Gender, Sport & Toddlers

Toddlers are our chance to change the world.

Ok a bold statement, and don’t get alarmed…I’m not mustering a troop of whisk waving two year olds just yet.

But toddlers are impressionable. They are mostly unencumbered by society’s rules and stereotypes. They are also at the start of their knowledge-gaining and opinion-forming journey through life.

Exposing my son to a male dominated and quite traditional sporting environment from day dot means he may develop a blinkered idea of what is normal in terms of gender roles. This has got me thinking.
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Pirates and Princesses

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My niece and nephew last week participated in their nursery’s Pirates and Princesses day. Cue extremely cute picture of both of them together in their costumes. Ahhhhh! And can you guess who was the pirate and who was the princess? Of course you can…boy pirate and girl princess.

I’m not having a go at my sister for her choice of outfits, I imagine most of us would do the same, conforming wins! And I would not want to be the mother that forces her little boy (yearning to be the BEST pirate ever) into a princess dress to make a point. I have a little boy who LOVES cars, diggers and bulldozers, and probably, although I haven’t yet tested the theory, pirates! Continue reading

We should all be feminists!

Some of you may have visions of a glamorous sporting career for my husband and buckets of money. Well I’d better put things straight – this is emphatically not the case. Of course he is lucky enough to do what he loves for a decent living but then SO WAS I (before I stopped working). The differences are that my world of working in the arts paid less, didn’t attract the sort of excitement that Andrew’s job has around it, didn’t define me and, fortunately, didn’t have the explicit gender positioning that seems to be expected any time a male deigns to move their limbs in a vaguely active fashion and get paid for it.

Andrew plays cricket, so also not exactly an area that most people think of as having a WAG culture, and honestly at the moment there isn’t much of one. But there has been in recent years and I have raged against it. In my younger days I declared myself an anti-WAG and reconfirmed myself as a feminist. One that is incredibly proud of her best friend, Andrew, for his talent, but one that does not want to (only) sit in the Wives & Girlfriends room.

So this part of my site (if I can work out how to do it!!)…will be my space for musing about the impact of sport as a career on our lives, my thoughts about gender equality and how bringing up my son reminds me that ‘we should all be feminists’…

“Gender matters everywhere in the world. And I would like today to ask that we begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: We must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists

A day in the life…

The cricket season has started amidst an unseasonably warm spring (more on that here) and we are getting in the swing of the new pattern it brings.

I love being a parent and I love not working at the moment as it means I can spend all my time with Little J. But some days, just some, I feel as though my life is a comedy sketch. Gone are the days of excitedly considering which band/author/theatre company/artist to book for a spangly Festival…I’m more likely to be found considering which play kitchen is really the best value for money and have I booked the dentist? Days like this feel so hyperreal that there’s no point fighting it…
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Hello, what do you do?

I’ve decided to start this blog with a very common question to help explain where I’m coming from. To be honest I didn’t expect my first post to be as serious or as rants as this, but stick with me and we’ll get to splashing in puddles soon I promise!

So how many times have you been asked this question? Or asked it yourself? I know I’ve lost count of both. Given the nature of my partner’s job as a professional sportsman I’m part of a world where what you do is often intrinsically linked with who you are. Of course this is common throughout society…what we choose to do does say something about who we are. But not all that we are, and not even who we think we are, but instead who the asker thinks we are.

The asker builds a quick and, let’s face it, sketchy picture of you based on one or two words used to describe your job. The asker decides if it’s your passion, your calling, a stop gap job, a mistake. They make assumptions about your intelligence, your commitment, your people skills, your lifestyle.

To give you an example…my partner, Andrew, is a professional sportsman as I’ve said. He loves the sport that he is lucky enough to get paid to play. But when his career finishes he has a fantasy of working in a supermarket part time and following our children around (!) the rest of the time. If he is able to carry out this ambition and in the future answers ‘what do you do?’ with ‘supermarket shelf stacker’, the asker will make completely different assumptions about who he is at that moment without Andrew having fundamentally changed as a person at all.

When I had a job I had problems with being asked this…I worked in the arts. I speak quietly, it sounded like ‘arse’. I always had to repeat my answer. I was usually met with blank looks and so launched into a description of the complicated multi-partner, multi-art form project I managed. More often that not (being mostly, which wasn’t much, asked it by men at Andrew’s work events) there just wasn’t enough of the familiar in my answer for the asker to grasp on to and the follow up question, asked with a patronising jokiness, was invariably ‘so do you like cricket?’. Sigh…

Now I’ve stopped working and spend my days playing with Little J, I fit in far more neatly to the social hierarchy. For me this makes ‘what do you do?’ so much harder to answer. Full time mother? Well, yes but I’m fairly sure my friends that work who also have children are full time mothers…you don’t stop being one just because you’re not physically next to your child. And does that make Andrew a part time father? Or when he’s at an away game, a zero hour contract father? And don’t even get me started on ‘housewife’. I’m fairly sure I married Andrew, not the house. I’m also fairly sure I’m still his wife even when I leave the house.

My tussle with expressing myself the way I want to, while resisting society’s pigeonholes has spurred me to to start this blog, along with a desire to create a record of my thoughts and experiences as a new parent. I’ve written more about what I do, who I am and the blog’s title on the about page. I hope this blog will express who I am and maybe if I’m asked again ‘what do you do?’ I’ll be able to answer in a way that doesn’t answer that at all, and instead tells them who I am.

Because ultimately it is a limiting question, a way for us to cling onto the security of stereotypes and therefore it is about as useful for really finding out about someone as sitting down to tea with their shadow.

 

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