This week, at age six, Ava has had her first experience of sexism
She’s been going to football club after school for a couple of weeks, and hasn’t really been enjoying it. Yesterday, when I picked her up, she was crying. It was mainly that she was cold and the boys weren’t passing the ball to her. But it also turned out that one of the boys has been telling the rest of the boys that “football isn’t for girls.” And that’s why we need to talk to our children about sexism.I told her that in the olden days (she loves that term) only boys were allowed to go to school, as lots of people thought girls weren’t clever enough. She was visibly shocked: “But that isn’t true!” Quite.
I explained that women weren’t allowed to vote until about a hundred years ago, and that women used to not be allowed to work or even go out by themselves. I explained that many women have had to fight for our rights and that we should thank them. She thought for a moment and said “But aren’t they dead?” I said lots of them are but we can still be thankful.
I told her that girls can do whatever they like, and be whatever they like, and that no body should tell her that she can’t.
How To Inspire KIDS with history
I ordered Ava and Thea a book before Christmas, Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World*, but they had so many gifts, I kept it hidden away. It was perfect to show her at this moment. It’s helping her to understand that women can do amazing things, and prove the world wrong.
We started with Emmeline Pankhurst, and then moved on to Rosa Parks.
It’s just a drop in the ocean of sexism
I hope this book will help her see that she can do anything she sets her mind to. But to be honest, I fear that even if it does, with the current political climate, it won’t make much difference.
The saddest part of this is that this isn’t going to be the last time she experiences sexism. Far from it. As much as I hate it, sexism is rife. She will probably be paid less than a man, for doing the same job. She will likely lose out on career advancement if she wants to be a mum. She will be judged for what she wears. She will be judged if she has a baby when she’s young. She will be judged if she has a baby when she’d older. Or if she chooses not to have children. She will feel judged if she breastfeeds. She will feel judged if she bottle-feeds. She will pay tax on her essential sanitary products. She will be exposed to sexist messages on TV. In magazines. And on the internet. Goodness knows how we’ll filter that.
We still have a lot to protest about.
Up until last year, I had hoped (and naively assumed) that as my daughters grow up, the world would become more equal. But with Donald Trump’s terrifying ascent to power, I feel that we have suffered a massive step backwards (and not just in the gender equality stakes).
MARCHING FOR WOMEN’S RIGHTS
As I watched this weekend’s Women’s March unfold, I felt proud. I saw my social media streams filled with pictures of amazing women, men and children marching for women’s rights, and it brought tears to my eyes. I saw the hilarious responses to Piers Morgan’s idiotic tweet, and it made me chuckle. It restored my faith that much as President Trump (those words should never go together, should they?) goes about shouting his ill-informed opinions around, not everyone agrees. As Sali Hughes writes:
“Millions of people worldwide joined together to let one another know that we are not alone in this, we are not mere individuals rapidly losing our minds, sitting at home in front of rolling news, panic stricken and paralysed by the unfolding horror before us. We are many millions united against misogyny, racism, reproductive prison, corruption, dishonesty and dictatorship. We are united against hate.“
In my heart of hearts I do really believe that love trumps hate. And I love this tweet from Ewan McGregor:
— Ewan McGregor (@mcgregor_ewan) 24 January 2017
But it almost unbelievable that in 2017, this should even be an issue. It’s been 99 years since Emmeline Pankhurst helped get women the right to vote.
We have come so far. But we still have so far to go. And it starts with us.
I believe it is our duty, as parents, as aunties, as uncles, as grandparents, and as human beings, to educate our kids (boys and girls) that they are equal. It may not be true yet, but I have to hope that if they believe it, it will come true. Maybe not in our life time, but maybe in their’s.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO TO EDUCATE OUR CHILDREN ABOUT SEXISM?
We can do a lot. But we need to be in it together. I believe it’s up to the parents of boys to educate their children about sexism, as much as it is the parents of girls. Boys need to call out other boys when they hear this kind of nonsense. I’m trying to compile a list of resources to refer to as Ava and Thea get older and these issues come up more frequently.
I found this great blog post over at romper.com listing 7 Easy Ways To Talk About Feminism With Your Daughter and I am pleased to see that I am already doing a lot of them. Although this romper.com post talks about how to talk to you daughter, I believe these are all great ways to talk to your son as well. Phrases like “throwing like a girl” or “man up” are bandied about so much. Ava has been going to Tai Kwan Do for almost a year now and has got her yellow belt. She and her friends (both boys and girls) are FIERCE!
Whilst Ava and Thea do love pink (as do I!) they have a wide range of colours in her wardrobe, including plenty of red and blue. They have ‘girly’ toys like dolls and play kitchen and a dolls’ house. But they have lego and scooters and toy cars. Ryan is a scientist, and he’s encouraging her with her STEM. She took an interest in the photos of her own eyes after her eye test, as she could see the optic nerve. My parents bought Ava a microscope for her birthday, and she used a book voucher to buy an encyclopaedia as she’s really into space.
We Need to Change our behaviour TO EDUCATE OUR CHILDREN ABOUT SEXISM
I’m going to be looking at the other points in that post and trying to include them in our day to day life. One thing I struggle with is “Exhibiting Equality” at home. I am a homemaker. I love making our house look pretty. Because I work part time and can to a certain extent set my own hours, I do the lion’s share of the housework. I do the washing and cleaning. Ryan does do a lot of tidying up and helps with the cooking when he can. But he has over an hour commute each way to his job, so he’s out of the house for a lot of the time.
When it comes to the girls though, Ryan is brilliantly hands on. He does most of the baths, and reads with the girls most nights before bed. He takes them swimming. He gets them to help in the garden. But this has got me thinking that we need to redress this balance. And I need to stop being such a control freak!
This stuff matters. It matters to us all, whether we parent boys or girls.
So can we join together and consciously educate our boys and girls about gender equality?
Here’s to more kick-ass moments like these:
So back to the football
I don’t know if I should make her carry on. I want her to have a broad range of interests and to have the chance to do more rough and tumble activities.
I feel that she is pretty well rounded but when she hears a comment like this from another six year old, I do wonder how much progress we have made. She should never have to hear that. And I certainly don’t want to let her give up football because of this. But equally I don’t want to make her miserable. I guess it’s a case of pick your battles. This feels like one I need to fight though.
It’s time to level the playing field. Football is for everyone. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
If you are interested in talking to your daughter about sexism, check out A Mighty Girl on Facebook as they have some great books and ideas.
Have your children experienced sexism? What did you do about it? Have you got any advice? I’d love to hear it, please leave me a comment!