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Normalising and celebrating difference: inspiring our children

Before I had Matthew, I worked in a school and we had an Aboriginee visit to conduct an assembly. He asked who were better, white or blacks. It took several minutes of guesses for one child to speak out that they were the same.

At university, I studied Women’s Studies but by the time I left this had been deemed sexist so was replace with Gender Studies.

Whenever I speak to the children about their futures, I ALWAYS say girlfriends or boyfriends and say that they should find someone they love whatever gender that may be.

I firmly believe that it is not enough to normalise difference any more, it needs to be celebrated. On Secret Scotland last week, Susan Calman mentioned her wife. Just in passing, no big deal. In the natural way is should be.
But Matthew raised his eyebrows in surprise and confusion. Despite my best efforts to be open and inclusive, gender, sexuality and race are still not adequately represented as normal, let alone celebrated.
Love is love.

I don’t care if my children love someone of a different ethnicity, gender or sexual identity. As a parent, my purpose in life is to prepare my children for the life ahead of them. I want my children to be happy. But I am also aware that I am speaking to them as a straight, white woman so my perspective might be skewed despite my honest intentions.
A big issue in the news recently: do I see racism in the treatment of the Duchess of Sussex? No. She is not a black woman, she is mixed race. In my opinion, Meghan is maligned for her life choices and being the new woman on the block, daring to challenge traditions. I would go so far as to say it is racist to deny her white genealogy and I truly believe that she would have been just as unpopular if she was 100% white.
I really hope that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex find happiness now that they have relinquished their HRH titles and royal role. However, I feel that Meghan doesn’t feel comfortable with herself and is clinging to an identity as a woman of colour to distance herself from her unreliable disappointment of a father. Meghan has rightly identified and celebrated her black heritage but then labelled herself as such, thereby failing to acknowledge her white side of the family.

I expect the media of a country to represent its constituent make up. Over representation is fake and surely offensive in the same way that positive discrimination fails to look at merit of the individual.
Gender is a complicated identity. From the pink and blue we bombard our children with from birth, to the stereotyped toys. There is something natural about gendered choices. The personality of the individual is more complex than can be easily identified and labelled. Matthew and Anya are quite particular about their gendered identities whereas Zach couldn’t care less. Things become gendered only when we ascribe an gender identity to it and associate characteristics with that. However, like all steroeotypes, there is a basis in reality.
I recently invigilated a childcare exam and every student was female. Were any boys interested in the subject but worried about others doubting their masculinity? Does this echo the value we place on childcare in wider society where it is underpaid and overwhelmed by demand?  Does this represent the maternal role of women in contrast to the breadwinner stereotype of the father figure?

 

How about in my own family: am I reinforcing patriarchy by being the main source of childcare and housework? Do the children see me as a equal to Chris in terms of input to the family? Do we value money and possessions more than clean laundry and prepared meals?
I don’t care what the contents of someone’s pants is or who you go to bed with each night. I DO care that you are a decent human being, that you strive to make a positive impact on the world, at a personal, local or global level.

As a society, we need to go beyond normalising diiference and work on celebrating the uniqueness of all of us as individuals, struggling to be accepted in a cruel world. Be proud and open about your identity, whatever it may be.


7 comments

  1. I recently read a piece in which the author lauded the Duke and Duchess for making a hard choice aimed at preserving their marriage. I hadn’t thought of it from that perspective, but appreciated the insight.

  2. As parent to a four-year-ol I have found it surprising how early children pick up on differences – boys against girl, commenting on people’s skin colour, or if they have a disability. But I believe the most important thing is to show that everyone is different, everyone can be different, and to accept it, embrace it and treat them all the same. #globalblogging

  3. My d-i-l is Indian, often taken for black. Her experiences have been eye-opening for me. I had thought, as a society, we had come do far in racial stereotyping and prejudice. But we still have a long way to go.

  4. I find the main difficulty with normalising and celebrating diversity is the complete lack of diversity in the things my children access. Most TV programmes feature Mum, Dad and children as do many books. You have to make a real effort to find programmes, books etc which really celebrate diversity. #GlobalBlogging

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