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.
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:
- 130 million girls are not in school
- a girl gets married somewhere in the world every 2 seconds
- there continues to be a lack of strong role models for girls as women only account for 3% of CEOs in Canada’s top 500 companies, just 22% of the world’s parliamentarians are women and 40% of women don’t identify at all with the women they see in advertising.
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/