The Normality Of ‘In-Between’

There no longer seems to be a grey area. No ‘kind-of’.

No ‘In-Between’.

You are expected to be either completely for the cause, or completely against it.

Mediocre - Featured

Sometimes, this makes sense. For example:

  • Domestic Violence – completely against
  • Equal Marriage Rights – completely for
  • Secular education – absolutely and completely secular
  • Lycra in my cosplay – no way, uh-uh, not for me

But there are some things that are not life/death, or even moralistic in their conundrum-drumming.

Today’s example of “Taking your advocacy for a First World Issue too far” is gender-specific clothing.

I’m talking pink for girls, and blue for boys.

Now, before you get all defensive and start muttering for Thor’s sake, woman – can’t we just let kids wear what they wantthat’s my frackin’ point!!

We don’t do gender specific clothing in EG Inc. The spawnlings can wear whatever they want (outside of school uniform requirements). I seriously cannot be stuffed arguing this point with them. Pick your battles, minions.

But it amazes me how often complete strangers will point out how confused poor Zaltu will be because I have dressed her in blue today. Or if she is wearing torn jeans and a Batman t-shirt, then I at least saved the day by adding a pretty yellow bow.

Zaltu-Batman

Apparently, unless she is wearing a skirt she must automatically be in the extreme Tom-Boy camp. But if she happens to wear a t-shirt with a pink flower on it, then clearly she is in the extreme Pretty Girl camp.

I have this one particular shopping centre Zaltu and I frequent about once a month – we buy the requirements, and then stop to watch the ice-skating with a milkshake and a doughnut.

And every time, every time, I am admonished by some absolute stranger on my parenting. More often, it is about Zaltu’s outfit. Apparently, this week I was lucky I had remembered to put the pretty bow/clip in her hair to stop from confusing her gender identity. Poor Zaltu was only wearing her favourite jeans and blue dolphin shirt.

Over the last year, my responses have been progressing from “Thankyou for noticing her favourite hair clip WITH her favourite-colour shirt” to “At what point between your table and ours, did you think it was okay to come over and pass judgement on a two-year-old?”

EG Dad says I’m doing it all wrong.

He thinks I should be submitting all comments to scientific evaluation:
TPB-Posterity

“Now, for this survey, on a scale of 1 to 10 – how much do you think I should care about your opinion on my daughter’s outfit?

Okay, now on a scale of 1 to 10 – how much do you think you can @#$% off?

And remember, this is for posterity, so please – be honest.”

Whatever happened to simply being a kid who likes clothes?

Why do we have to join any extreme group on this issue, or any issue that doesn’t involve basic human rights and equality? I don’t think Zaltu (or her brothers, for that matter) care about whether she is wearing a pink shirt for all pretty girls out there.

 

She is simply wearing a shirt because I told her she has to wear a shirt to play in the park next door. It’s a little cold outside.

I am all for encouraging children to wear whatever they want. However, this should not then make them the pin-up poster for the cause. It should not be their social uniform every day, to the point they are interrogated if they wear something else the next day.

It has become so prevalent, where even though I picked up a wicked pair of boots today, I cannot talk about it to anyone without the awkward feeling of explaining myself.

I’m not a Tomboy. I’m not a Pretty Girl. Neither is Zaltu. Nor are most other females I know.

Zaltu-TARDIS

We are not walking talking stereotypes for you to label for your marketing or judgemental pleasure. We are not dressing to fit the category you are trying to shove us into. Just because we are female does not mean we have to be the same as all females all the time. If I bought a pair of shoes today, that does not make me a ‘girl’. If Zaltu plays with Lego Friends today, that does not mean we are abandoning all equal rights in play. If I choose not to take the spawnlings to see the new Ghostbusters, it does not mean I am spitting in the face of ‘girl power’ (thank you Lisa, for a damn good article about this).

We are somewhere ‘In-Between’ and we shouldn’t have to justify, defend, or explain that to anybody.

 

Safe School Bullies

Yesterday was Australia’s National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence.

So… the Australian Federal Government commemorated the day by removing almost anything of strength or substance from the national Safe School program.

The Safe School program was set up to provide free resources and support to schools around Australia. The program is meant to give staff and students the skills to combat ignorance towards sexuality, gender, identity, and anything else.

Sounds like the type of program that should be introduced to the Federal Parliament.

There’s a bunch of conservative scared backbenchers who aren’t happy about such open-minded policy. 

They ordered a review.

It came back praising the program for its strength and positivity, predicting great change to come from it.

Well, the Conservatives couldn’t have that.

So they ordered their own review of the review.

I don’t know whether to compare this to Blackadder or Yes, Minister. Either way, this crap should be kept in fiction, not polluting the real world.

And how does the Prime Minister respond to these fearful bullying tactics?

He ‘guts the program’.

  • It will now only be offered to High Schools;
  • Any third-party groups or links (including support or counsel groups) will be removed;
  • Removal of role-playing activities (despite child psychologists approving the initial programs); 
  • Parents have say on resources used in school (whether or not they support the program as a whole).

Hmmmmm.

Maybe… Just maybe… We should take a minute to think about what this program is meant to achieve. Who it is meant to help.

Let me share a story with you:

(Copy of letter sent by parent to school principal – shared with permission)

First, let me just say that I apologize for overwhelming you with what is a lengthy email. I want to be clear that I recognize all sides of the issue, lay no blame on the school, but I have concerns I need to share and am willing to work with all of you to address them somehow. 

