We rush this two year-old too fast
at the market, eager to cram him sponge-like
with colours and sound and action, lift him
high to survey forests of broccoli
tumbles of red and green capsicums
yellow dunes of apples, laid out like a map.
Let down to wander, he is drawn to the snicker-snacker
of the barber’s clippers, and the tangles and curls
strewn on the floor.
At the pet shop he tries to tug the lids
off the fish tanks - he’s learnt that most things
give way under enough pressure. His hands hover
over two buckets of smooth aquarium stones
as if in blessing for this gift – but he’s whisked out
to the aisle, where an elephant suited man
sprouting white balloons, stoops to give him one on a stick,
pats his head but goes unrewarded.
Like a blind man the child taps his balloon
straight through the crowd dodging and tripping
around him - he is in total eclipse.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem