Male is the default; female is exceptional.
Case in point:
The lass has pink clothes. Probably more than I would ideally have chosen, in fact, because I’m not that fond of pink myself. However, most of her clothes are colours that I consider gender neutral (but then, to me, gender neutral is pretty much everything except pink and baby blue), or at least not pink-on-pink, but say, pink and brown, pink and grey and so on. Hence – which follows from the above theory – she is continually taken for a boy. Today she wore
- jeans (very “girly” pattern in silver on the back pockets, but quite plain otherwise)
- red and silver trainers
- long-sleeved t-shirt in yellow, green and red
Both the IKEA employee who was running a “fairground” where the kids got to throw tiny softies at a target for the chance to win a big softie (for free, everyone got a prize, did I mention I love IKEA?) and a mother with a daughter (ok, now I’m doing the assuming, but the kid wore all pink from head to toe) a little younger than the lass automatically referred to her as “he” and “the boy”.
Why? Why when everyone knows about half the kids you meet are going to be female is “male” still default unless you shout your gender from the rooftops by wearing pink-pinkety-pink? What the f*** are we teaching these kids? When did this start applying to toddlers and not just babies (come to think of it, when did it start applying to babies)? I’m the daughter of a feminist, and wore practically no pink as a child, did everyone assume I was a boy, or were they more practically minded in the 70ies?
Disclaimer: I don’t “mind” the lass being taken for a boy, as such. It doesn’t matter on a personal, individual level, I’m just worried about what it says about our society’s expectations for girls (and boys).
The irony? I haven’t been extremely opposed to pink so far. I have even purchased a few pink-and-princessy garments for her myself. But because I am now continually made aware of how much “people” read into the pink/not-pink choice, I am getting to the stage where I might just ban pink from the house. Just when the lass is getting to an age where she might actually start caring.
Mind you. Perhaps that is just the point in time where it is important to start introducing rules and not just go with the flow?
This is an example of a scarlet fever rash. Though we only had it confimed Saturday. The lass does not have textbook illness progression (does anyone?), so I thought I’d not the progression here in case you, dear internets, find this by googling scarlet fever.
Wednesday: Daycare call me and tell me I need to pick the lass up as she’s running a fever. She get progressively warmer throughout the morning and is at 39,6 degrees celcius by mid-afternoon, I hold off on the painkillers, though, as she doesn’t seem to be particularly uncomfortable, just tired and cuddly. By bedtime the fever is down to around 38, so I put her to bed and she sleeps soundly. I check later – just before going to bed myself – and her temperature seems normal.
Thursday: Husband’s day off, so he keeps her at home. We never actually measure her temperature, as she seems fine and not particularly warm.
Friday: When the husband changes her in the morning, she has a rash, so they stay at home. She’s not showing any other symptoms of being ill, though, until the evening when she absolutely refuses to go to bed, seemingly complaining of a sore throat, and her temperature is up to just over 38 again. I put her in our bed and stay beside her until she falls asleep. I call the hospital helpline and describe the symptoms. The lady on the other end says it may well be just the usual fever-followed-by-rash children’s desease, but that it might just be scarlet fever, and since that is easily determined with a test and treatable, she asks us to bring the lass in the next morning.
Saturday: So we head to the emergency room, feeling somewhat sheepish, as the lass now seems perfectly healthy, apart from a rather faint rash. We’re supposed to leave her at her grandmother’s tomorrow and leave for a week in The Gambia, had we not been going away I think we would have waited to see our GP on Monday instead. The lady at the desk seems to think we are waisting their time. The doctor is more understanding, but he performs the test more as a “just in case”, he does not seem to think it will confirm anything. Almost to my relief (hey, I’m not just a hysterical mother hen) the test turns up a positive result. It is scarlet fever.
Now the rash, the possible sore throat and the fever are pretty textbook, except the rash was covering her shoulders, chest and back and her groin, hardly touching her face. The textbook also says the tongue may have a whitish coating at the start of the desease, changing to a bright red with a “strawberry” appearance later. Neither of these were apparent enough to be remarked.
Wikipedia also says: “For whatever reason, toddlers rarely contract scarlet fever.” Clearly, “rarely” does not equate to “never”.
There has been a Panorama programme about sexual bullying (or, rather, sexual harassment) in schools, involving shockingly young children as the perpetrators. Several of the blogs I read have commented or linked, and you can read more here and here, to start with.
