Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Doing things girls aren't supposed to do

Disclaimer: it's really important to me to be very clear that I don't think feminism should be a prison. So, while I said that we dress our daughter like a boy, this was meant to be provocative, and I want to be very clear that we don't want to stop her from being feminine if this is what she wants to be like. In fact, next week's post will be my friend Sheila talking about why growing up with dogmatic feminist parents is hell.

Meanwhile, today's post is a list of strategies I have developed to encourage our daughter to do things girls aren't normally supposed to do.

"Look how strong you are!"
I try to deliberately compliment Momo on being strong. It felt weird at first, but now I do it without thinking. My husband and I also try not to be too protective around her in terms of letting her do physically challenging things, because research shows that girls lose confidence in their physical strength very early on. I remember a woman telling Momo she looked "like a Hulk" when she was carrying a heavy box around, and she suggested that she might want to stop doing that. I immediately said that I disagreed and that I was proud of her.

"Hush hush!"
Last week I overheard a mum at the playground telling her two girls this: "be quiet, you know that I don't like it when you're loud". What shocked me was that, meanwhile, her son was running around screaming his head off, and that was seen as completely ok. I try to make a particular effort not to hush Momo unless she's driving me nuts or she might be driving other people nuts, because research consistently shows that when a boy is loud, he is just being a normal boy. Whereas when a girl is loud, she's naughty. Just go to any playground and compare the amount of noise boys make to the amount of noise girls make.
Another thing that's important to my partner and I is to not make Momo shut up by shoving a dummy in her mouth. That's pretty tricky though, and I don't think we always get it right. We try and have clear rules as to when she can use her dummy (in bed and in the car). Whether or not to use a pacifier in the first place is a touchy subject though, which I might discuss in a separate post - if I can be arsed, because that's a debate that frankly just pisses me off and I'm pissed off enough as it is these days.

"Cheeky monkey"
Also, being naughty is tolerated more in boys, and even seen as endearing ("look at that cheeky monkey!"), whereas girls are supposed to be more well-behaved. So, being aware of these trends, I tried to work against them consciously, and now it's become second nature to compliment Momo on being a cheeky monkey. This doesn't mean that I'm an anti-authoritarian parent (not that there would necessarily be anything wrong with that -another debate that pisses me off so much I'm not going to get into that). If Momo deliberately goes against something I just told her not to do, she will feel the heat. I'm more talking about cheeky in terms of snatching two cookies out the bag, rather than just one, or throwing soft toys on the floor. In fact, I taught her it's ok to chuck soft toys on the floor with all her might, and it's become one of our favourite games to do that together, and it sets us off laughing out of pure mischief.

"It's ok to be angry"
Also, when Momo's angry, we have this game where I take out a box and she chucks wooden cubes into it, which makes a lot of noise and helps her express her anger, and not try to bottle it up.

So, what are the results of these techniques so far? Well, I don't know if it's got anything to do with what I do, but people are often struck by Momo's volubility. She just speaks, and speaks, and speaks. Quietly, loudly, happily, angrily... It gives me great pleasure to see her tumble round the house enjoying the full spectrum of her voice and exploring and expressing all kinds of emotions. And as far as her body confidence is concerned, she still does enjoy carrying heavy objects around.

Anyway, that's me for today. My next parenting post will be about our choice of toys for Momo.


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