In one of my photo albums, there’s a photo of a three year old girl, wearing an up-turned bucket on her head, and a pair of her father’s shoes. “When I grow up,” she’d declared, “I want to be just like Daddy.” See, my childhood was one where I was allowed to act like a rough and tough, hard wearing, ambitious girl. I was that girl in that photo, and upon that “I want to be just like Daddy,” I’d declared I wanted my father’s dreams, my father’s lifestyle. I didn’t want to be my mother, who, as far as I was aware, did nothing. So, I buried myself in impersonating my father, an offshore installation manager for a well-known oil company. I never had a Barbie, but instead opted for cars, planes, a pinball machine, lego and science kits. It wasn’t shameful for me to aspire to a man’s role. Men were, in our world, to be adored. I suspect that, in my family’s back garden, in the late 80’s, the seeds of my feminist thought had already been planted.
25 years later, and my four year old is experiencing a different society. See, my son is a pirate loving, mermaid adoring, pink wellie wearing, child who believes (for today, at least) that his mother is the best thing on the planet. His current heroes are Holly Shiftwell from Cars 2, Jessie from Toy Story, Wonder Woman, and Green Arrow; Don’t worry, we’ll be having words about the latter – GA isn’t the most feminist friendly hero. And he knows all the words to the films that my family see as cause for concern; Tangled, The Little Mermaid… I should stop before I have my feminist license revoked, shouldn’t I?
Anyway, Friday evening, Mini-Dragon and I found ourselves heading to an early Halloween party. Somehow, I failed to find a dragon costume, so whilst conforming to patriarchal beauty standards, and becoming a witch, Mini-Dragon struck up a fascination with my purple nail varnish. My sister-in-law has entertained the pink wellies, the one-boy Little Mermaid fan club, with a bemused “He’ll grow out of it” attitude. I tend to view it more as my son being exactly who he chooses to be, and having the capacity to make that choice. However, the nail varnish raised a slightly different reaction. “Let’s hope he grows out of that… Otherwise, he’ll end up the other way.” I’m still trying to work out what “the other way” was. It sounds hideous, so going on that, I’ve come to the conclusion that my sister in law meant he’d join Fathers 4 Justice…
Sadly, this wouldn’t have been the case. My sister-in-law, over the years has been the owner of some gems. There was the gendered party bags and pass the parcel, I shit you not, labelling her daughter a tomboy on the fact she doesn’t live in dresses, and declaring my need for a man at every available opportunity… No, wearing nail varnish and pink wellies, simultaneously, was a preclude for my son either wishing to become a girl, or becoming gay. These are two of the worst things, according to the patriarchy, that a man could be. Gay, or in anyway comparable to the female sex, through the old gender claptrap. It reminds females of their positions. We can aim to be men, we can aim to stand alongside them, as it is seen as bettering ourselves. However, the moment a male aims to become like us, or stand alongside us, this needs correcting. It’s this hierarchy which we call the patriarchy; this hierarchy alone is violence against women, as it subverts women as the weaker sex, the second sex.
If you need further proof of this, bear in mind that the little boy who went to bed this evening, with small flecks of purple nail varnish on his nails, will never be one of the 1 in 4… His mother, who dreamt of becoming part of the elite, who dreamt of becoming an equal with a man… that three year old wearing the up-turned bucket, has already been just that.