Hi everyone, Cat here.
When I became a parent I discovered that I was lost in a world that I didn't even know existed. As a new parent, I was immediately met with repeated attempts to make me gender stereotype my babies.... my children... by clothes stores, toy manufacturers, the media, in books and toys...it was everywhere. I needed this to change; I had to change it. So, I found a tribe, met co founder and award winning digital education specialist (and parent of 3) Nicole Ponsford, and the GEC (Gender Equality Charter) was born. This is my letter to fellow parents.
Dear GEC Parents,
I’m sitting on my bed in leggings and my most shapeless jumper with my laptop and a cup of tea, writing the GEC questionnaire for homes. I started looking at the questions through your eyes - the eyes of the parents who are going to be filling them in - and I decided that I wanted to get a few things straight between us, up front. So I am writing you a letter.
I will never be perfect. In fact, my personal belief is that there is no such thing as perfect; things can always be improved upon (much to the frustration of my husband). I do however believe that there is such a thing as “good enough” and that is what I am aiming to find for my family. I am on as much of an educational journey as the next person. Every family is completely different, it would be impossible - and frankly ridiculous - to expect every single family to go through a self assessment and tick boxes and try to morph themselves into a cookie cutter “gender neutral family”.
Looking at my own family as an example, I have a boy and a girl and, like a lot of people, I went along with the idea of pink for girls and blue for boys at first. I watched kids TV shows and rolled my eyes but didn’t turn it off. I read books which made me so mad that I would change “daddy” to “mummy” and “he” to “she” as I read them to the kids, but I didn’t throw them out. I would let my daughter wear whatever she liked, I purposely shopped in the “boys” section of clothes stores for her, but never in the “girls” section for my son. I would let my son wear his sister’s dresses, hair bands and shoes - but would take them off him before we went out. I was conforming to society’s expectations of me and my kids. It was pre programmed, like I was in a video game where I felt like I had options but when I tried a different door, it was actually just a picture. I found I had to follow the path that the developers had coded out for me.
Once I realised that I didn’t want to do that anymore, I found myself stuck in the video game and every time I tried to go a different way I would hit an error. I started researching online and found for every comment like “it’s annoying that they don’t put these dinosaur pyjamas in the girls section” a handful of supportive comments but also a barrage of out and out rage that left me completely bewildered. Why on earth would anyone accuse a mum of “trying to use her kids as pawns to push her social agenda” for asking a question about kids pyjamas?! So Nic and I decided very early on that The GEC would never be a judgemental thing. How can it be? I make mistakes all the time and I am constantly learning. I find that I don’t have the answers more often than I do!
What we are aiming to do is to gather all of the things we have learned and all of the wonderful people we have met, and pull them all together in one place for you to choose from. Choose is the key word. If you, like me, choose to have your daughter’s hair long and your son’s hair short, that is fine. If you choose not to let your son go out in “girl” clothes, that is fine. Anything you choose is fine. You know your family best and you have their best interests at heart. I know that all you want to do as a parent is to give them the best possible start in life, teach them right from wrong, create kind, smart, curious, independent, self confident people who love and respect themselves and other people. As their parent, you know the best way to do that.
Deciding to follow The GEC simply means noticing, and making choices. Sometimes you will choose the most gender neutral option and sometimes you will go full gender stereotype because who’s going to stop their daughter from dressing up as a princess and their son as Superman if they really want to? Following The GEC doesn’t mean you have to cut off your daughter’s hair off or change your kids names to Xog and Pog, refuse to reveal their genders and only let them play with primary coloured blocks. It means noticing the world around your kids and noticing what they are seeing and hearing and reading and watching and playing with - and making choices about it. The choice to have a conversation after the book is finished about why the man was the doctor the the woman was the nurse. The choice to change “he” to “she” when you read that story next time, the choice to ask your friend not to call your son “champ” and your daughter “princess”. Choice also includes noticing but choosing not to do anything. Not forcing gender neutral living on your ninety six year old great grandmother is a perfectly valid choice. Choosing not to get into it at a family meal when your uncle makes a sexist comment is also a perfectly valid choice. Choosing what is right for your family is something that only you can do, and we will never judge you for a choice you make because, like us, you’re doing your best.
So have a look at our questionnaire, we hope it will be fun and educational and interesting. We hope you choose to be friends with The GEC and change the world with us.
Love Cat x