A friend asked me if I had any thoughts on innate gender differences, seeing as I’ve a toddler boy and girl, and I’ve written about trying to keep things gender neutral before.
I had to say, I can’t tell any innate differences due to gender so far, but my kids have very different personalities (surprise, surprise!), so who’s to know what’s innately a gender difference and what’s just personality?
My boy is very inquisitive, physically active, and enjoys a lot of stimuli. He’s always trying to figure out why things are the way they are, and how they work. But as much as he can be go-go-go, he also really needs his rest, loves his comfort toys, loves sleeping, and is a deep sleeper. He’s all go or all stop.
My girl is more even stevens. She’ll be active, but at a slower pace. She watches and then makes up her mind how she feels about something, rather than diving in and reacting with a range of emotions as she goes. She’ll come over for a hug and to sit on my lap, having a mini rest, then she’ll be off again. She’s more of a light sleeper.
The gender differences that society continues to push, however, never cease to blow my mind. I’m prepared for the ones I know – that my kids will be bombarded with images of sexualised / objectified women in the media, but the men aren’t portrayed that way; that people will tell my daughter she’s pretty and comment on her clothes, whereas they’ll tell my son that he’s clever and busy; that there are more books with male protagonists than female. Yeah, I knew all those would happen. I try to counteract them as much as possible.
(It’s not something I like talking about, because I find it depressing.)
Recently, a couple of extra punches to the gut:
- In kids’ TV shows, female protagonists/characters are rare (see below)
- I bought a range of boys’ (blue blue blue) and girls’ (colourful!) clothing for my boy, so my girl is now wearing his hand-me-downs, and I’ve noticed how much the cut of the clothing differs, and how they are treated differently because of it. Boys’ clothing is straight cut, girls’ clothing is skinny and fitted. I didn’t notice this when my boy was wearing the range of styles, although I did remember thinking he looked a bit hipster sometimes – but when my girl wears the boys’ clothing, I see how “unusual” it looks on a girl – the baggier style makes her look older and tougher than she actually is, whereas when she’s wearing form-fitting girls’ clothes, she looks more dainty, tiny, fragile, younger, sweeter. Imagine that – just the cut of their clothes is making people assume one child is sweeter. Oof. It all starts right here.
C’est ça. I try my best.
Kids’ shows that my kids watch, and gender of characters
Male protagonist(s) (13)
- Baby Jake
- Daniel Tiger
- Shaun the Sheep
- Giggle and Hoot
- Peter Rabbit
- Thomas the Tank Engine
- Little Roy
- Dinosaur Train
- Hey Duggee
Group cast, mostly male characters (5)
- Go Jetters
- Sesame Street
- The Wiggles
- In the Night Garden
Equal female/male (6)
- Charlie and Lola
- Ben and Holly
- Play School
- Sarah and Duck
Female protagonist(s) (4)
- Peppa Pig
When our birth rate is about 51% boys and 49% girls, you’d expect that the characters in entertainment would reflect this. But nope, we are still the second sex. That’s what my son and daughter are learning. And as for the representation of any other peoples…
P.s. In related news, Fathers pay more attention to toddler daughters than sons, study shows
So after the figuring-out-that-you’re-unhappy and the working-on-it and the exploring-ways-to-be-happier and the changing-things-in-your-life and then figuring-out-that-you-gain-happiness-from-personal-growth and the working-on-that and then getting-frustrated-you-don’t-know-what-to-get-better-at and the reading-books-on-that and the exploring-different-options and then the changing-your-life-with-fewer-distractions and gaining-more-discipline and finding-out-more-what-you-like-doing and then working-at-it and working-at-it and working-at-it and feeling-pretty-good-because-you’re-disciplined-and-working-on-stuff and also understanding-that-you-can-enjoy-the-process-not-just-a-finished-product and experiencing-general-satisfaction-and-wellbeing (breath!) maybe, just maybe, you get to a day where you’re-putting-work-into-things-but-don’t-really-have-anything-to-show-for-it and maybe, just maybe, you think: What will make me feel like I’ve actually done something / gotten somewhere / got something to show for my work? And you think about it and decide: I need to have a “ship” list. And: I need to figure out what I can produce, at the end of the day/week/month/year, that will make me feel like I’ve gotten somewhere and made something. And ship it!
P.s. We received the first feedback from one of our trial run customers and it was very positive, which is excellent! I’ve registered the business name and all that shebang, so now we are working on finalising the product and suppliers and costs and so on. I guess all my life I’ve been accustomed to making things in companies, so when you think up an idea, you have various people making it happen, and you have a project timeline that seems entirely reasonable – plan all phases, work on phase 1, prototype, test, phase 1 launch, refine, work on phase 2, prototype, test, phase 2 launch, refine, etc. But when it’s just a couple of people, and it’s not your full-time job… whoa! That timeline looks BONKERS. Like, it’s going to take years until you have a product together! Okay then. I’ll keep working.
A million years ago, I used to make little graphics for my websites, and I’d lose millions of hours doing it (in a good way). I’ve spent my spare minutes this week ~lost in the flow~ playing around with graphics, ideas, colours, shapes, fonts.
When I (almost accidentally) read The Happiness Project back in 2012 and thought it was fantastic and started working on being happier, I did some exercises here and there (from The Happiness Project, from The Artist’s Way, from other books) on how do I lose time / what is my flow. I was constantly stuck answering that question, because I had made my sensible adult life efficient and devoid of frivolous meandering – I was good at UX, so why would I code anymore, why would I do any graphic design anymore, why would I make music anymore, why would I make videos anymore? (etc.)
I thought, if I couldn’t answer that exercise question, then I must be really hopeless. I thought I should know the answer immediately. And if I didn’t know the answer, maybe I hadn’t even found my thing yet. Which was also kind of awful, because I didn’t know how to go about looking for my thing.
Four years later though, I see how long it’s taken me to get here, to relearn all this stuff that I used to enjoy. Four years to un-efficient myself and to be OK dawdling for hours making graphics and coming up with names for potential products and planning and brainstorming ideas and creating gifts.
I recently read The Dance of the Possible: the mostly honest completely irreverent guide to creativity by Scott Berkun, and the first chapters (I think about the first five chapters?) were great, and Berkun mentions this phenomenon about how we become more efficient as we Adult, and how we stop wasting time/exploring/playing. Yup.