This will be our last regular blog post for the foreseeable future and you may hear a bit less from us on Twitter. It’s been liberating to write down thoughts and to have a forum where we can share ideas to help the problems with gender stereotyping kids. When we started tweeting we never imagined how much it would interest other people, how it would lead us to connect with some brilliant individuals and to learn from them. But after two years the cathartic method of using a diary format to tweet about the sexist treatment of our kids can feel repetitive. Not to mention it gets more complex as they get older.
Marianne Grabrucker’s diary was for the first 3 years of her daughter’s life. Our children are 5 and 2 now. Her diary ends quite abruptly and you can almost sense her exasperation with what she has recorded but also that she’s returning to work, and life must move on.
Before moving on, a little flashback 5 years – genderdiary-mum is laid low with post natal depression, health problems, breastfeeding nightmares and lack of sleep. All these things compounded a furious and righteous anger that dawned during maternity leave. We, who had been the most equal of partners, found ourselves in a situation where financially (due to the construction of our society) it was only posible for the woman to stay at home – even if she didn’t want to. It brought us both back to an engagement with feminism because, selfishly, now we needed it so much. We still do. We all do. But this might be a slightly indulgent way of explaining something about the recent online arguments about intersectionality. Cariad Martin wrote a blog that borrowed the old Tony Benn idea about leaving the House of Commons to devote more time to politics – she said she was intending to devote less time to discussing feminism (or watching on the sidelines as others fought wildly), and more time to doing feminist things. The discussion and debate that goes on online is incredibly important, and different people are at different points in their uh, for want of a better phrase, feminist journey. Intersectionality makes perfect sense, but right now debating it at length is not where we’re at, personally. More and more one half of @gendediary looks at Twitter and feels depressed again. Marriane Grabrucker went back to her job as a lawyer and got her diary published – that’s modelling the alternative to the things in society you don’t like. More of that later.
In all our blogs we promised a split between moan and solution which was done with these issues in mind. This blog ought to be no different, so finally here are some of the things we’ve learnt from tweeting, blogging and being parents.
The most important one we’ve learnt is to go easy on ourselves. The pressures of pink princess culture for girls and the rejection of anything ‘girly’ for boys is difficult for children to resist. We do what we can to fight against it, but we try never to blame ourselves or feel guilty about the fact that our kids buy into it. We’d drive ourselves to distraction otherwise.
We try never to force our opinions on our kids but we also don’t feel guilty for wanting them to become feminists. When some rail against those parents who have the intention of bringing up their children as ‘gender-neutral’ they complain they are brain washing their children, as though other parents are imposing nothing of their ideas on their children. Children are very much a product of their parents engineering, even if that is not intentional.
Likewise, we don’t feel guilty for wanting our children to share our views on equality when toy companies are pushing gender stereotypes and have multimillion pound budgets that are intended to influence your kids way more than you do. As we’ve shown in other blogs, we bring books, films, toys and attitudes into our house that reinforce our ideas of equality and we’re proud of it.
As Mariane did, we’ve done what we can to model the alternative to society’s stereotypes in our house. We’ve shaken up our roles where they were typical. We weren’t in a position to make use of shared parental leave (which we hope will eventually be improved), but if you are, give a lot of thought to how you use it. Rebecca Asher’s book Shattered is well worth a read on how and why parental leave is vital to furthering equality. She also shows that if both parents take that leave they are then more inclined to split the childcare on a return to work. We both work a short week. It works for us. Times are hard and choices are always fewer during economic difficulties. That thing from before about not feeling guilty applies here too. And everywhere.
In other simple ways we have made changes to the way we do things. This will sound horribly politically correct but we aim to take it turn to drive so we don’t fall into our parents’ model of Dad always driving whenever he’s present because the car is his domain. It’s a simple thing. There are lots of those.
And remember you’re not alone. For all its faults Twitter has been an invaluable source of support, encouragement and sisterhood/brotherhood. We didn’t start tweeting with an end in mind but it’s been delightful and empowering to learn there are so many like-minded folk out there not just talking the talk but walking the walk and standing up, speaking out and taking inspiring actions to make things better for our sons and daughters. Things like setting up an online magazine with a feminist bent like Bea. It’s been a privilege to be a part of it.