Wednesday 11 March 2015

Everyday sexism

It wasn't until about 5 or 6 years ago I started to think about feminism.  Until that point I'd never not considered myself to be a feminist, I just didn't really think about it.  Having children has made me much more aware of my place in society.  In the last 6 or so years I have become a much more confident and aware person.  Several things have contributed to this; age, being a mother, not working, knowing myself better, meeting new people.

Having had children I am so much more aware of how important it is that we teach our children the right things and that we lead by example.  So many things we say and do have an undertone of sexism or stereotyping.  Most of the time we don't even realise we are doing these things.  Have a boy?  Suddenly without realising you're buying blue, tractors, planes and cars.  Next child a girl?  Find yourself thinking you'll have to buy everything new again because "I can't use a blue buggy with a girl!".  Many things are even more subtle.  Ever noticed yourself making more of a fuss if a female child falls over than you would if it were a male child?

It's really hard to buck the trend.  I know, I've done it.   Throughout my life I've not been afraid to stand out a bit.  Well, I wasn't always so happy to stand out when I was younger but my desire to look the way I wanted to and dress the way I wanted too was stronger than my fear!

When I was pregnant with Ethan, my first, I was convinced I was having a girl.  So convinced.  I bought items in all colours and patterns for my "girl" to wear.  When he was born I was handed a boy - shock!! Did I get rid of any more the more "girly" items I'd bought?  No.  I dressed him in them any way.  I let his hair grow long.  I bought him a buggy to play with.  Dolls.  A play kitchen. A dolls house.  I let him dress up as a princess as well as an astronaut.  I let him play with cars and roll around in the mud too.  Of course I did.  Those are things that a child does.  A child.  Not a boy or a girl.  Child.

When Felix was born it was the same.  He's worn every colour.  He has exceptionally long hair and I can't bear to cut it.  One of his favorite toys is his baby.  Mind you, he's obsessed with cars.

Every single day and I do mean EVERY day Felix is mistaken for a girl.  It'll happen up to 5 times a day.  Only once or twice has someone tactfully said "Mind out for that child" or "what a beautiful child".  It's usually "Let the little girl have her go" or "My, she's beautiful, what curls!".  If I correct them, they are apologetic and I'm not really bothered but I am starting to wonder what Felix thinks.  He's 2 in May and he's not stupid.  I wonder if it'll bother him to be called a girl all the time?

It's not easy.  Do I give in to society's pressures?  Cut his hair and only dress him in green and blue?  I don't want to though!  So.. I keep on down this path.

Why?  Why am I doing this?  Because I want my boys to treat people, everyone, with dignity and respect.  I want them to know about equality.  I want them to strive for equality.  I want them to know they can do anything and be anything they want to be and anyone can.  Every day I send Ethan off to school and I pat him on the chest and say "believe in yourself" and he repeats it back.  I want strong children.  Fair children.  I'm trying my hardest to equip them with the tools to deal with small mindedness.

As a woman I encounter sexism every day.  Years ago I didn't notice it, or didn't want to.  These days I sometimes don't realise it's happened until I've thought about it.  It's not always blindingly obvious.  In fact, the people doing it probably don't mean it as sexist in any way, but when you really think about it, it is.

An example.   I've had short hair for years now but a few weeks ago I decided to have a grade 3 cut on most of it.  I love it, I'm so happy with it.  When women see it they all tell me "Wow! I love your hair!".  Do you know what all the mean who have commented on it have said?   "Wow!  That's a change.  What did your husband think?".  Innocuous?  Maybe.  But think about it.  What did my husband think about it?  I'm sorry.  Who's hair is it?   It's MY hair.  I can choose how I want to wear it.  Pete is in a relationship with me, not my hair.  If he can't look past something like that (which grows!) and still love me then heck, that's not a good relationship!  I'm not saying that as adults in  relationship you can't discuss these kinds of things together, but ultimately it's my hair and I feel, my choice!

A few men have even seen fit to see my short hair as an expression of my sexuality.  Yes, because short hair on a woman means they are gay.  Right.  Can we not get past this sort of thing?  Short hair on a woman has nothing to do with sexuality.  Sure, you might get lesbian with short hair but you're just as likely to find one with long hair.  If my son has long hair and wears a pink top it doesn't make him gay.  If I paint one of his bedroom walls pink or let him push a doll in a buggy, none of these things will have an impact on his sexuality.  All it will do is allow him the freedom to be him.  To explore himself and find his place in society.  And then maybe, one day in the future, when one of his female friends has a short hair cut he won't make a judgement on her sexuality or ask her what her husband thought of it.  This is feminism.  Feminism is EQUALITY.  Equality for ALL.


  1. I totally, totally agree with you and really admire you for sticking to your guns. I think i read somewhere that the pink and blue phenomenon is only a fairly modern thing and we've all seen pictures in the olden days of men wearing women's clothes and so on. As optimistic as I am I don't think sexism will ever truly be eradicated, it seems so ingrained in society. Even my new boss at work asks the girls to do administrational things for him which he would never ask the guys to do!

    I got so fed up with people assuming Maddie (dog) when she was little was a boy just because we gave her a blue collar, and even when I've been at markets selling, 9 out of 10 people will ask "what do you have for boys" or "what do you have for girls" which drives me bonkers. All we can do is keep fighting the good fight and celebrate small victories X

  2. I agree! It's so easy to miss and wonder about it later. My fun comment from the weekend:

    Son no. 1 is into play doh at the moment and asked to get it out to play with Grandad who was visiting. Husband starts getting play doh and tools out for them.
    Grandad's wife: 'Oooohh, Grandad will get to play with boy things today, that'll be nice, he normally gets to play with gi- Oh.'
    The 'oh' was because my husband got a rolling pin out to help with the play doh. A rolling pin! I would have laughed/said something but it was just too ridiculous. I'm not sure what she was expecting instead?!

  3. Fabulous post Alex. Seb isalways mistaken for a girl and at 4 he is starting to notice pp but he doesn't want his hair cut so I am leaving it. We have dolls, a kitchen, dollhouse as well as hot wheels and trains, I want to raise my boys to see the sex es as equal x

  4. I hear you. My boys wear pink and play with dolls, and last weekend my boys painted their nails to match mine with sparkly polish. Did they see it as "girly"? No, but my in laws made comments that really confused my boys. Did I have something to tell them, they wanted to know. It makes my blood boil. Equality is never equality with children and we will never have it as long as people feel free to cast stereotypical or homophobic comments as freely as they breathe.


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