I have two brothers. My dad has two brothers. They both have two sons. My mum is one of four kids, and she’s the only girl. You get the picture: my family is overwhelmingly male. Growing up, there were never any girls around, bar the occasional obligatory aunt. So, when our first child was born, I wasn’t in the least bit surprised that it was a boy. “It’s to be entirely expected,” I thought to myself. “And if we ever have another, it’ll be a boy again – guaranteed.”
And then, two-and-a-bit years ago, my daughter arrived into the world. Suddenly, I had to deal with the wonderful challenge of being a dad to a little girl. It’s been absolutely brilliant, and I just adore her – but recently, I’ve started to worry about what life is going to be like for her growing up. Only the other day, she declared: “I can’t have this. It’s BLUE.” Now, I’m certainly not one of those parents who insist that their children dress in gender-neutral beige – but seriously, is it really healthy that two-year-old girls automatically assume they can’t use a toy because it’s blue?
To be honest, though, much as I worry about what it’ll be like for my little girl to grow up in what is still, so often, a world where men get the upper hand, this kind of gender stereotyping doesn’t just affect girls. My son unexpectedly burst into tears the other morning when I gave him and his sister their breakfast in identical pink bowls (it wasn’t a deliberate move; they were just the only clean ones to hand, and I couldn’t be bothered to empty the dishwasher). What kind of world do we live in where the idea of girls using blue stuff and boys using pink stuff every once in a while is likely to bring our children out in a cold sweat?
Anyway, as I told my wife the other day, I’ve made a few decisions. One of them is that I’m definitely not going to ‘give my daughter away’ if and when she gets married. I mean, how crazy is that? She’s not my possession to give to another man. And don’t give me any of that “oh, but it’s just tradition” malarkey. That’s not a convincing enough argument.
So there I was, espousing my views on all this. And then my wife, who’s nearly always right, gave me one of those looks. She paused, and sagely commented: “I’d imagine you’ll end up doing whatever SHE wants you to do. She’s your little girl. And she’s already got you wrapped around her little finger.”