I had always imagined that I would have a little girl, in fact, the thought hadn’t really crossed my mind that I’d have a boy. Not that I didn’t like boys, in fact in a previous life I was more or less ‘stepmum’ to a wonderful happy, cheeky, little boy. But I myself had never really thought about having a boy of my own. Given that it is a 50/50 chance, once I was pregnant I realised this may have been some what remiss. I started thinking about boys names, looking at boys clothes, imagining this little rapscallion, in fact, both Tom and I were convinced we were having a boy. I was excited for a boy too.
So why did I cry when I found out I was having a girl?
Not really, well, maybe a bit. And also not because her dad is half Indian and her mum half Iranian, which means our little Chewbacca is going to need extra help when she hits puberty, (it’s okay little one, from personal experience, mama knows).
I cried because, we live in a society where you can buy baby grows which say things like “Future Footballers Wife”, in which gender specific Lego exists. From the minute they are born, society has an expectation of girls, (it also has expectations of boys, of course, but I’m writing this from a girl perspective just now). Girls are still judged by what they wear, every week another story is doing the rounds on Facebook about some poor girl at a school dance who is sent home because her ankles are affecting the sensibilities of the boys. We live in a society where the people who run this country seem to still attribute a proportion of blame to women and girls who are raped because of what they were wearing or where they were when it happened. Hell, I live in society where even I automatically assume that my daughter will want to get rid of her body hair BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT GIRLS DO. I mean, we got the damn vote, but show an ounce of flesh and you’re just asking for it. And this is just in my little corner of the universe, let alone the atrocities committed against women and girls in other countries across the world.
When I was a Small, I liked dresses and shiny Lucky Step shoes (remember them?!) but I also loved my dungarees and wellies. My Lego was red, blue, green and yellow. I longed for a chemistry set, and one of those easy bake ovens, (never had either). I would pack my teddies and dollies into a pappoose and march across the garden because we were going to fight a war. I was a Tom-Girl. Actually, I was just a child.
However despite this, soon enough, society came a-knocking. As I got older I realised that I was pudgy. My dad used to point out my ‘spare tyre’. I was probably only about 7 years old. I was embarrassed already of my body. My mum was always on a diet. Rosemary Connelly, Weight Watchers, Aerobics and still called herself fat. I thought she was beautiful, and she was. She is. But society had got to her too. My mum was telling me that she was too fat, that she was stupid or not pretty enough. Don’t talk about my mum like that, I’ll have you. Wait. What? Why would my mum say these things unless they’re true, and if that’s true about her, then it must be true about me as well, I’m too fat, I’m stupid, I’m not pretty enough.
Too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too broad, too lanky, too human.
Despite all the expectations that society has of women and little girls alike, perhaps the most damaging words are the ones spoken closer to home, that we don’t even realise.
I have not escaped, I am never going to be happy about the way I look. I will always think I am too fat. Not ‘girly’ enough. Not clever enough (and to be fair I will leave the maths homework to her father). But the buck stops here. I don’t suppose I will ever stop thinking those things, but I hereby promise that at no point will my little girl here the words, “Mummy is too fat”, “Mummy is stupid” or any other self-deriding words from my own mouth. After all we teach our children everything that they know, and although I’m fairly certain my kid will be the one who drops the f-bomb during their first day at nursery, I’d much rather that than her think it’s okay to tell herself that she’s not good enough.
Raising girls is hard. That is I why I cried. In the face of a society that continually tells women and girls that they’re not good enough, where it is normal and expected for women to vocally deride themselves for not being ‘up to scratch’, where we are encouraged to be bashful when complimented instead of saying, “hell yeah, thanks!”, I want to raise my girl to be strong and confident in her brain, in her body and all the amazing things it will do, that it is already doing.
My little love, you are breathing amniotic fluid right now, that is COOL! You are already completely mind-blowingly awesome.
I want her to be able to do what she wants without being judged by her gender. I don’t want her to ever think that she isn’t good enough, and I think, that starts with her dad and I.
I am not perfect by any means, but there is one person heading into the world that might think I am, for a little while at least, and I’m just going to go ahead and let her think that for as long as possible.
EDIT: I just want to make it clear that my mum is amazing and if I can be half the mum she was to me when I was growing up then I will be thankful. My post is purely aimed at patriarchal society and the norms it perpetuates in the way women should act. Mum, you’re my hero and inspiration.