We don’t burn bras in this house, we stick pompoms on them

Burning with creativity
Transatlantic Blonde raises her feminist flag again and wonders about raising a feminist child. Once again I wasn’t going to bother because I’m far too busy and, besides, I should be getting ready for the Moonwalk. 
I’m pleased to see the only weather on offer according to the forecast is thunder storms. Seems apt somehow. 
However, TB got me thinking again. How to raise a feminist child… in a house full of boys. I’ve talked about it before: how people offer sympathy when they find out you’ve got a nest of little blokes. And when I say people, I mean female people because mostly that kind of nonsense comes from other women. Ladies, how’s that going to help? Telling eventual men that they’re rubbish and not as good as girls before their voices have broken will not go any way to ending the battle of the sexes. 
My job, as I see it, is to teach my sons to look after themselves so they no longer need me, or any other person to do it for them. If I can demonstrate and encourage them to be true to themselves, kind to animals and responsible for their actions then I’m ahead of the game. 

So there we were the other day I was about to start decorating my bra for tomorrow – a task almost as daunting as the 26 mile walk itself – when Boy Two piped up. “Mum, I’ll do it, you’re rubbish at this kind of stuff.”

Then later after we’d created a splendid costume of foundation garment, ribbons and pompoms we were watching TV when the adverts came on. I don’t watch much television at all – generally I’ve got better things to do. So I was fascinated by the things they were trying to get girls to buy. Apparently girls like glitter – especially on straps, dressing and undressing things and tacky makeup sets. Who knew that having an xx chromosome could do that to you, it must be a new thing. 

“Yuk,” I said. 

“What’s yuk?” Boy Two replied.

“All that stuff for girls. It’s a bit much isn’t it?”

“Hmmm,” he was puzzled. Already, for him, some of the images of girls don’t match his reality. He can’t see that girls are really all that different to boys. After all, he explained, they play football just the same as boys. 

One of his best friends Little G has a mean right foot and is just as likely to be found in midst of latest rough fling-you-in-the-wheelie-bin game as her male peers. 

Yet, she has a particularly lovely sequin cardi that at least two of my Boys covet. Boy Three wants to stroke it whenever he sees it and I’ve seen the others casting admiring glances. And who can blame them it’s beautiful.

Perhaps it was introduced at the same time as the xx chromosome thing, but now xy chromosome humans need to be dressed entirely in blue or shades of sludge while reading books about snot and other forms of horrid. I missed that decision too.

I’m not consciously raising feminist kids, I wouldn’t know how to do that. But at every turn I try to tackle the sneaky shoots of sexism, hopefully with more success than I do with weeds in the garden. 

Lately we’ve dealt with “girl” as an insult. And “you’re supposed to do it because you’re a woman”. And while I can’t do anything about the confusing gender messages coming from every direction, I can try to help them with the almost impossible job of making sense of it.

I call it a work in progress. Meantime, I offer an image of Boy Two decorating my bra for the Edinburgh Moonwalk tonight. He’s using a boxing glove – it was lying around the kitchen, of course – to stop the cup collapsing while he works. 


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  1. says

    Good luck with the Moonwalk! I have to point out that feminists never actually burned their bras. Models were paid by the media to burn their bras. The whole “bra burning” myth is part of the backlash against feminism. I highly recommend reading “Backlash” by Susan Faludi if you are interested!

    I think you are getting to the proactive part of raising feminist children that I'm still a few years off from doing. I think it's easy for us to raise good, respectful children (who indirectly are therefore feminists) but it's a bit harder to counteract and dispel the misinformation given to them by the media and society.

    Thanks for taking part and I can't wait to hear how the Moonwalk went! Make sure to comment/read the other posts when you get a chance :)

  2. says

    Thanks. A big read (and comment) is part of my R&R tomorrow!

    I didn't know that about the bra burning. I must learn some more about it. It's very hard to deal with the stuff that comes over various media at our kids. In some ways we (husband and I) are at the advantage by working in the media and can say, yes, this is how this seems, but this is also how it could have been told.

  3. says

    My sons love sequins. I'll admit to feeling relief when they got past the glue and glitter phase (preschool), because I spent days vaccuming. I love my boy swarm.

  4. says

    WriteNow, oh yes, glitter gets everywhere. Boy Three got it on his head last year it was stuck to his scalp for days!

    The Alexander Residence, It was a good night thanks.

  5. says

    Good post – I think its incredibly important that boys are brought up to understand equality and that the two sexes are different but most importantly about respect and how to respect

    So many of the messages in the media suggest that young women should be moulding themselves to some being that 'men want' rather than being themselves and what does that message to do little boys?

    And yes please teach them to iron and manage for themselves, girls like my daughters will be so grateful to you when they settle down!

  6. says

    Hope the Moonwalk went well. It looks like your bra was being decorated in Spiderman-stylee. Super cool as my son would say!

  7. says

    Hope the Moonwalk went well. It looks like your bra was being decorated in Spiderman-stylee. Super cool as my son would say!

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