Shoes, Blues and Independence

I took my 4yo shoe shopping today. In the Trafford Centre during the school holidays. *That* was a stupid idea. But, given we need a school uniform (that’s a whole different post), and given she seems to be in the middle of a growth spurt, it was necessary.

We started off by having her feet measured. Clarks have this odd i-pad type device that slots into the measuring machine to do the measuring. She could put her gender and her age into the machine too (I’m not quite sure why). On the screen was a boy (Jack) in blue, and a girl (Daisy) in pink. My 4yo asked why there were two people on it. Our sales assistant instantly said ‘so you can put in you’re a girl. You wouldn’t want to be a boy would you?’ with negative emphasis placed on ‘boy’.

She chose the blue; ‘because I like blue’.

This pleased me so much. Not because I don’t want her to like pink. She can have all the pink she likes. And last week she couldn’t get enough of pink and purple. This week she loves blue (but only light blue), yellow and green. I just love the fact that she didn’t get squashed into choosing what she thought she should, based on the adult’s influence.

It continued. She tried on a pair of shoes, and immediately said they were too tight. Sales assistant said ‘but they look so pretty’. Later we had ‘but they have a loveheart on the front’. She’s 4 for heaven’s sake, what’s a loveheart got to do with anything?

She stuck to her guns, and we got a pair of shoes that fit her and are comfortable.

I hope that I can continue to foster that independence as she grows up, even when she has grown ups and peers around her who try to narrow her options.  


Humourless Feminist (or More Aware Than the Rest)

Do you know about Lewis’s Law? It was a sentiment coined by Helen Lewis (Deputy Editor of the New Statesman), who said that the comments after any article about feminism show why we still need feminism. 

It’s a fairly nifty rule of thumb, and one that so far has turned out to be true (in my very scientific study of,  me, reading feminist articles when I want to – which is quite a lot, obviously). 

Take this comment piece on the Guardian’s website today:

It is about the Renault Clio advert. This particular paragraph about sexism is one of the better ones I’ve read recently: 

“Here’s a handy recap: men still hold a disproportionately high number of powerful positions in politics and business, so sexism is an institutional problem. The world remains fundamentally unequal for women. That’s why it’s not particularly “humorous” or “fun” to portray them as erotic props to help you sell things. That’s why you need to think a bit harder about how you represent women in advertising and that’s why you should choose camera angles that show their heads as well as their breasts. Not a lot to ask.”

She’s right, it isn’t a lot to ask. And the comments underneath are suitably scathing about her being a humourless feminist, or have been removed by the moderator. I am a feminist.  Since reading the excellent How to be a Woman I call myself a strident feminist. others call me a humourless feminist. 

Yes, they may be right. But I wonder if that is because their sense of humour is a bit shit really, or because they are  not very aware about what it actually means to be a woman in 2013. 

Part of the reason I am a humourless feminist is because I clearly need to be. When I was a teenager in the 90s it felt like we were on the cusp of something. I remember reading articles in Cosmo magazine about how in the future women would choose not to change their name on marriage, and it would be as common to keep your maiden name as it would to change it (albeit next to an article about how to get your guy, and then how to keep your guy happy in bed, but let’s leave that one for now). I remember the introduction of the term Ms. I remember thinking that by the time I am raising children and I am in my 30s the world will look different for them. 

It does look different. We’ve gone backwards and it makes me angry. I remember being able to play with the same lego that my brother had (he was older, no gender comment there!) and not feel like I needed to build stables and kitchens out of pink and purple lego while he built spaceships. Is there a term for snowblind when the colour you’re being blinded by is pink?*

For the love of sanity, can we get some actual creative from marketing companies, who are brave and bold and recognise women as human beings? Is that too much to ask?

So for now, I’ll remain a humourless feminist, and I think those that label me as such are wilfully ignorant. 


*Let it be noted that I don’t hate the colour pink for itself. My daughter loves it too. I do object to it being the only choice (or the only colour out of bounds) because of gender. 

Boys are Better than Girls. Right?

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.