Over the past five and a half years, I have done my best to simply lead by example. Because, obviously, I make an awesome example to my son at pretty much everything. All joking aside, I have made sure that LittleBear knows that I am a scientist and BigBear is a programmer (or "expert at telling computers what to do" as we term it round these parts). I have made sure that LittleBear knows and sees that I can top up the oil in the car, drill holes in the walls, saw up pieces of wood, mend broken dinosaurs, make fancy-dress outfits, sew curtains, bake cakes and get tetchy when over-tired from doing all of the above. I've left it to BigBear to model non-stereotypical male behaviour such as watching and playing football, bicycle maintenance and beer-appreciation*.
And today, finally, came the day when LittleBear came out with a classic, retrograde, old-style girl-boy stereotype. "You should like pink more than white Mummy, pink is a girl's colour"
Before launching into my treatise on why this was a wholly incorrect and unacceptable statement, I demanded of my poor unsuspecting son who had told him this. It turns out, unsurprisingly, to have been one of his little friends.** And not just any friend, but the Friend who was literally designed for the phrase, "If Friend told you to jump off a cliff, would you?" Because LittleBear currently does whatever Friend tells him to do, to my great concern. LittleBear sings Friend's favourite songs. LittleBear mimics Friend's speech mannerisms. LittleBear adores Friend.
But I still, just about, have some sway with my son, so it was time to quash the views expressed by Friend.
So I launched into my treatise. At one point, I'm fairly certain LittleBear said, "yes Mummy, can I go and play now?" but I soldiered on regardless.
And, to give him his due, LittleBear did want to know why toy manufacturers make toys that are labelled as being for girls, and why they make them pink, rather than just making toys for all children, and making them in all sorts of colours. And at that point, I got stumped, because I thought adding the evil empire of profit-driven marketing and advertising onto the issues of structural sexism was too much for a Monday evening.
So in the end, we finished with, "colours are just colours, people are just people, and anyone can like anything. If anyone ever tells you that some colours are for girls and others are for boys, you can tell them your Mummy says they're wrong." Which will probably see him through at least the next 12.5 hours. Or approximately the length of time before he goes through the school gates again.
But no-one is going to tell me I haven't tried to raise a decent feminist child.
* This is a vicious calumny inserted for comedic purposes. LittleBear witnesses BigBear cooking, washing up, fixing things, playing lego, reading, writing, drawing, and assorted other activities. Not so much sewing or cake-baking, but you can't have everything!
** I was fully prepared to have a show-down with any adult who'd dared say such a thing to my child. Really, I am rabid on this issue.