. I’m not quite sure what is wrong with being ‘girly’, why this is deemed such a negative. I’m not quite sure why a boy playing with a pink guitar would be less acceptable than playing with any other colour of guitar.
Given how early the messaging starts, from our friendly toy companies’ marketing departments (lego and play doh I’m looking at you – among others) to the grown ups in a child’s life, it’s hardly surprising that by the time our children become teenagers the messages have become so deeply ingrained that we struggle desperately to undo the conditioning. Those of us who try are branded humourless feminists and worse.
In England, girls / women are no longer the property of their father until they marry and then become the property of their husband, women are allowed to work (even, shock horror, after they are married), women are allowed to drive, have their own bank accounts and own their own houses, choose whether they would like to be a parent or not and vote.
I wonder whether this generation will be remembered for deliberately and consistently reinforcing the idea that boys and male qualities are preferable to the alternative in spite of how obviously damaging this is to both sexes.
There was a debate on twitter recently about access on buses, and whether parents with prams should leave the bus to make room for a wheelchair user.
It triggered some thoughts about the invisibility of pain. When you are living with chronic pain, you have to find a way to cope. Mostly, this does not include weeping and hiding under the bed covers, though there are days when this is the only option. As a parent with chronic pain, I still have to parent. I am very lucky that I have a partner who does the lion’s share of the housework and cooking and washing clothes etc. He is a hands on dad, and I can’t remember the last time I have had to do the kids’ bath time. I still have 2 days a week when he is working and I have the kids.
I can’t use my crutches and lift my baby.
I can’t use my crutches and push a pram.
There are different types of bad day, ranging from bed-bound to wanting to cry with every movement. Even on a good day I am exhausted with the pain by the end of it. Yesterday I went to see Massive Attack, and taking my crutches along meant people gave me more room (though not a seat on the train platform!), helped me with heavy doors, and meant I was given a seat for the performance. These offers of help and assistance meant I was in less pain by the end of the day than otherwise.
When I am with my children, the pain is invisible.
My 1yo is poorly today. This means she won’t be put down. At all. Given that I still need to entertain and care for my 3yo, this makes life tricky, even without the back pain.
I was trying to cook lunch. I had to get down to floor level to get a frying pan out of the cupboard. My back twinged like mad when I stood up, resulting in a sharp intake of breath and tears streaming down my cheeks.
My 3yo came to me, stood very close, rubbed my back and quietly said “I’ve got you” in the same way that I do to her when she is sad.
Then she said “when will they fix you mummy?”
So, I’ve been thinking about the William Hague “comment”. You know the one; yesterday during PMQs he is clearly seen mouthing the words ‘stupid woman’ at Cathy Jamieson MP when she asks a question.
I retweeted a comment about the Tory party showing yet another example of sexism, and was challenged on this by a friend. He asked if it would still be sexism if he had said ‘stupid man’.
It’s a fair enough challenge, and we exchanged a few tweets on the topic, and ended by continuing to disagree with each other – me believing it was sexist, he believing it was a breach of etiquette.
So here’s the thing. It wasn’t said to a man. In fact, I can’t remember ever hearing the phrase ‘stupid man’ uttered. I hear ‘idiot’ or ‘muppet’ or similar. Perhaps this is only in my world, but stupidity is not attributed to gender in the same way.
William Hague of course apologised and said what he mutters under his breath isn’t meant to cause offence. Except he didn’t mutter it to himself, he pointedly mouthed it in her direction more than once.
Given the pervasive gender imbalance in the cabinet, the coalition, and in politics in general, and given that Cameron failed to remember that women play tennis and that Boris Johnson thinks women go to university to find husbands (to name only the two most recent examples), I don’t think this can simply be dismissed as a breach of etiquette.
I recently watched a video of Dustin Hoffman being interviewed about his role in Tootsie, and the fact that he cried when he realised he would not be a beautiful woman. In his words, he admits that he was brainwashed and missed out on conversations with interesting women because he would not have spoken to them because of the way they looked.
The interview is honest, moving and all too true: http://www.themarysue.com/dustin-hoffman-tootsie/
Today in PMQs the Prime Minister commented that Andy Murray was the first Brit to win Wimbledon in 77 years. No, David Cameron, he wasn’t. Virginia Wade won in in 1977. Even with only a C grade in GCSE maths I can tell you that 1977 – 2013 is not 77 years.
John Inverdale commented on the women’s tennis that Bartoli would never be a looker. Indeed, not only made that comment for himself but made the comment as if it might have been her father who had that thought. Inverdale made no similar comments about the male tennis players. Arguably this is not because they are all stunningly beautiful men.
As the parent of two small children, I find the fact that women (and girls) are either invisible or apparently to be pleasing on the male eye deeply troubling. It is damaging not only to women, but to men, who are brought up to believe that they are superior, almost from birth. But that’s another post.