I’m beginning to feel like my insistence in challenging gender roles and stereotypes has come back to bite me. For so long I’ve been encouraging questioning, challenging and downright rebelling that it actually seems to have worked; it’s sunk in…. just in time for Fairy Tale Day at school. Now my daughter (aged 6) is point blank refusing to go as a princess, and I’ll quote directly, “who’d want to be a princess anyway?”. *Gulp*. That was my line and I know it. It was my line that I’d delivered just weeks earlier, as I was scoffing at Mothers (grown women, I tell you!) dressed as princesses at Disney on Ice. “Who’d want to be a princess anyway?” I’d said, just quietly enough not to get rip-off-flashing-wanded in the face. And here it is again, “who’d want to be a princess anyway?” Right back atcha’ Mummy!
Whilst one half is bursting with pride, self-satisfied, my mission accomplished. There’s another half (this is the half that can’t sew or make stuff) thinking why now? Why just in time for Fairy Tale Day? Oh, I know I could make her into a Gretel type, or a frog perhaps, but we’ve got so many princess costumes, pristine ones, hardly ever touched – can’t we just pretend to be a princess for one day, waiting for some drip of a prince to come and carry us off for a life of boring meets and greets? Just for one day, for Godsake!
So how much is too much when it comes to challenging roles? And how much do I actually adhere to the principals that trip off my tongue when determined my daughter will question the assumed. If I’m honest, I know I believe in feminist principle much more than I abide by it in reality. Whilst I’m far from the housewife of the pre-feminist era, I don’t relate much either to the ‘having it all’ generation I’m presumed to belong to. I don’t want to ‘have it all’, from what I’ve heard, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be; I want to have options though and I want my children (both my girl and my boy) to have options too. I want them to choose what they like, what they’ll be, who they’ll be friends with.
Perhaps Fairy Tale Day can be broadened to include some of the alternative fairy tales that I nod to here (http://www.tremendouslytwo.com/2012/02/sugar-and-spice-my-feature-for-eye.html ) with the mention of my favourite princess of all, The Paper Bag Princess. I think literature can be enormously powerful in getting children (and grown-ups) to look at the world from a new angle, to challenge their pre-held theories and opinions, in a way which isn’t forceful (see “who’d want to be a princess anyway?”), but subtle and fun and cool.
And I’ll continue with my inane methods too, they’re not subtle and certainly anything but cool. When my son (aged 3) chose a very pink, fluffy, girly card for his mate (a boy) recently, my daughter predictably informed him knowingly, “no, that’s not for a boy”. To which came my standardised, “well it might be. Some boys like pink… and fluff and shit like that” (I didn’t say the last bit, only in my head). At which point she, as always, rolls her eyes in a “yeah Mum, but you know it is for girls, whether you like that fact or not” and I refuse to meet her gaze. I’ve not got the answer to any of this, but if I get them asking questions, I guess that’s a start.