Friday 1 July 2011

Sex vs Gender

You may have read in the papers recently the family in USA who choose to keep their children's gender a secret. They do so by naming their child something unusual, the first two being Jazz and Kio, both now known to be boys and their third is named Storm. 

The theory behind this is that gender is a social construct. This means that gender is something that we, as a society have created and go on enforcing without even intending to. Now, before you all go ranting and raving that this is totally ridiculous and that we obviously are different because we are genetically different I should explain the basic difference between gender and sex. Our sex is just that, our genetic, biological sex. Gender is in essence how we define our sex.

So, what this family in the States is fighting for is equality. They do not want people to coo and cuddle and protect their child because it is a girl likewise they do not want people to play rough and tumble with their child because it is a boy. What they really want is for you to do both. They also want their child to be able to wear pink or blue without people raising eyebrows or assuming a sex.

Now, this family are actually nothing new. There have been families doing similar things with their children in Sweden and Norway for some years now. But I think the real question is... is it right?! Naturally, I am not all knowing and can’t possible definitively say either way.  Equally, these children will struggle to say what they think, because they don’t know any different. My feelings are mostly that it isn’t fair to use your child as a social experiment.

Do I think that we are stuck in our gender boundaries?  Yes.

Do I think that children should have the freedom to play with whatever toys and wear whatever colours they want? Yes.

Do I think their sex should be a secret? No.

I don’t think this is the best way to go about it. When I was a child, I was what was known as a ‘tom boy’. I loved playing army men with my brother, I had no problem getting muddy and running around. I also had millions of Barbie dolls and Polly Pockets! I wore my brother’s clothes, and I wore pretty dresses. I had just as many boys for friends as girls. Interestingly as my brother got older, he had probably more female friends than male (and no, he isn’t gay!).  

Why does a child’s sex need to be a secret for them to have the freedom to play with all toys? As a nanny, I work hard on ensuring that toys of all varieties are available. Suzi*, a little girl I nannied for, found her brothers toy cars at the age of about 14 months, and that was it. They were her favourite toy. She loved to lie on the floor pushing them back and forth, or line them up neatly against the wall.

I already had a good basis of knowledge for this article because of my degree. But when doing a little more research I found an article about a playschool in Sweden that is gender neutral. This doesn’t mean that the children have to keep their gender a secret, rather that playing with all toys regardless of sex is encouraged. The teachers won’t refer to the children as boys and girls rather as ‘friends’.

Wow! What a fantastic idea. I think this is a better way forward. Surely keeping a child’s sex a secret will only be confusing and put the child at risk of being bullied for being different. Because let’s face it, we, the human race do not deal well with people being different or breaking the norm. This is quite a radical step.

Gender neutral is what all schools, in my humble opinion, should be! Schools should work towards allowing children to take part in all activities regardless of sex and I believe they are. It takes time, but boundaries are broken and change does happen.

Sometimes we just have to be a little patient.

What do you think?

Not Quite Poppins

Thursday 30 June 2011

Practically Perfect in Every Way....?!

Well here we go, my first blog. I'll tell you first how the blogging idea came about;

My husband (Mr B) and I (NQP) had gone for dinner at our dear friends house. Just as I sat down to have a cup of tea and a good catch up, their youngest son, H was ushered off to bed by his grandmother.

H: I want NQP to read me my story.

His grandmother sighed and looked at me:


No problem! I replied. As a nanny, I have become quite used to kids wanting me to be involved in their next activity, particularly if you are someone new and exciting! So off we went...

After reading him a story about losing your baby teeth (Charlie and Lola, I believe!) and after carefully tucking him in and shutting the curtains, I closed the door quietly as H snuggled down under his covers. As I returned to the kitchen I heard H's grandfather saying:

Why does everyone have to read a parenting book these days? Did Nelson read 'Battles for Dummies?

Mr B: No, but some people just have what it takes. Some people are born with it. Like NQP. She just knows how to parent.

I felt myself blush slightly as I walked into the room. You can't receive much more of a compliment than that. Particularly as I am not even a parent yet!

As the evening went on, we discovered that our friends father had a blog, as did their two daughters (aged 9 and 12!!) Naturally the girls blogs were about thier interests, games they liked to play online etc etc and their grandfathers was more political.

At 10pm off I went to work. 10pm?! I hear you say. That's right, I am currently night nannying for a fantastic family. So off I trot to their house for an 8 hour night shift of settling the baby to sleep and doing any night feeds necessary, though at 9 weeks I have got her going practically all the way through the night. As I lay cuddling her that night I couldn't stop thinking about blogs. I read a couple of blogs from time to time, mostly about diet and health (I will talk more about those another time), but it isn't something I have ever really considered before. But the more I lay there thinking about them, I could feel my jealousy bubbling!

I wish I could write a blog. I wish there was something about which I knew enough and felt passionate enough to write a blog about! I looked at the baby that had fallen asleep in my arms. There was my lightbulb moment! Children! I know tons and tons about children. I would love to share my knowledge, advice, thoughts, troubles and daily experiences as a nanny with people!

So that was it. My mind was buzzing with excitement! What should I call it - how should I write it?! I already had my first, second and third blog exploding with words in my mind! When I crawled back into my own bed at 6.30am the next morning, I told my husband my idea... waiting for him to shoot me down in his half asleep state (maybe this wasn't the time to launch a new idea to him... but I was excited!) but he didn't.

Mr B: That's a great idea!

I told him my suggestion for a name... He frowned and shook his head...

Mr B: How about Practically perfect in every way?


Naturally that name was taken as a URL. But actually, Not Quite Poppins is a great name. Because I am not perfect, I too make mistakes and learn. But hey, I am a very good nanny. And I am very good with children.

So here is my endeavour:
  • Discuss topics that arise in the news to do with children. 
  • Discuss daily issues I face with children and how I resolve them.
  • To give guidance to those who feel they are alone with difficult children.
  • To share humourous anecdotes of the cherubs I work with.
  • To discuss topics that may arise as part of the degree I am undertaking in Youth and Childhood studies (because you can never know too much!)
I am no preacher, teacher or self proclaimed expert. But I do know quite a lot. I believe we should change our practice as children and society change. So preaching old school methods is not necessarily the way of the future!

So here it is. This is blog number 1.
May I be interesting enough to write many more!

Not Quite Poppins.