On my daughter’s first International Women’s Day I wanted to write about something that’s been on my mind ever since we first started the mammoth task of getting Lula kitted out. On our first shopping trip I was genuinely shocked to see how much gender prejudice is alive and well, and lurking in plain sight, on the shelves and on the webpages of the vast, vast majority of retailers of baby products and toys.
A Google images search for ‘girls toys’ and ‘boys toys’ says it all:
When my daughter starts to play imaginatively I want her flights of fancy to know no bounds, because this is how her view of the world will begin to be shaped. If you apply the images above to potential future careers, twenty years from now, we would have the boys working as engineers, soldiers, astronauts, athletes and racing drivers. And the girls? There appears to be precisely two career paths available – mother and princess. Or to put it another way the boys can think, build, fight, run, jump, climb and drive. The girls can marry princes and procreate. Now I couldn’t be prouder to be a mother. I’ve never done anything so important and fulfilling in all my life. But it’s not all I am. And I definitely, definitely don’t want my girl to ever think for one second of her life that it’s all she can be either.
The gender segregation doesn’t stop there either. Both Lula and one of her little friends, a boy, have the same V Tech Alfie Singing Bear. This is his:
And this is Lula’s (a gift):
In fact, there are a staggering range of baby products out there that are produced in girls and boys versions from bottles and bibs…
To coat hangers and bath seats!
I will say again that I am currently an utterly content and fulfilled stay at home wife and mother. I’m discovering a domestic side to myself that I never knew existed. There’s a big part of me that would happily stay with my girl and any future Wonder Baby if our finances permitted it. But then I started my family relatively late in life. I have already had not one but two successful careers. I was also lucky enough to be brought up by a staunchly feminist mother and an enlightened (for his generation) father, who always inspired me to believe that I could achieve anything I put my mind to.
And I am determined to pass this baton to my own children. I will do everything in my power to bring my daughter up to believe in herself, in her power to achieve anything she wants in life, to not ever be limited or held back by her gender. I will fight with every breath in my body against the insidious messages that will be slipping unnoticed into her mind, telling her that she’s not good enough, not strong enough, not male enough. If she wants to play at princesses and with baby dolls when she’s older that’s fine. Just as long as she knows she can also play at pirates, building, driving and anything else her heart desires.