What do kids know about sexism?
Sexism and a seven-year-old is a conversation I'd rather not get into. How about you?
My son knew Andy Gray's face from the television.
“Why is he on the front of the newspaper?” he asked me. "Has he died?"
I chose my words carefully:
"No," I ventured, 'He has been sacked from his job because he said something not very nice about a female colleague.'
"Oh," said my son, and turned his attention back to his games console.
I didn't want to have a conversation about sexism with a seven-year-old, but perhaps I should have done. The truth is, though, I didn't know where to start.
In their own innocent way, he and his friends already make 'sexist' comments; I've heard about girls not being allowed to play with the Lego at privilege time because 'the Lego is for the boys'.
They giggle at the notion of girls playing football, particularly as one of their female classmates plays in a team at the weekend. They are already of the mindset that football is for boys and netball is for girls.
I've had my son laugh like a drain in reply to the question "Did any of the girls go to the Lazer Quest party?' 'Of course not,"' he roared, 'Lazer Quest is just for boys!'
Despite all this, my son has grown up in a house where Mummy happily plays football in the garden, maintains her own car, drinks pints of beer, does DIY and all the things one might find a dad doing.
But also, he has grown up in a home where casual sexism is somewhat rife. Unintentional, but present. I often have a giggle with the builders at the top of my road when they yell comments as I pass. I don't take offence. I respond. And I'm not averse to making the odd sexist comment myself, because sexism, to me, seems a bit of a one way street: it only exists when men say something 'a bit near the knuckle' to a woman.
It was fine for us girls to phwoar over the Diet Coke man or Nick Kamen stripping down to his undies (I'm showing my age now) but not Okay for Virgin airlines to trade on their 'Still Red Hot' tagline last year. Similarly, it's fine for the mums at my school to leer at the firemen who turn up in their engine on fete days (a comment one year from the head of the PTA directed at the crew will stay with me forever) but they'd be in uproar if the dads carried on in a similar fashion if a bunch of nurses were to appear for a first aid display.
So I honestly do not know where I stand in telling my son what is and what isn't sexism. But if I had to cite recent examples, I would probably say a man making gestures like Andy Gray did while saying 'Charlotte, can you tuck this down here for me?' is banter, whilst being caught off guard claiming females 'don't know the offside rule' is just idiotic, ill informed codswallop.
Or the kind of rubbish you'd expect from a man. Oops. Naughty, sexist me.
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