We started tweeting as @genderdiary because one of the things we’ve discovered on becoming parents – and you’ll know from reading this blog - is how very differently the world has treated our baby girl compared to our baby boy. Not only that, we felt other people denied these things that were happening under our noses. So many times we heard people tell us that girls just naturally liked pink and that boys just loved cars, but we didn't believe it.
When you start to make a note of every small thing that happens in a child’s life that might influence their behaviour you’ll notice that boys and girls have very different experiences from the day they’re born. Cards, toys and clothes given to them are different, the language people use about them is different, and there’s the fact that adults handle children differently and direct them to different toys depending on their gender. So for example, just in the first few days of writing our diary we noted some pretty stark contrasts:
11th January 2011
Being shown round her new nursery a member of staff said to our daughter, “this is what we call the boys corner”. It’s a play table for cars.
14th January 2011
Today we had visitors. Our daughter wanted to wear a bridesmaid’s dress she had worn for a friend’s wedding. She said she wanted to wear her dress because the visitors “will like me”. She was right I suppose. A girl in a frilly dress gets a lot of “don’t you look lovely in your pretty dress!” etc. She obviously associates people appreciating her appearance with being liked. There isn’t much discussion from visitors about what our boy is wearing or how pretty he looks.
24th July 2012
This just in from the kids’ aunt: “Sitting by pool with 2-year-old on my knee looking at ‘Where’s Wally?’ book, finding the characters amongst the pyramids. The girl on her mummy’s knee next to us was showing an interest and her mum told her it was a boy’s book! Wtf?! I said I didn’t think it was a boy’s book, and that my daughter loves it just as much as her brothers.”
As parents who would like to see our kids treated equally we found this situation to suck ass. We tweeted for two years and eventually compiled the diary into a book The Gender Police: A Diary which we want people to use as a body of evidence of the sexism and gender stereotyping that kids are encountering every day of their lives.
The situation can sound a bit grim, right? Yes, but what we found was that Twitter brought us into a circle of people who felt the same and wanted to share their experiences and do something about it. We began sharing ideas, links and images that told the story in a way people could get behind.
We were encouraged to write more about gender stereotyping and as we did we decided we didn’t want to just moan about the situation, we wanted to think of ways to change it. We crowd-sourced lists of feminist children’s books, films and toy shops. We discussed ways to use language to be inclusive and we shared ideas on how to take anti-sexist workshops into schools.
Which is where we came across Kids Call It Out – more great people who know it’s time to start speaking out about this. It’s time to start talking to our kids about this. It’s time to challenge sexism where we see it hurting our children. Let’s do it together.
Ros Ball and James Millar are a mother and father tweeting about their girl and boy and how people treat them differently. Check out The Gender Police: A Diary http://amzn.to/1FLCoAj Tweet tweet @genderdiary