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Archive for the month “September, 2012”

The Playground

It happened. It was a dreary Sunday afternoon, I was sleepily shuffling through the day, my mind filled with possible videos I could make involving Nick Clegg, an apology and a puppet who just wanted to be a real boy.  I didn’t see it approaching. It had almost happened before, but like some stealth character from the matrix, I dodged the bullet. Not this time, it shot me in the chest:

My youngest niece: “what’s the difference between boy and girl babies?”


Here’s what I wanted to say: “Well honey, it depends what you mean. Do you been biologically, socially, polticially, emotionally or economically? Because there are in fact quite a few. What’s worse, the difference isn’t just that they have different bits to you, the real thing to talk about is that you may find youself attempting to make up for all these difference throughout your adult life and there will be times when the gulf between the sexes will feel like it is getting bigger and out of control and that you are at the bottom of a very large pile of poop. But you were just asking about boobies and willies weren’t you?”

What I actually said: “Who wants to bake a cake?!”

We baked a chocolate chip cake, I even made icing for her to write her name. Crisis averted. I sometimes think I would be excellent in the situation room in the West Wing…

But here’s the real issue: when young girls learn about the difference, what are they actually being taught? Sure, they will get taught in the classroom about feelings and ‘the bits’ but where do they learn about the other differences? The ones that don’t need to exist, shouldn’t exist, but do. The difference that will absolutely shape their view of themselves and society?

I’ve written previously about the pinkification of girls, I’ve written, on numerous ranty occasions, about the bad influence media can have. But today my attention has turned very much to the classroom and the playground. I mean, obviously, that’s where they go to learn (well, some of them, not so much me.)

So I decided to conduct a survey. Now, this only included the girls and young women in my family, but my family is so bloody large that it will probably yield significant results that can be transferred to the entire population of Scotland. Or at least, that’s what I will write up in the report…

I asked my nieces/cousins what differences they see in school between boys and girls. Aside from a fair few of them giggling because they thought I needed an education on the difference in genitalia, they answered thus:

“Well, the girls get to do gymnastics in p3 and the boys do football”

“The boys play usually run around acting silly, we are all much more grown up and bring in magazines for lunchtime” – sidenote: this kid was HILARIOUS. I’m trying to convince her to write her own blog.

“The boys sit with the boys and the girls sit with the girls”

“Ummm all the girls wear skirts, maybe no, some where trousers, but not really”

“I don’t really think they are different, I don’t know” – this was about as good as the answers got.

So they identified differences in sports played, attitude/personality and clothing…

I asked one girl about playing with the boys or vice versa, she explained that, that was ok when they were younger, but apparently as you grown up and are starting secondary school you shouldn’t do that as much…Playground decorum, never understood it then, don’t understand it now. I didn’t need to. I always had the lunch ladies to keep me company *sniff*

Now obviously, between teaching them everything, from shapes to maths, from spelling to geography, teachers have enough to deal with and enough to get in to the children’s’ tiny heads. But from talking to many of the young girls, (I plan to do this in an actual accurate way one day) they see these differences, they don’t have answers for them and they’re not looking to question it. But the problem is, at this young age is when kids develop a sense of self, but by provoking these discussions they could become better at interpreting their world and more confident in changing it for the better.

By no means am I suggesting that I want all primary school age girls to go into school on Monday with placards, but I wonder if there is scope for a fuller education on identity and gender? What makes a girl or a boy? Why do you think that way about girls/boys? Do primary schools do that? Well, I’ll ask my teacher friends (or if you are reading this and you know, do fill me in!) I wonder if this type of education would bring about a more thoughtful, a more respectful and a more equal generation?

…then again there’s always the possibility that they learn too much and become over-thinkers. They probably don’t need that at age 5. They’ll never be able to watch through an entire Disney film without suddenly realising the underlying sexism. I’m pretty sure that was the day my childhood died…and all I wanted to be was Jasmine….


Naked News

I love keeping up with current affairs. I’ve always had that picture of my future family, sitting around the breakfast table. Me, reading the Sunday papers, the kids, most probably, spilling cereal over the floor and my partner looking the other way or possibly holding his head in his hands and wondering where it all went wrong. I like to ensure that even my fantasies have a tone of realism to them.

