Saturday, 6 December 2008

parents and their young

I bought this card matching game for baby bear at Goodwill the other day. I thought that the pictures were kind of cute and naming animals is a popular pastime around here and eventually we will be able to use it to play memory games.

But then I decided that actually, it really pisses me off. Not the cards so much but the name - why on earth does it have to be mothers and their babies? Granted, the cow has an udder so that's a mummy cow and her calf but otherwise - the cat, the dog, the elephant? - they could all be a daddy with his young. I suppose that the concept reflects the fact that children do spend more time with their mothers but it also promulgates a social value that mothers and children belong together and fathers are elsewhere. This notion not only robs mothers of the opportunity to be somewhere else (like work) but it also robs fathers of the opportunity to be with their children.

I'd be the first to acknowledge the 'special bond' between mother and child but I'd also be the first to question whether its special status just reflects social norms or whether there is actually a qualitative difference with the bond between father and child. Having never been a father it is impossible for me, or anyone else I think, to say.

Everywhere, including in the crafting world, I see and hear rampant gender bias - "It's a great first sewing project for a little girl". Rubbish, it's a great sewing project for a child, any child. At a shopping centre last week I heard a young girl tell her mother that she wanted a certain Lego set for Christmas. "No no, you can't. That's not a girl's toy", the mother replied. !!!. Yeah, and engineering and architecture and anything else requiring spatial abilities and creativity are not women's professions.

We are making every effort to raise baby bear with a wide variety of toys, books and activities. Yes, she has a doll house but she also has a great train set which she just loves. And she'll sit for a good half hour on her own playing Lego, totally engrossed.

So anyway, in our house it is only a mummy animal where physiology dictates; all the others are an even mix of mummies and daddies. One might think that a small child wouldn't be worried by the udder but yes, correct physiology does matter. Don't even get me started on the correct usage of vulva and vagina.


Ceels said...

People get grossed out when you say vulva - I try to drop it in to conversation from time to time.

Only vaguely related is:

I want to comment on the mummy/daddy/child bit, but my thoughts won't come together - one of my first reactions was 'but bulls don't have anything to do with calves', but then I wondered if that reaction is because I am used to dairy farms where the bull is well separated from the rest of the herd except when he is performing his 'duties'.

Di said...

Don't know where you're going with the last line (hoping for more google hits?), but I'm so with you on the rest of the post. We have a book about baby animals with their parents, which isn't explicit about whether they are with their mother or father, but I suddenly realised one day that I was describing the photos as "this is the baby possum and this is his mama" and so on. Totally not intentional, but once I realised I've been trying to change my descriptions.

delamare said...

On several occasions I've been in a toy department and seen small boys beg their parents for a Barbie and witnessed horrible responses, like "don't be stupid - they're girls, not boys!". I don't think some parents realise what they are doing ...

I have to say too that my kids - two boys and one girl - tend to love their gender specific toys, but they have also very much enjoyed toys 'meant' for the opposite sex.