Gender [Non]Specific

Thanks Garrettc

I have an issue. One that has just been reignited by this post from one of my favourite bloggers. It appears that in spite of our best efforts, things continue to go full circle in the gender debate/divide.

She’s objecting to the fact that a popular UK children’s store has now become the seller of plastic tat and, not only that, advertising that continues to gender stereotype our kids.

This is not the first time I’ve been enraged by this issue. Not at all. This very evening I started to read a story to Squidge. It was from the Orchard Book of Magical Tales, retold by Margaret Mayo. I started seething from the first story and haven’t bothered to read any further. In fact, the book has been removed from her libary and is to be burnt ceremonially (kidding!).

The first story is called the Lemon Princess and starts off by saying that the Prince needed to find a wife, but no woman was good enough for him because he wanted the most beautiful woman in the world. No normal babe would do.

He gets told where to find her from an old crone (oh, fabulous), he finds her but loses her thanks to the machinations of an ugly servant girl with coarse hair and dry skin [insert irate bad word here], but beauty wins out in the end because our magical princess is not only super stunning, but she can cook, weave, clean, and serve her man too.

This book is written by a woman! What on earth? I was fuming. Then I read Vonnie’s post above and sighed. After all the hard work that the original women did to get us equal rights, it appears that it has all sort of stopped and started stagnating.

Partially dressed women are still used to promote “male” items such as cars/computers/gadgets. Youth is more important than the funny wisdom of the older woman. And women who want to stay at home and care for their families are attacked and vilified by their own gender. What’s that all about? I thought feminism was about giving us a choice? Not about deriding each other for not being some kind of ideal. That’s just slapping another stereotype onto us.

It is something I ponder a lot. My daughter is hugely into pink. She loves Disney princesses, she loves froofy dresses, she loves all girly things. All on her own bat. I never said, “You is girl. You play Barbie,” she just loves pink. She also loves Doctor Who, Toy Story, climbing and other such pursuits that should, theoretically, clash with her girliness. But why should they clash? Can’t she be a princess who likes computers? I have (I hope) allowed her to be whoever she wants to be and I’ve done my best to let her know that she’s capable of anything.

But, one day (not now obviously), should I tell her that all things are not created equal? That mummies don’t get the same pay as daddies? That many men (and women) will judge her on her looks and not her brains? Or do I hope that, by then, things will have oozed outed of the stone age and that women will have stitched the gender divide right up?

And just to leave you with something to ponder, apparently a study held in 2008 shows that toys are more gender specific than ever before.

Advertisements

The Party

So yesterday was Squidge’s birthday. She turned an adorable four and my heart sat in my chest as prepared for the big day. This time four years ago she was struggling with me to come into the big wide world. A ten day labour that ended in an emergency C-section at 3.10am on Sunday night.

In the course of my musing I also had a side note – if she was born at three am on a Sunday night it’s also 3 am on a Monday morning so is she Monday’s child (fair of face) or Sunday’s child (full of grace) or is she both?

Anyway, I am ambling off topic here, a side-effect of post-party exhaustion I think.

So, in my previous posts I mentioned that I’d bought a bunch of Doctor Who goodies to theme up her party and that we held it upstairs at a lovely little coffee shop. I positioned the life-sized Doctor Who and Amy cutout just at the top of the stairs so everyone could see it. The effect was fantastic.

Her little face when she saw it was a complete picture and made every moment of anticipation worth it. Towards the end of the party her and M (the little boy she plays Doctor Who with – she’s Amy), were standing by the cutout and acting out their own version of the show. It was to die for. The fuzzy image above is a quick snap I got of Squidge under the cutout.

Anyway, what I didn’t mention before was that I did not know any of the parents coming to the party. We’ve only just moved to the area and so this was one trial by fire I was nervous about. Since I’ve moved to the UK I’ve struggled a bit with the other mums. They either ignore me, look horrified by me, or don’t really care one way or the other. For someone desperate (yes, desperate) to make other mum friends and get my daughter lovely playdates, this is not a great thing.

Obviously this isn’t all mums! I have some truly dear friends in my old town and my Person. But in this town there is nobody and my track record in the UK isn’t great. Basically my personality isn’t quite ideal for the reserved British human. They either love it or look terrified. I can be a little bit like an overenthusiastic and slightly damp puppy.

So, this remarkable inability to strike the right tone with the natives and a natural propensity for paranoia have left me somewhat twitchy. And this party was looming like a trial by social torture. If I messed up then it would be Squidge who suffered. How could I explain to her that the reason T or E couldn’t meet up for a playdate was because their mums didn’t like me?

Post party mayhem

Needless to say, it turned out that none of the mums knew each other either. The room was oozing with social awkwardness, a sharp counterpoint to the bouncy excitement of children on a sugar high. I have never felt so stressed. I did manage to chat to some of the mums and ultimately landed four playdates (result!) but there were moments I just wanted to crawl under a rock and die.

