My three year old, Isaac, is a little insane. He’s very intelligent, and equally cheeky, and veers from complete lunacy to deep wisdom, usually in the space of about 30 seconds. Today was definitely a lunatic day. After informing me gravely that he didn’t want “a lot of chocolate bars – just 53”, he then insisted on taking his toy foam sword to church, where he proceeded to manage the Sunday school by dint of thwacking them round the ankles.
Sometimes though, he just gets it, in a way adults don’t.
The other day, I was reading a book with some pictures of Suffragettes in. He wanted to know what they were, and why they were wearing sashes. As I explained, he bagan to look more and more cross. Suddenly he announced – “if anyone tries to tell me girls are not so important as boys, I will smack them!”
A* for feminism, D- for pacifism.
But I love the way Isaac’s instinctive reaction was to be angry about it, to want to do something about it. Admittedly, I’m not convinced by the efficiency of a foam sword, but he instantly recognised that this was a wrong situation that needed changing.
Maybe it’s because the huge battles seem to be won. Maybe the challenges, at least in the Western world, go undetected because they’re subtler. I’m not sure. But it seems to me that when we live in a world where 1 in three women is a victim of gender based violence (men too, but it much smaller proportions), where girls and young women still believe their career advice is influnced by their gender, when girls can report sexual harrassment and be told by authority figures just to ignore it, and the media constanty portrays the idea that a woman’s body is far more important than the woman inside it – something is still pretty wrong.
And that’s why it’s so important to kep fighting those little battles. To question why it’s acceptable for a well known children’s clothing brand to print shirts for boys saying “Training to be Batman” whilst the girl equivalent reads “training to be Batmans wife”. To ask what’s going on when boys are scared to play with dolls for fear of being thought “a girl”. To get angry when you go to a toyshop and all you can find in the “girls” section is pink. To ask why a family newspaper still prints pictures of women topless.
Because truth be told? They’re not little battles. They’re the battles for hearts and minds and attitudes. When we buy into this “helpless weak girl who loves shopping” as opposed to “big macho man who likes fighting”, we’re telling our kids, and ourselves, that this is ok, it’s acceptable, it’s normal.
And if you think girls are weak and helpless, it’s not hard to jump from there to believing you can’t control your own destiny, your own choces, your own decsions. And if your model of manhood is all chest beating Tarzan muscleman, then it’s easy to jump from there to “boys will be boys”.
It’s insulting, deeply so, to both sexes.
How we do it, I don’t know. But we can’t sit and wail about it without fighting the battles. Wailing does nothing. Fighting does.
I’m hoping, in the future, Isaac might find something more effective to fight with than a foam sword. But I’m damn well going to teach him to keep fighting. He’s too good to buy into this rubbish. We’re all too good for it.