I know kids will be kids. I totally own that L is not perfect. However, whatever is going on at school is really bothering him, and it’s starting to feel as though it’s endemic in the population. 

L is different. I get that. He’s not the norm in various ways. However, for the past two years, he’s had to deal with the gender confines at school. Today, while he was in class, someone he doesn’t know laughed at him for singing “Let It Go” with the girls. Or he perceived someone to be laughing at him because it has happened so many times that when he is singing with girls and kids are laughing that is his internalization. Several times in the last year, he has come home upset because his pink shirt or his pink lunchbox or his pink shoes or his Elsa shirt or his My Little Pony shirt has been mocked by other students for being girlie (both boys and girls, and all grades). As much as I recognize that boys calling others boys “girlie” as an epithet is how it has always been, I feel responsible to L, and whoever he chooses to be, to teach him to be better and to expect better.

We have talked at home about being yourself. We share videos of guys singing “Let It Go” or girls liking Star Wars. We have done everything we can at home to reinforce that it is ok to be yourself. We have tried very hard to take care of our concerns at home. 

However, today, L came home saying things like “I’d like to move to a desert or forest to be alone where no one can tease me.” When I suggested the forest since it has water and you need water to live, I got “I want the desert because then I’d die. I wish I was dead because then no one could make fun of me.” 

Perhaps some kind of awareness program would benefit all of the students. I can’t imagine L is the only non-conforming child, and he isn’t even particularly outside the norm. I know he is sometimes mean to other kids, but this has been very specific to being slightly outside the gender norm over the past two years. I cannot imagine he is the only one. 

No, dear minion. Your son is not the only non-conforming child. 

But his child-voice is small in comparison to the fearful conservatives who cannot face that which they cannot control.

Australia’s Safe School program was supposed to protect and enable kids like L, to defeat the bullying in schools. It is not about ‘sexually liberating children’; it is about giving children a safe environment to be themselves. 

Hey Conservatives! If you’re worried about the kids being liberated, it’s only because you recognise the poor mites are already restrained by your narrow views. 

The Safe Schools Program was meant to empower children against bullying.

Instead, all we have done is show them how the bullies win again. 
If you or someone you know is being bullied at school, there are some good tips shared at GeekDad – the organisations mentioned ARE US based, so speak to your local school about the equivalent departments in your jurisdiction.

Not sponsored or endorsed – just frustrated with the fearmongering politicians everywhere.

Token IWD Post

There are some questions that need to be asked, and really are quite stupid in their execution – no matter how you ask them. Sometimes you don’t even realise it until some additional contextual feature kicks in – like International Women’s Day.

Yesterday, I was sitting in my midwife appointment, answering the usual plethora of questions so she could determine my risk of post-natal depression.

And then she said: “I now will ask you about your home environment to ensure that both you and the baby will be returning to a safe home environment.”

Okay.

“Do you feel safe with your husband?”

And then I realised. I feel very safe with EG Dad. He is amazing. I can honestly say EG Inc is a very safe household – except from failed science experiments and minion manipulation.

However, I am extremely lucky to be able to say that – let alone stop and think about the question at all! How many other women around the world are unable to to experience that same safety and security?

And then I realised how flimsy that question seemed!! Seriously, would a woman in a DV environment turn around to this complete stranger and suddenly say “Well, now that you mention it, my husband smacks me around a bit and I have never been able to tell anyone before.”

Hey, if it works that way – fantastic!! The system works (for a first). But after saying the exact same words above to the midwife, she turned around and said “I know. I agree – and I said the same thing to my boss. But hey – why should my 10 years of social work count for anything?”

You know, there may be an occasion when someone feels comfortable enough to confide in a stranger, but the likelihood?

There were a whole heap of other questions that also seemed pretty inane, but this was the one I was still thinking of hours later.

Especially on International Women’s Day. Especially when the theme for 2013 is Violence against Women. And especially when I am lucky enough this is the only time I really have to stop and think about it.

There are so many places around the world, countries, towns, villages, homes, cars – where safety for women is questionable, and downright non-existent. I hate making a gender issue out of it, but the truth is that gender IS the issue. Purely because the victims are chosen because of their gender. In many cases, the victims are then punished again because of their gender and the system’s inability to give them credit for the crime (“they asked for it”). Sometimes, the reaction can swing so far the other way that males in general are punished whether or not they are even that way inclined. No-one wins. Everyone suffers – the female victims most of all.

And why? Most of the time due to some stupid cultural belief of power over women. In fact these ‘monsters’ are normally so afraid of the potential of women to contribute and work with them, that they refuse to face their own insecurities and inadequacies, subsequently trying to bring their victims down to their level.

But hey – I’m not a psychologist (although some of them can be pretty evil in their genius). I’m just working from my experience dealing with some neanderthals in my life. And once again I find myself reflecting on how lucky I am that I have never had that sense of fear, danger, or anything else that ugly.

So I’ll do the only logical thing that I can do right now, right this minute – I will bring up my spawnlings to never inflict that pain, that fear, on to anyone else. To understand the need for respect, both ways. The responsibility that comes with being an Evil Genius and taking over the world – in guiding others to not resort to such intimidating tactics.

And hopefully that will one day allow at least two more women to sit with their midwives and question the effectiveness of the “safe home” question.