Tag Archives: feminism

#DayOfTheGirl

An old, popular rhyme says: “Sugar and spice and all that’s nice; That’s what little girls are made of” while “Frogs and snails and puppy-dog tails; That’s what little boys are made of”.  A version of this rhyme is found in The Baby’s Opera by Walter Crane (circa 1877) highlighting how deeply embedded into culture is our social understanding of the difference between the genders.

What is normal?

A woman stands in a courtroom,  ready to take responsibility for a parking ticket after leaving a car parked outside of her house to care for her infant son on oxygen before picking up her other children at school.  It is a struggle for her to stand because three days prior she was shot in the leg, an innocent bystander trying to get home from work at night.  The bits and pieces of her story are relayed to the Judge who is impressed by the strength of this women.

At one point the Judge turns to Inspector Quinn and asks him how he feels about this woman.  Inspector Quinn responds: “Your Honour, she’s more of a man than I could ever be…”

“Sugar and spice and everything nice” doesn’t leave a lot of room for females to be strong.  It doesn’t leave space for females to be smart, athletic, or willing to play with frogs and snails or anything else that might get their hands dirty.  “Sugar and spice and everything nice” relegates women to the role of being nice which doesn’t always fit with taking charge, fighting back or working to change the system.  Efforts to live beyond “sugar and spice and everything nice”, require females to embrace a kind of manhood that stands in contradiction to the expectations of society.

#DefyNormal

As we celebrate #InternationalDayoftheGirl and #DayOfTheGirl females of all ages are sharing ways in which they have lived outside of the norm of “sugar and spice and everything nice”.  Women and girls are proving, time and time again, that we are strong, smart and capable.  As one Tweet proclaims: “Feminism isn’t about making women stronger, women are already strong.  It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.”

Work still to do

Despite the many girls and women who #DefyNormal, we still have a long way to go before females can be truly celebrated and honoured for living out their gifts regardless of whether these reflect the ideal of ‘sugar and spice and everything nice’.  Recent reports suggest:

And so we continue to need #InternationalDayoftheGirl and #DayOfTheGirl to remind us of the strides we have made, the role models which continue to #DefyNormal and the work that still needs to be done.

Embracing who we are

In the meantime, families can celebrate every member for being who they are regardless of whether or not they accurately reflect what boys and girls are made of.  When children know there is nothing wrong with girls who are made of frogs and snails and puppy-dog tails and boys who are made of sugar and spice and everything nice, then we open the door to accept that all children have gifts and are free to live these out in whatever ways makes sense to them.  It is then that children will know they no longer have to #DefyNormal simply to be.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Ariana Grande

Changing the script

Before my child was born, I attended a women’s retreat with my mother.  During our reflections, I admitted that I wanted to have a daughter so that I could teach her to be strong, independent and able to defend herself against any and all forms of misogyny.  The facilitator looked me in the eye and asked, why not wish for a boy so you could teach him not to be a misogynist?

It’s an important question.  So often we think of what we can do to teach women not to be victims or at least empowered enough to fight in the face of violence.  There are seminars offered at universities that teach women how not to become victims of sexual violence.  We teach girls how to keep an eye on their drinks at parties, to be aware of their surroundings, to avoid certain places and situations.  We arm girls with tools throughout their lives and yet #metoo.

The world was watching Aretha Franklin’s funeral.  When Ariana Grande took the stage, Bill Clinton enjoyed the performance from behind.  Afterward, Pastor Charles Ellis III called Ariana back onto the stage, wrapped his arm around her and pulled her close.  The pastor later apologized for being ‘too friendly’.  Still, the photos remain a catalyst for conversation.

The reality is that most women have experienced this very situation.  We know what it is like to be in public and feel like some man has held us too close and in a way that has us walking away feeling uncomfortable, questioning what has just happened, wanting to say something but expecting that it would be pointless.  Should we teach our daughters that this is the reality, men don’t typically mean anything by it, just let it go?  Or, is there another possibility?

Among the many tweets #RespectAriana about this moment are comments that affirm the length of a dress does not indicate an invitation.  There are messages confirming that Ariana’s body language clearly showed discomfort.  There are statements that say having your wallet open does not mean anyone can take money from it.

Conversations about women’s bodies are shifting, highlighting that we can’t simply rely on women to protect themselves, rather we need to teach men that women are not objects for their consumption.  Imagine what might happen if parents and teachers used the photo of Ariana Grande and the Pastor to teach boys that when they see that look, when women appear to be wanting to move away – that is a clear signal! They have crossed the line! LET GO!