Picture the scene: Let’s say, for some bizarre reason, my paper one morning is The Sun (ridiculous, I know), my child (gender is irrelevant) decides to flick through the pages after me. “Mummy, what does this lady do in the news? Is she important?” He/she says as they point at a naked breast on Page 3. What answer will I give? No, seriously, write suggestions below, the more parenting advice I have now the better it is for the future. Yesterday I gave a 2 year old a tube of Smarties…

Perhaps I would spend some time creating an elaborate, potentially newsworthy, story about why this woman appears to have lost her clothes in between questionable journalism on immigration and cringeworthy headlines about politicians. If it was just bad journalism, I’d let it be. I’m not a fan, but I wouldn’t question its existence. But it’s not bad journalism, It’s an entire page spread, that could actually be for, well, news,  instead being used to objectify a woman.

I used to work in a grocers during my degree and I would pain me to see that we would have copies of every paper left at the end of a shift, except The Sun or The Daily Star. I would have kids coming in picking up morning rolls, a 10p Fredo and a copy of that paper. I would wonder, after every single child left, whether they looked through it, what they thought and why nobody even blinked.

Fast forward 9 years and I am sitting with my niece and she is explaining the same thoughts and feelings. She worked in a newsagent this summer between terms and explained to me the difficulty she had with having to put Nuts magazine on a shelf or selling The Sun and its Page 3 contents. “This makes me feel nauseous.”  A generation has come along and grown up, and here we are taking about the same thing. Isn’t society meant to progress? How am I having this conversation in 2012?

It’s a side of misogyny on your morning commute. A piece of objectivism alongside your morning coffee. It is blatant sexism and yet, it has been there since 1970, almost unquestioned.

But people have cared. Campaigns have come, and unfortunately gone, trying to take on this media giant. They have, of course, failed for several reasons. The Sun knows how to mock and will belittle anyone who questions them and with a huge following across the UK; The Sun writes it and people believe it. Remember that time they supported the Tories…

Any time a woman campaigner or politician takes this issue on, for instance, Harriet Harman, The Sun outdoes itself on self-pitying journalism. Time and time again, women campaigners and politicians are called ‘frigid’ or ‘anti-fun’ in a bid to make them sound like silly little women who shouldn’t be taken seriously. That, apparently, is journalism folks.

The Sun often refers to the Page 3 models as ‘Our girls’ (Eugh. I just tasted my breakfast again) and calls it an institution or tradition of Britain. Really? Is that what we want people to think? A tradition is something you are proud of, something you pass on to others. This is not it. Page 3 needs to go.

“Yes, Keeley, you make an excellent point, now if you could just push your breasts out a little more”

But The Sun isn’t even all that nice about “their girls” who they want to protect from these nasty man-hating feminists. In every picture the girls women, they are WOMEN, are mocked. The quotes next to their pretty little heads are paragraphs manufactured by writers on everything from science to immigration. Why do you think they do that? Because they want people to know how intelligent these women are? No. They are mocking them. I’m sure these women have many intelligent opinions, but that’s not what is going on. I doubt anyone even asked what they thought about the pole they are grinding in their latest picture. Read more here. It’s brilliant.

Now seems the time for it. There has been a feminist revolution on Page 3 of late, pushing people to protest and petition its existence. With just under 7,500 signatures at my last check, this could be the campaign that does it. Fingers crossed.

Page 3 is a very real and very clear (usually also very plastic and large) illustration of the sexism that exists in 2012. It reminds us, every single day, that women are still considered objects and we are still in a society that thinks this is ok. Every time someone buys The Sun, every time someone ignores the campaign and every time someone calls it a ‘harmless bit of fun’ they are buying into this misogyny and they are playing into the hands of sexist journalism. It’s time it stopped.

You can sign the petition here: Dominic Mohan: Take the bare boobs out of The Sun

You can follow the campaign here: @NoMorePage3

Sign it, share it, stop it.

P.S As I wrote this, the boiler-fixing man (who made me take off any time of working between 9am and 6pm) asked why I was huffing and sighing. I explained what I was writing about and he said “Aye, that stuff is shameful, it’s why I don’t buy it nae more”. He now has a biscuit with his tea.

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