Unlike last year’s party that had many parents I knew attending, the last hour dragged a bit and I was absolutely gutted when everyone left at ten to 5. The last party I held lasted quite a bit longer and I didn’t really notice people going because I had family and friends there. Although having a grand total of two parties under my belt hardly makes me an expert on the etiquette of it all, I wondered if my party was so kak that everybody couldn’t wait to leave?

I tried to make it fun and exciting! We had cookies and veggies with dips on Doctor Who plates, two coloured juices in Doctor Who cups and dalek masks to growl through. Then it was pass the parcel and everybody won a prize. Although one tot (who’s parents just left her with us and went to the beach) just kept opening the layers on her one when I wasn’t looking and one tot (who’s mum was so standoffish her nose could probably have propped up Big Ben) kept crying whenever he didn’t win.

Then it was time to do pizza making (an activity provided by the coffee shop owner) and they LOVED that. Then it was musical statues which saw me reduce two tots to tears – my own and Standoffish Mum’s child – because they moved and I had to tell them they were out. I felt horrible! Nobody told me that musical statues could be so fraught!

I felt really awkward about making the child cry. Twice if you count that he didn’t win the Best Dancer competition either and that he thought he HAD won because the parents were calling out the winner saying “blond boy!” and there were two of them. Good thing that childcare is not my chosen career path I think.

So, other than feeling utterly miserable about everyone leaving the second I cut the cake and worried that the other parents think I am a complete idiot, the party went well… Squidge loved it. She loved every single minute (except the bit where I made her cry, obv) and is so excited about her playdates.

Birthday girl

I hope that the mums I suggested playdates to weren’t just being nice because I am SO excited about being able to offer Squidge the company of other children on weekends.

I spent most of last night plotting this post and how I would write it. I wanted to share the funny and sad moments of the party. The fact that I felt like it was a huge flop. The squirly nerves I suffer from whenever I’m in a social situation nowadays (I used to be so comfortable with meeting new people but the coldness of some of the people here has really changed that). And in the end it has, I think, been a bit of a deranged ramble.

Funny moments: Three kids sneaking up on Doctor Who cutout in case he started talking to them, all the kids wanting to go for a wee at the same time and me being the only one who could do it, M arriving in a Doctor Who bowtie (melt).

Sad moments: Child from foster family just left alone and becoming increasingly quiet and withdrawn throughout (I was gutted by how old her eyes looked)

Dark funny moments: Making children cry because I told them they had moved in musical statues. Stand-Offish Mum telling me that her son doesn’t know who Doctor Who is because, “We don’t approve of him”. Oh, well, have a Dalek mask…snort.

Idiot moments: Forgetting the two glasses of iced water for the heavily pregnant mums (gulp), giving Doctor Who stickers to Stand-Offish Mum’s child as compensation for his losing musical statues and then remembering what she said (above).

Happy moments: Looking at my child dancing with her arms outstretched, a huge smile on her face, in complete abandon, inhibitions to the wind. Every last moment of stress gone in that instant.

Here comes Doctor Who

We didn’t have Doctor Who in South Africa. Well, not that I knew of, anyway, and I’m a sci-fi geek. So when I first discovered the Doctor way back in 2006 it was a huge treat. Huge.

I immediately got my hands on all the recent seasons – from Eccleston to Tennant – and started to catch up. Eccleston was fabulously grumpy and Tennat was just so yummy I immediately put him on my List. (Husband has a List too, is only fair. Although, the chances of David Tennant falling deeply in lust with a middle-aged mum who’s stomach has it’s own postcode are pretty slim. But a girl can dream).

My daughter, however, enjoyed it but only developed a huge passion for Doctor Who when Matt Smith came along. Personally I was pleased that he wasn’t hot, because fancying him would have felt a bit like I was a dirty old lady in an anorak. The age gap and all that.

Anyway, I digress. Since Matt Smith took on the role of The Doctor, Squidge has been utterly riveted. She loves it and she especially loves Amy. Apparently her and M, another little boy from nursery, play Doctor Who together. He’s the Doctor and she’s Amy, and together they squish Daleks. Isn’t that to die for?

This is the cutout!

Well, obviously her upcoming birthday party has to be a Doctor Who theme, doesn’t it? I have dutifully bought Doctor Who plates, cups, napkins and a tablecloth, Dalek face masks, and (wait for it) a lifesize cardboard cutout of Doctor Who and Amy. I am DYING to see her reaction. (please god don’t let her burst into tears of terror).

This morning it was all about the hunt for the final thing – the Doctor Who cake. Sadly, because the season has ended it looks like all the stores have stopped stocking it! Still, the lovely Tesco have put in an order for me because they say the cake is still on their system. Keep your fingers crossed that this results in the arrival of a Doctor Who cake on Tuesday. It would make the perfect final touch.

The best part of all this is that everything I’ve bought has come in under £50. Oh yes! Including 10 Doctor Who activity books that will replace the usual stocking filler. The only items I’m missing now are present fillers for Pass the Parcel and I’m not too worried about those.

All in all, with four RSVPS (will the other parents please HURRY UP), and the venue sorted, now all we need to do is wait for the big day. Eeek.

Big panic? Nobody else RSVPs and she has a teeny party. Or nobody shows up at all. PANIC.