I think I’ll refrain from commenting much, at least for the time being (in fact the subject is almost too depressing for words, though that’s hardly constructive), but Naomi’s comment on Abby’s post highlights a related issue that’s increasingly relevant to me in my daily parenting, and which really annoys me no end. To quote:
In cartoons, an animated animal is male by default. A male sheep, say, will look roughly like a sheep, but with whatever human charateristics their particular character has. A male animated dog reading a newpaper and listening to the radio is simply a dog reading a newpaper and listening to the radio.
Female animated characters, on the other hand, have bigger eyes, longer eye-lashes, an hour-glass figure, a wiggly walk and so on, not to mention make-up (which those cartoons in which their male counterparts do not even wear clothes).
These female characters are often brought in to an otherwise all-male (i.e. all just pigs and rabbits and things) cast when the storyline requires one of the characters to fall in love, or to be almost distracted away from some world-saving task by the batting of those log eyelashes …
This puts across the following messages, and more, to children:
1. Male is the default; female is exceptional.
2. ‘Feminine’ appearance is universal and natural for females of any species.
3. The anatomical differences between males and females of any species are much, much greater than they really are.
4. The role of the female is sexual, and is defined in relation to the male.
5. The male is the agent, the female is the object of his attention.
And so on.
And it’s not only cartoons. A while back someone asked the participants at Tett inntil for tips on which boxes to look for to find “female Lego Duplo figurines”, excluding the rather tacky princess series. As a responsible parent, she wanted female role models for her daughters, police women or firewomen and similar. My question was: Well, how can you tell that they are not female? Most Duplo figurines are “degenderised”, they have eyes, nose and mouth, as do, to my knowledge, both men and women. Only the princesses have skirts. A few have beards, they can be assumed to be men (though I have heard of bearded ladies).
This feeds directly into the argument Naomi is presenting: “Male is the default; female is exceptional.” Because, of course, there ARE female Duplo figurines – apart from the princesses. We have one from the Zoo set at home, she has longer eyelashes and a ponytail, and a more, well, made up look in general (defined lips and so on). However, most female zoo-keepers I’ve seen don’t look like that. Granted, some of them have long hair, and would naturally wear it up while at work to prevent it from getting in the way, but then, so do quite a few male keepers… And would you really put on make-up to go clean out the elephants’ cage? So why do we assume – because of course we do – that the un made-up Duplo zoo-keeper with the sensible haircut is male?
I’m not a big fan of rules in general, but these are my kind of rules “Let’s get some things straight before I get old and uncool”: 1001 rules for my unborn son.
I guess I should have started earlier if I wanted to write something similar for the lass (I’m old and uncool already, I suspect), though I will try to instill some of these, as most are applicable to girls as well – even the one about committing to the tie (should she chose to wear one).
I especially like 43, 132, 167, 168, 220, 224, 245, 257,
And this quote: “The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any” (Fred Astaire). We were talking about this just the other day, because one of the words the lass pronounces most clearly is “Thanks” (that is: “takk” in Norwegian). Even though she uses t for k in most words, in this case it is a very clear and strong k. And she started saying it without being prompted, it seems to just come naturally when she is given something, like a glass of milk. Which is not so surprising, as the husband and I say it ourselves all the time. Children learn by example. Or, as the saying has it: Monkey see, monkey do.
And a lot of people should pay mind to this one, especially when posting pictures of others (including their own kids): 239. Never post a picture online you wouldn’t feel comfortable showing your mother, your boss, and the dean of admissions.
We went fleamarketing today, and found this:
It made the lass very, very happy. It also broke her heart twice, once when we had to put it in the back of the car to get from where the fleamarket was to her grandmother’s and once again when we had to put it back in the trunk to get from her grandmother’s to home.
She cared not one jot that it was grubby (I did, though, all the fabric parts are now washed, and hopefully dry by tomorrow morning) and that it is decidedly wonky. You can push it about, you can move the seatback, footrest and roof up and down. You can put things in the net. You can take them out again. You can arrange a doll in there to your satisfaction and then get everyone in the room to come over just so that you can put your finger to your mouth and say “Shush!” because the baby is sleeping.
All in all, a great find…
No, that’s not blasphemy, that’s a heartfelt prayer.
I just found a link to these. Horses in heels. With tutus. Oh, how I hope they bomb like a piano falling from the fourth floor and are eradicated from the realm of toys – and advertising – before the lass grows old enough to start wanting things.
Horses in heels. *shakes head despondently*
I’ll take a few Disney princesses any day.