When my elder three children were little. (there are only 2½ years between all three) I’d be often out and about 2 babies in a double buggy and 1 strapped to my chest. People would strike up conversation. “Are they all yours?” was a firm favourite. Along with “how do you cope?”
The one line though that was another common one, and one that made me angry and upset in equal measure every time it was uttered was “oh I don’t know how people can bring children into this world, it’s a horrible place!” It really irked me, though of course I’d just smile and tell them well maybe these children can grow up to change it for the better. I totally believed it too. I was naive and I was a little arrogant. I thought if I could make the children’s world a nice place, that if I could keep them in a happy,loved bubble then they’d grow up to be happy and loving and make the world a nicer place.
They’re growing up now though and on a daily basis I find myself thinking of those words muttered to me by strangers. The optimism of new parenthood overtaken by an absolute fear. What kind of world have I brought these children into?
I worry for my sons. They’re 12 and 14 now and I’m aware my influence over them is on the wane. There are so many other, more attractive influences: their friends, society, the Internet. I hear teenage boys on the bus talking in the most crude and graphic manner about what they’d like to do to the girl sitting in front of them. All I can do is hope that is never my sons, that my talk of boundaries and respect has rooted itself in their mind. I’ve always included them in conversations I have with my eldest daughter about feminism, about how we don’t have sex equality, about page 3 and about the gender pay gap. I feel as though they ‘get it’. They ask the correct questions and seem to grasp male privilege. I have to begin with them don’t I? If I raise unaware, ignorant men how can they help??
I worry for my boys. I fear for my daughters. It only takes a glance at Twitter to see the vile abuse women get if they attempt to question the status quo. If they attempt to make changes.
The campaign Count Dead Women terrifies me. It’s unbearably distressing that 100 women’s lives have been lost this year at the hands of male violence. It’s truly gut wrenching that no one sees to care. Where is the uproar?? How can 100 lives feel so insignificant?
My eldest daughter at 11 already has experience of sexism and discrimination. She’s been told she shouldn’t play football as she’s a girl, by male members of her own team. That’s how basic their belief that as boys, football is ‘theirs’ is. She has her clothing choices questioned because she won’t wear dresses. She can’t abide pink or sparkles and this seems to unsettle people. My 6 year old is the opposite, she likes glitter and pink and people seem more at ease with that. It’s almost a sense of relief at a girl wearing pink.That she’s wearing the fluffy, silly uniform of girly, she poses no threat, she knows her place as a girl??.
No one ever comments on what my sons wear.
My daughters will face judgements as to what they do with their own reproductive system. They’ll be judged if they have children too early, too late, not at all. My sons will never likely have to justify themselves in such a manner. If my daughters reach 40 single there’ll be talk of how they can’t keep a man. My sons in the same position will be envied as eligible bachelors yet to settle down .
I have to try to change it though don’t I? I need to feel despair, and to try to make a little bit of the world a better place.
I want my sons to be strong men, to challenge the behaviour of others that they feel is unacceptable rather than just go along with the group norm. I want them to be men who empower the women in their lives.
I want my daughters to be strong women. I want them to know that a man yelling ‘nice tits’ out of a car window is not a compliment. I want them to realise that feminism is not a dirty word.
I’m no longer the naive young mum who expected her children to singlehandedly change the world with a bit of love and kindness. I know now it’s a much tougher fight than that.
I just hope that I can empower my daughters and communicate effectively with my sons.
That’s all I can do, though love and kindness is probably a good place to start.