Four weeks ago we got a puppy, and one of the biggest pieces of advice I have received ever since is how important it is for me to socialise my dog. Everyone who knows anything about dogs has said that it is vital to introduce him to as many different people as possible. Men with beards, women with glasses, hats and thick coats…boys in dresses.
Yep, you heard.
And yet if the interview I just watched on the TV is anything to go by, some people don’t think even socialising their children is important. In fact, they think that introducing their child to a boy who wears a dress to school is dangerous.
Are you kidding me?
This couple believe that sending a boy to school in a dress damages the other children in the school through a mix of confusion and horror. They think that a boy in a dress is so damning to their children’s upbringing that they have decided to home school their children and are taking the school to a tribunal to force the transgender boy to wear trousers. They think he is unwell and needs medical attention. That what he is doing isn’t fair because he is challenging views on gender and forcing other children to come into contact with something unnatural.
And I think they can fuck right off.
We live in a world full to bursting with diversity and to deny any child experience of that is dangerous in my opinion. How about teaching children to accept everyone? And that there are no rules about clothing and gender? That the world could be full of empathetic and supportive human beings if only we taught children right from the beginning to empathise with others. Not teach them instead to be close-minded and run away from anything they don’t fully understand.
To criticise the child or the parent for allowing him to wear a dress to school smacks of fear. You are not giving that child any credit. You are not allowing them to be themselves. To trust their instincts. To accept who they are. To accept others. Why not use it as an opportunity to teach your children to accept everyone?
We are talking about children. Children who are all special and unique. Why not embrace that? What are you teaching your children by removing them from this school? From isolating them away and making their decisions for them and controlling their experiences? You are doing them no favours. You are merely excelling in inciting close-minded thinking.
Stop saying how it’s going to affect all of the other children in the school. It’s not going to affect them in a negative way if a boy comes to school in a dress. What are you scared of? That your son may come home and put a dress on? Would that really be so bad?
When I was a primary school teacher I often saw bullying and its effect. Bullying that stemmed from lack of understanding of something, or someone different. Singling out a child who is clearly already facing confusion and opposition for his choices is beyond unkind. And as parents if we don’t teach our children to be more open minded, understanding, empathetic and more accepting then we are failing future generations.
I applaud the parents of the boy in the dress and his school. They are truly child focussed and letting the child lead them. They are not enforcing gender constraints or out-dated rules on anyone and that should be celebrated. Childhood is magical. There should be no judgement. No rules. If a girl likes pink and princesses, then that’s ok, just like it would be if super heroes were her favourite toys. If a boy chooses to play with cars then there’s nothing wrong with that either nor is there if he pushes a pram around his house.
And if one incredibly brave child wants to wear a dress to school then bring it on!
The world is changing and evolving and it is time we all went with it instead of judging and criticising.
Right, I’m off to find a beautiful mix of different humans to help socialize my puppy. He doesn’t care what you wear.
Overeaction: To react with unnecessary or inappropriate force, emotional display, or violence.
There was a gif on social media last week that had a man laughing with the words, ‘for every male reaction there is a female overreaction.’ And yes, yes unsurprisingly this angered me. It was a man rolling his eyes at all women and branding us drama queens and emotional wrecks who flip at the smallest of things. And maybe in some way I proved him right by feeling annoyed by it, but the main thing I thought was, has nothing changed? Are women still viewed as these highly strung and hugely emotive, sensitive little souls?
And then I went to Blogfest16 and was proved very wrong. Women are not meek, they are not mild and as Shappi Khorsandi said, they ‘are running the world.’ There were amazingly engaging panels filled with inspirational women talking about issues in a measured and thought provoking way. The panel sessions discussed female presence on line, looked at campaigns strong women have led and are leading and talked about finding your voice when others want to silence you. And yes, by ‘others’ the speakers often meant men, because in their experience it always was white men who were trying to silence them. White men who send threatening tweets and attempt to make these women disappear through fear, by sending vile tweets or leaving hideous comments often attacking the women and their children. Miranda Sawyer described them as drunk men in a pub who should be left well alone, and I agree.
But I also agree that not all men are like this, and that sadly the many who are ruin it for the good ones. But yesterday the good ones joined in. They criticised a phenomenal event for not acknowledging them. They were upset by the ‘man bashing,’ and whilst I concur that bringing men down is never a way to thrust women up, the attacks weren’t personal. They were in context, they were real. Damn right Jess Phillips MP should get cross when asked if her husband is going to ‘babysit’ their children. And hell yes Sara Khan should bash the men who threatened to gang rape her in every orifice.
Mumsnet’s tagline is ‘parenting for parents’ and I know, I KNOW that means everyone – for there are many different people who come under that umbrella – but the event was headlined by big female names and many of the sessions were clearly focussed on women and were obviously going to have a strong feminist vibe. And if you were a man and you attended those sessions then I am not sure what else you expected. And it makes me angry that in an environment that should have been a safe space for women to come together and support each other and scream loud and clear about inequality (many of us technically working for free now until 2017 thanks to the delightful gender pay gap) and for me that was tarnished by the men who felt they weren’t acknowledged or catered for.
The friend I went with is running a blog for her business. She is not a mummy blogger and she knew full well that in some of the sessions she would have to work hard to take what she was listening to and adapt it for her purpose. She expected it to be pro female and strongly feminist, trusted the strong line up, and wasn’t disappointed.
Why couldn’t the male attendees do the same? Of course Mumsnet are going to target the majority of the audience and they do not need the men there, or indeed at home in their own little filter bubble, criticising the event for not meeting their expectations.
Every day women are made to feel vulnerable and repressed and out of place in their lives or not good enough. Women have jobs purely because companies need to tick a box and employ a certain number of females. Mothers are made to feel inadequate for staying at home and raising children. They are over looked for jobs they could be awesome at if there’s a man interviewing next to them. If they judge critically they are seen as moaners, if they are unhappy they will be criticised for saying so.
Sara Khan rightly said that there is ‘nothing more dangerous than a female with an opinion,’ and last night on Twitter she was proved right after I attempted to point out the hypocrisy of a tweet only to then be called a hypocrite myself, with my point being completely twisted and misinterpreted. I was not belittling daddy bloggers. I was not turning everyday sexism around and being sexist. I was not saying men were not welcome at Blogfest. I was trying to point out how this is how women feel ALL the bloody time and get shot down for fighting against it. That isn’t hypocritical. That is the exact opposite. Why the hell we can’t have an event for women about women without having a man complaining about it and trying to turn it into something it isn’t destined to be is enraging. We do not need men taking over everything. I think women would like to keep certain things just for themselves. And damn right they should to.
Blogfest16 for me was diverse, thought provoking and inspiring and I think women are even more wonderful now than I did this time yesterday.
And that is what I am going to hold on to. And I know I am not overreacting when I say that women, we really can rule the world.