Monday, 16 August 2010

Fact-finding mission!

On a recent fact-finding mission to Mothercare it became clear just how early one's baby becomes gendered.  That said, this fact-finding mission was undertaken with a tape measure in my pocket to give it a manly purpose, and it was called a fact-finding mission, so in terms of gender I'm no angel...

Which appears to be the point:  only girls can be angels, while boys are expected, from birth, to be monsters or monkeys.  Trying to shop for baby clothes that don't cover your unknowing child in prejudice really limits your choices.  Helicopters, robots and a range of motor vehicles can be found on blue backgrounds, while pink options mostly involve princesses, hearts and glitter.  Boys are all action, while girls look pretty, a distinction that Grayson Perry is so adept at playing with. 

Grayson Perry's fabric, possibly still available at Liberty
The toy section also provides much grist for this particular mill.  Flick through the Argos catalogue for more examples, and consider adverts for shaving products, the contrast between gender targeting made all the more stark by the products being essentially identical. 

I would feel uncomfortable if I was responsible for pigeonholing my child so early on.  I know that I can probably look forward to a Princess phase if it's a girl, and a football player phase if it's a boy. These things are almost inevitable, but Speaking as a Father, I would seek to minimise parental indoctrination as much as possible, although I'm still the one with the tape measure, and my wife has candles at bath time.

It's easier to challenge accepted role models with girls, as you can dress them in blue and buy them fire engines and hammers to play with.  Girls can be de-gendered.  How do you do that for boys?

I've posted about this before, and probably will again, but for the time being we're putting our stock in the Jungle Friends range.  Jungle explorers of either sex all wear khaki.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Really really stupid stuff!

Kickbee: tweeting from the womb:

It has come to my attention that there is a whole lot of really really stupid baby stuff available, including the above baffling item of non-sensical frippery.

Speaking as a Father, I understand that pregnancy and having a baby is a very exciting time for parents, and that feeling the baby kick is the beginning of the strong bonds between mother and child. However, why would you want to broadcast this information to the entire world? Who is actually interested enough to feel the need to know instantly every time it happens? Why do we feel the need to share such things with everyone all the time?

Bonus link: Article about privacy, emotional closeness, and openness in Cyberspace

Wouldn't it be better to write a blog about it?

Friday, 30 July 2010

Manly tools!

kaptaink_cg writes:  I'm sure we've all seen those small wooden 3D dinosaur models. I had a few that I loved as a kid, but they all shared a common flaw. They were much too small!! As a father I set about to rectify that problem for my son. In the following steps I'll provide all the information you'll need to make your very own 6 foot tall T-Rex model!

I post this here for two reasons.  Firstly, the man writing it embarked on this project 'as a father', and secondly, I'm about to embark on my own woodwork project, making a cot for our little one.

As for myself, Speaking as a Father, there are two aspects to working with manly tools.  On the one hand, Francis Fukuyama will tell you how he's derived great pleasure from making tangible objects that are useful to other people.  On the other hand, manly tools!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Pernicious little assumptions

Week 16 - 166 days left

I can't remember where I read it, but it was some kind of thing for new fathers.  It was probably one chapter of a much larger book written for women.  More on that some other time.  Anyway...

Roughly what it said:  once a baby is born, a man is capable of doing everything for it except actual breast-feeding.  The idea was that getting up in the night, dealing with nappies, feeding and getting the baby to sleep is just as much the father's role as it is the mother's.

Thankfully, the place where I read it was well-written enough not to perpetuate the ideologies which usually come with this sort of advice.  Examples from the NHS Pregnancy Book:
Now is the time to start sharing the housework, if you don't already do so. (p.49)
Beware of that comma in the middle, it marks the edge of a gaping chasm between the two halves of the sentence.  Imagine the difference in meaning without it.

Also from the same page:
carrying heavy shopping can put a lot of strain on her back, so try to do the shopping yourself or together.  (p.49)
These pernicious little assumptions get everywhere, and, Speaking as a Father, do not represent the reality for myself and many of my peers, with or without children.  My worry is that they do represent reality for many households.  My fear is that to have these issues acknowledged in order to address them during pregnancy will result in a return to previous inequalities once the mother is "not pregnant any more, so what's the problem?"

Tangential extra reading along the lines of gender inequality and outdated assumptions:  Lisa Jervis' excellent article, If Women Ruled the World, Nothing Would Be Different  Share and Enjoy.

Bonkers housework

Week 16 - 166 days left

We've always had piles of papers lying around the house that accumulate and grow and get put into a tote bag and hidden in a cupboard whenever someone comes round.  Bills, receipts and insurance documents get lost in these piles, sometimes for months.

It's a similar story with washing up, although since the dishwasher broke we've been a little better at keeping on top of it.

But now we're having a baby, and, Speaking as a Father, no child of mine will grow up in a messy house.  I'm trying to make a regular weekly thing of looking at mail, paying bills and sorting out papers.  I'm also on a mission to keep the kitchen clean, which means washing up after breakfast and after dinner and wiping down the cooker and the surfaces.  It gets easier the more I do it.  My plan is working.  I'm de-valuing the washing up!