We need to teach boys the importance of respecting women.  We need to teach boys to take responsibility for the ways they view and treat women.  We need to help boys and men recognise that they have the ability to be allies to women, helping other men recognise the ways in which social expectations about gender continue to undermine the agency of women and perpetuate the belief that women are objects for men to enjoy.  We need to teach boys and men to not rape and/or sexually assault women.

#metoo has helped to bring to light the many ways in which women suffer the consequences of a culture which reinforces norms where male sexuality contributes to perceptions of masculinity.  Parents and teachers can use these tools to help provide an alternative script for relationships.  It is an important opportunity.  How has this been used in your experiences at home and at school?  Do you see a shift happening?  To what extent have you participated in these kinds of conversations?  Let’s talk.  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

Gender Neutral Dress Codes

I noticed the headline in my newsfeed: “School bans boys from wearing shorts, tells them to wear skirts”.  Yes, you read that correctly, you can check out the link for yourself here.

What are dress codes?

Generally speaking, dress codes are the standards established by an individual school and/or school board to define expectations about what clothing is appropriate for those attending.  It is common for dress codes to include stipulations about text and images on shirts or sweaters and define what length or style of clothing might be too risqué for the classroom.  Recently, such stipulations have been criticised as being far stricter for females than males because of society’s tendency to define female dress as ‘distracting’ for males.  I discussed this in response to complaints at Essex District High School in this post.

Gender Neutral

One of the ways to move beyond such criticisms is to seek to make dress code policies gender neutral – in other words, to establish the exact same standards for males as for females.  The challenge with this, however, is that the fashion trends differ by gender.  Boys tend not to wear short shorts or have to worry about their shirts revealing their bra straps, while girls know how to pull up their pants.

Uniforms

These are less of an issue for boarding schools or Catholic high schools in Ontario where uniforms are the norm.  (Note: Having taught in a Catholic school, I do remember having to instruct many male students to pull up their pants and tell female students to roll down their skirts after having rolled them up at the waist to make the required skirts shorter).

There are a variety of advantages to uniforms particularly when these come from a single source and are thus the same for each person.  It then becomes possible to define what people are expected to wear every day with little variation.  For Chiltern Edge Secondary School in Oxfordshire, that means trousers or skirts with shirts, ties and blazers, an appropriate uniform for those expected to end up in high powered business positions.

What do you think?

Is this gender neutral gone too far?  Would you allow your son to wear a skirt in order to feel cooler in the hot summer months?  Is it OK for females to wear trousers in the cold winter months?  Are these the same thing?  Why or why not?  For more reflection on gender neutrality check this post on the latest heir to the royal throne.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Feminism in 2018

It’s a boy!

News from the UK today has announced that Prince William and Kate Middleton have welcomed a baby boy to the royal family.  This child is the third for the couple and will be greeted by big brother George and big sister Charlotte.  News outlets have confirmed that this child is fifth in line for the throne behind his grandfather, father and siblings.

Shifting rules.

In 2013, before Prince George was born, the Succession to the Crown Act of 2013 was passed which ensured that a female royal can maintain her place in line to the throne.  Prior to this, the new prince would have moved ahead of Princess Charlotte in succession simply be virtue of the fact he is male and she is female.

I wonder if anyone will argue that this is reverse discrimination.  This poor boy has lost the privilege that should have been rightfully his as has been the tradition for centuries.  On some level it doesn’t seem fair that he has been born to a time when the rules changed and required that his sister’s place be honoured in the same way that a male child should be honoured.

The struggle continues for many

Feminism is defined as the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.  All things being equal, gender shouldn’t matter when determining who is fit for the throne.  The same could and repeatedly should be said about any job.  According to a 2018 Global News report, however, a mere 3% of CEOs in Canada are women and 26% of our MPs are female.  We still have a long way to go to ensure that women in Canada have equal opportunities to their male counterparts.

What can families do?

Consider what equality looks like in our homes.  Do we have different expectations for males than females?  How are chores allocated?  In what ways do parents model equality?  To what extent do we perpetuate gender stereotypes by our actions?  In what ways do our expectations and behaviours demonstrate every person has different gifts and should be encouraged to use those gifts in whatever ways reflects who they are regardless of gender?

Conversation is always important and creates a framework from which we can explore the nature of gender through the eyes of all in our families.  What would it take to begin that conversation?

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/