Home' LOTL : May 2004 Contents Asimilar thing is starting to happen with my daughter
(pictured). Bold as brass with the chicks (bordering on
lecherous if there's cleavage), but apt, at the sound of a deep
voice, to retreat behind Mummy whimpering "fwight."
What is it about men?
Well, they can be great big smelly things with raucous
voices, sandpaper skin and thundering boots, but I was a bit
like that myself in the late eighties. (And I've since done years
of penance with the beauty therapist.)
This isn't about butchy or girly façades, but seems to be a
primal fear of strange men. And, while there's a temptation to
say that this is a good and natural defence, let us remember
that the majority of sex crimes are committed by familiar men,
not strange ones. But could stranger-danger be somehow
hardwired into little girls?
The difference between boys and girls is a hot topic
amongst toddler parents, and I'm not talking about the obvious
bits. Biological determinism gets invoked on the flimsiest
pretext. Aggression is 'a boy thing' and I get told darkly about
what a teenaged nightmare my sweet-natured but bossy girl will
become. (Aren't all teenagers nightmares? Isn't it something
to do with surging hormones and societal constraints? The
unfolding of a complex and independent identity?)
I get really flummoxed hearing other wise politically savvy
friends making throwaway statements about housework being
a 'girl-gene', but it's hard to be taken seriously on this point
while my daughter obsessively mops floors, changes teddies'
nappies and breastfeeds imaginary pets. Meanwhile boys are
kicking balls and invading Iraq. It's weird, but I'm not giving
up my belief system without a fight.
Let me put my cards on the table. When it comes to
gender, I am vehemently on the side of nurture, not nature.
That is not to say that we become what we are meant to
become, or that anyone is to blame if we don't. But while in
a utopian world of gender fluidity, genitalia, hormones, and
A COUPLE OF GIRLFRIENDS AGO,
I COHABITED WITH A SEPARATIST CAT. IF A
MAN ENTERED OUR HOUSE, SHE'D BE UP
THE CHIMNEY BEFORE YOU COULD SAY
'SHEILA JEFFREYS'. BY BRIDGET HAIRE.
A GIRL THING
chromosomal makeup could be irrelevant to an individual's
gendered persona, that certainly is not the case in the real world.
Alex, tabloid sensation of the week, the thirteen-year-old
who wants to live as a male despite his biology, is a case in
point. In his case, there seems to be a coherent backstory that
explains the identification -- a relationship with his father so
intimate the child assumed the world was male, and was
shocked to find other wise. But I think such an apparently
clear cause of gender identity, dysphoric or not, is the
exception rather than the rule. For most of us it is a circuitous
path studded with performance and parody rather than a
'finding' of ourselves.
Despite a preoccupation with all things girly -- all the acutely
obser ved and imitated activities that I busy myself with -- my
daughter currently describes herself as a boy. Her favourite
playmates are male twins whom I refer to as 'the boys'. As she
is more like them than like their mother and I, a boy she is, for
the moment. (Albeit one with hot pink toenails.)
I can still remember my own discovery of the gender divide
at three, at which point I refused all clothing other than a pink
tutu, sat sidesaddle on swings and became distinctly
uncomfortable, if not hostile, in the presence of women with
short hair. My Women's Lib mother couldn't take me anywhere!
As to why teenaged girls rebel so violently against their
beloved mothers, well I was developing a theory on that in
the car yesterday while driving past some earthmoving
equipment. Little boys are pushed from a young age to find
alternatives to mother imitation, whereas in girls mother
imitation is rewarded for longer so individuation comes later
and is more painful (like those lesbian couples who start to
look the same.) I was feeling proud of this theory, and tried
to explain it to Lucy.
"Yes," she replied, in a serious and considered way. "Fairy".
After a pregnant pause, she added, "Special fairy."
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