Wednesday, 5 October 2016

7 Ways I fail at gender neutral parenting (But it doesn’t make me a rubbish feminist)


Here are the seven ways I fail at gender-neutral parenting: 

1) I painted my daughter’s new bedroom peach and bright yellow and my 6 yr old boy’s bedroom grey and black.

2) I bought some “boy” and “girl” toys for the party bags for my son’s birthday. Including pretty stickers & hair clips vs robot stickers & cars.

3) My son loves football and my daughter loves dancing. I actively encourage both.

4) Gus had Thomas the Tank crockery when he was little. I bought Joni Peppa Pig stuff when she came along.

5) Gus’s wardrobe was lots of reds, yellows, greens as well as blue when he was little but now his wardrobe is made up of black, brown and grey. Joni has those colours too but also ALL the colours and a big dollop of yellow, pink and purple.

6) Gus had fairly neutral toys until about one but then he was drawn towards cars, trains and balls. So that’s what we bought. Joni was obsessed with dolls by the age of one. Admittedly introduced by the child-minder but obssessed nontheless. She now has quite the collection.

7) Gus had a blue scooter to get to school. It’s a bit old and shabby now but perfectly serviceable. However, Joni is getting a pink one for her birthday.

I don’t necessarily think these are brilliant parenting decisions but they are informed decisions of a parent who very much thinks of herself as a feminist. The thing is, these decisions in the most part are led by my kids. They, rightly or wrongly, are drawn to certain toys, colours, activities and I am not going to stop them just because they’re not the most “progressive” decisions. They are led by their own tastes, societies tastes and the tastes of their peers. While I am aware that forcing girls to wear pink and be obsessed with princesses vs boys wanting to be superheros and sportstars is just plain silly I think there has to be a compromise. Kids, for the most part, don’t want to feel apart from the “pack”. They like doing things their friends do and as parents, although we can try and influence their tastes and decisions I think it would be cruel to force them to do / be / wear things they don’t feel comfortable with.

Saying that, there are loads of ways I DO do gender neutral parenting well. My kids are growing up in a household where both parents have jobs, we both share all household tasks and childcare equally, we never tolerate “girls do/like this and boys like/do this”, we will bring them both up to treat everyone as an equal, Joni will be encouraged to do or be whatever she wants and I pray that the glass ceiling will at least be cracked when she gets there, Gus is taught that he can cry and be as emotional as he likes and never told to “man up” or “stop acting like a girl”.

And in lots of ways they reject stereotypes too….. they both completely love Lego and construction but they both love playing with the kitchen and food toys too. Gus wants to grow his hair long like his rocker Dad, loves drawing spends hours sitting quietly to do it and doesn’t give a monkeys that his male classmates all have short hair and love charging around playing sports. Joni, when recently faced with hand-me-down dress up clothes completely eschewed the fairy tutus and princess gowns and went straight for the lion outfit, and we’ve been hard pressed to get it off her since.

I think approaching parenting with a slightly different view to the “norm” is usually best done with common sense. Yes you could be brave / staunch in your approach … shave your kids head, refuse reveal their gender and expect the world to treat them neutrally but the reality is, the world can be cruel. It’s better to ease them into it than throw them in at the deep end, surely?

I asked a couple of bloggy friends for their examples of bad feminist parenting. For the most part, they put me to shame! They are actively giving two fingers up to stereotypes! Here are some of their contributions:
Sally from Bear andCardigan said: “I bought Bear a baby doll in pink for his Christmas present. He chose blue wellies and a blue football from all those available.”
Ceri from ContentMum said: “I bought Fred a dustpan and brush.. Picked the bloody blue one didn't I?!!! (Yes, I like my 14 month old to do chores!)”
Vicky from EarthBased Fun said: “I often used to put Dylan in tights when baby wearing and I’d always get comments from folk horrified a boy was wearing tights, but hey it keeps them warm!”
Ojo from Ojo’sWorld said: “My middle son, a few years ago, was browsing the Argos catalogue. He looked at toys for himself, then power tools for daddy. Then he says 'ooh mam, I found stuff for you?' I enquire what it was, his answer: 'I dunno, kitchen stuff' Gender neutral does not exist in this house, I'm afraid 😂”

But I absolutely love this, Jo from First Time Valley Mum: “ I let Z pick My Little Pony toys after he had his teeth out 😂 he also walked around for weeks with a doll. My husband hated it!”

What are your feminist parenting fails and wins? I need to know I am not alone in the struggle! Please comment / Tweet or FB me yours!  


Mummascribbles
Admissions Of A Working Mother

20 comments :

  1. My nearly 7 year old spent a good 20 mins yesterday playing by himself dressing his 4 year old sister's doll in her new clothes and currently has red nail polish on his toes. The polish has been commented on recently by 3 of his friends, asking 'why does Blair have nail polish on his toes? and each time I look at Blair and we say 'just because', then they run off and play football or hide and seek. I've never referred to toys as girl toys or boy toys in front of him and I've never heard him say that something is a girls toy therefore he can't play with it but I have heard some of his friends say it. He also had a pink pram for about two years which he LOVED to push his teddy's in but at the same time I was obsessed with diggers and trucks. Basically he plays with whatever he wants to play with, I've always thought that being determined for your children to play with gender neutral toys was just as bad as being determined that they only play with 'girl' or 'boy' toys. At the end of the day they should play with whatever they want to play with, without our input as parents.

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    1. Amen sister! But also...i do love this. I love that he has no awareness that his playing is anything other than totally normal...which of course it is. Gus has uttered the words "boys don't do this" or "such and such is a boys / girls thing" which he's obviously got from school but we just calming explain that there's no such thing and that anyone can play / do anything and move on. Thanks for being the first to comment sweet cheeks! XXXXX

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  2. Yes we have to be careful not to push things on our children too. Boys may not want to play with dolls and girls may not like cars and diggers. Just let them play and be happy

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  3. It is easier if you have children of both sexes as there are all sorts of toys available - I think we can only do so much without making it into a big issue. Sam's favourite toy when he was small was a cheap hairdressing set and he was always 'doing' my hair (I loved it) - and when we were at a friend's house who had a toy tool set both the boys used the sander to pretend it was a hairdrier! Let them play with whatever they want - though I admit it is hard when they are put under pressure at school from kids who's parents are maybe not so enlightened.

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    1. Yeah actually I thought about that afterwards...it does make it harder if you have same sex kids cos then you'd actively have to go against the grain.

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  4. Absolutely, I think the point with toys is to give them the choice. I bought my girls new scooters the other day. My one year old had a pink Peppa Pig one because it's her fave thing at the moment and my 4 year old had a Ninja Turtles one, because that's her favourite thing at the moment. As long as they are allowed to express themselves, then who cares what colour they have?! #StayClassyMama

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    1. Yes choice and self expression are both key. Thanks Laura.

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  5. Oh yeah totally agree- I am exactly the same! About this time last year I tried to get my then two year son to choose a doll from the toy shop instead of a tractor. He was all like "look at this amazing effing tractor, its green!!" and I was like "oh but would you like a dolly, you can if you want, its not just for girls - its ok if you want a dolly darling...". He didn't want a sodding dolly, he wanted a tractor. Did I subconsciously somehow make him prefer tractors? Am I terrible mother/ woman/ feminist? Are tractors in his DNA? I have no idea. Love your blog thanks for linking up #stayclassymama

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    1. Haha! When Gus was tiny and naturally took an interest in brrroooming things along the floor i was really shocked...soounds so stupid now but I didn't really get that they will naturally be attracted to certain toys. I did think it was all nurture vs nature. But I now know it's a bit of both. :) xxx

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  6. We try our best to be gender neutral with Squidge... we try not to re-inforce stereotypes and to be fair he almost does that himself - he always tends to go towards boy-centric toys like cars, trucks and trains. However, if he picked out a doll or any other girl-centric toys we'd be more than happy for him to have them - they're all toys after all! I also try to avoid dressing him in stereotypical blue, but more of a range of colours (I'd try to stay away from pink with a girl too) :)

    Georgina
    www.pixiedoes.com

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  7. Although we don't discourage our girls from typical "boy" activities, (Go climb a tree kid!) it has been my experience that gender is a biological distinction and stereotypes are at least sometimes there for a reason.

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  8. Just a quick comment but wanted to say I love this post :) :) We try and be gender neutral but I also think boys will be boys and girls awill be girls to some extent - I'm mean my eldest loves Camo - everything Camo and it's something I have never encourage (I'm not a fan of Camo) but he is just massively into Bear Grylls, dens, forests, army etc...it's just what he likes

    Laura x

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    1. Yeah I hate camo too! haha! But i remember boys in my junior school being OBSESSED with survival stuff. Funny! Thanks for commenting my lovely girl! Xx

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  9. Now this is my kinda blog! Love this. Very similar to our approach really. A parents we are feminists but there is deffo a blue and pink thing in our house. Blue is my 4 year old's (boy) favourite colour. And my daughter just looks super cute in pink. We do dress her in blues and all sorts too but we do tend to buy the pink stuff for her. I'm less concerned about these stereotypes as they aren't significant ones in adulthood, women aren't restricted to pink etc. My 1 year old daughter got 2 pink dollies for her first birthday and she's never had them as my son loved them and stole them and has slept with them every night since. He's amusingly named them Betty and plurgh. Like you we are mindful about limiting gender roles and the division of labour. It's all a work in progress isn't it!

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    1. Absolutely. It's actually good to hear other feminist mum's agree. Thanks Nyomi! Xxx

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  10. Little B's favourite toys are his sister's dolls, pushchair and my high heels. Not sure where he gets it from! #twinklytuesday

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