Thursday, 20 September 2018

Be a Man's man and Man up!

The two phrases in this title really get on my nerves.
Growing up I had it and you can only assume that it was a sign of the times. However, I see it regularly in different aspects of my life and now see it with my children.

One of my first posts that really got shared and read as a blogger was called Gender Identities in Children. In the post, I shared how the boys like baking, cooking, playing with dolls and even having their nails painted. It didn’t bother me. It has never bothered me. If they like and want to do something then I am happy for them to do so. The way that I have seen it is “If it isn’t harming anyone then it isn’t a problem!”
Yet, for some unknown reason we, as a society, are still sharing with each generation and peers that boys things are for boys, girls things are for girls, that boys and men should “Man up” and men should be “Real Men: A Man’s man”.

I mentioned above that I had it growing up. To be honest this mind-set was flooding my childhood.
My brother is, and has always been, what most would call a man’s man. He liked physical sports like football, cricket and karate. His interests at home were building things, going on “adventures” and mechanics. So much of this then bled into his adulthood. He trained as a mechanic, worked as a builder, collects peoples scrap and is currently “Working the roads”. All in all he is the pride and joy of my dad because he does “man things” and is physical in everything he does. It's just his thing. 

I, however, was and still am a disappointment. Growing up I liked art, playing instruments and singing, I would read, failed at every sport that they tried to introduce me to and, to my dads’ utter disgust, ended up figuring skating; which, without boasting, I was extremely good at. I stayed on for Higher Education and qualified in numerous things. I then, and again to my dad’s disgust, became a Primary School Teacher who predominantly taught Key Stage 1 and then further along the line became a Stay at Home Dad and, of course, a Blogger.
Yet, my upbringing and early adulthood was met with “Why do you read?”, “Who likes reading?” "Why on earth are you doing a Girls sport like Figure Skating?”, “There’s something dodgy about wanting to work with really small children?”, “You’ve stopped working to do women’s work?” and, finally, “Why do people want to read what you’ve written? Why would people want to read anything?” (Yes, every single one of you, in my dad’s eyes, are idiots for not only reading my blog but others too!)

Growing up in that way was normal for so many people. Yet, in society, these judgements still continue.
Whilst dating and in relationships that I have had there has ALWAYS been difficulty with the “Father in-law”.

They have a problem because I should have a “real job like being a builder”; apparently answering “Carrying the bricks gets in the way of my wheelchair” isn’t something funny to say! Alternatively, “He has loads of female friends. Even his best friends are women. That’s just weird!” Again, answering “It’s easier to stay away from judgemental male idiots like yourself” isn’t the funny thing to say! Finally, there is always a health problem. Being disabled, for many in-laws, is seen as being “less of a man”. I wouldn’t be able to “look out for and care for the daughter”. Also, this time saying “I do look after her perfectly well in the bedroom and I am sure she will tell you that I’m definitely not “less of a man” there” isn’t funny either.
Why on earth is this still even a mind-set? Why are men judging other men on what they believe are “manly” traits? When did being smart, enjoying reading and being a good father become topic for man-shaming?

Despite all of this I have never conformed. It isn’t me. I like who I am and know that I am comfortable with my lifestyle to ever question these outdated stereotypes.
I am proud that my boys don’t conform to them either.

I have previous championed when William was wearing hairbands and was questioned and more recently shared a post about James. James was having hassle for his dressing up. The fear, as a parent, that other children were picking him out deliberately due to his interests and likes was really strong. I, at the end of the post, said I was worried for the start of Year 3.
A couple of weeks into the school term and that fear has become reality. James left his regular packed lunchbox in school so went in with his pink one. He loves pink. Often says that it is one of his favourite colours.

He came out of school upset because a child pointed it out and everyone laughed at him. My heart sank. We then find out that a second incident happened. A child pointed to the lunchbox, whilst it was being put away, covered their mouth and pulled a face because it was pink.
James said that he pulled the boy up on it and was going to tell because it was rude and mean. The boy got there first and asked the teacher, to which the teacher said “No, it isn’t rude or mean”.

I questioned James over all of this and whilst telling me you could see and hear his upset. Not because he was crying but because his old stutter started coming back out. He hasn’t stuttered in years. His Step Brother was there so we asked him. He has confirmed everything that was done and said.
We were shocked. His Step brother did say that the T.A said she had a blue lunch box and “would that make her a boy” only to be overlooked by the teachers above answer.

Why is this happening? How are we still living in an age where children are still gender assigning colours and items?
I know a lot of adverts have a lot to answer for but I think the blame here lies with the adults in the environment and the parents.

Instead of living in a world where we are saying “be yourself and it doesn’t matter what you like” we are still highlighting and pointing out outdated gender stereotypes.
Gender, especially with children, shouldn’t be classified into any category or boxes but within the individual.

Individuals are the key to innovation and advancement but whilst we are still funnelling this nonsense out it is only going to create an on-going cycle that separates people from us and them. Thankfully, I know this isn’t everyone out there and I know many others would be just as outraged at this and have experienced it at some point; I think Tim’s attitude in Parody in Pink sums up that all isn’t lost in society.
I have corrected the viewpoint for James and reassured him that he can like whatever he wants and that pink is a cool colour. I will be speaking to the school about this too and getting to the bottom of why this has been allowed and can be disregarded by staff. That’s all I can do. I just hope that things can start changing so any future problems don’t start arising.

So for now and the future being a “Man’s man” and made to “Man up” is the worst possible goal for anyone, young or old.


Unknown said...

It really is shocking these I outdated views are there. Particularly in a school environment.

Little Miss OMG has started saying. Those are boys toys. I can only think she is getting this from her peers at nursery who are obviously hearing it at home.

Plutonium Sox said...

This is so sad, it's something we all need to address as a society. I hope you get some success when you speak to the school about it, hopefully the teacher can receive training and pass on the learning to the children to help them understand what an outdated, disgusting point of view this is.

Unknown said...

Fab post Martyn gender assignment belongs in the dark ages you may know I have written often about the girls how they are so different. For this to happen in school is appalling. Let’s just let our kids be kids whatever that might be. Hope it’s sorted for you. As Natalie said society really needs to change.

Anonymous said...

Clearly you have an axe to grind Martyn, I get it, some people are insensitive arses. But it surprises me that such an intelligent MAN such as yourself can let such a limp wristed form of bullying develop such strong viewpoints on how being a "mans man" is "the worst possible goal for anyone".

Its a good goal for some, not for others. Depends on certain dispositions.

Projection and demonisation of traditional male traits, not good.

Men and women are biologically wired differently, we are different in both body and mind. Deal with it.

Martyn Kitney said...

Thanks. I agree, it is outdated.

I think peer influence is always something that comes along. With that these ideals of what is right and wrong happen too. It's with that we have to challenge, if we wish to, to change the cycle.

Martyn Kitney said...

I agree. It is something that needs to be addressed.I have spoken to the school and for now it appears that they are going to great lengths to tackle it. I really appreciate the effort they have made. Hopefully this will help form a greater understanding.

Martyn Kitney said...

I hadn't,whilst writing this post,thought directly about you and the girls. But, now you have mentioned it, of course I know this is a topic that you are strong on. I agree. Let kids be kids, whatever that is.

Martyn Kitney said...

*I originally wrote a reply to this comment but after rereading I realised that it wasn't as concise as I would like so deleted it to reply properly shortly.

Jess Helicopter said...

Firstly bloody hell Martyn. I am SO sorry you've gone through so much bullshit from so many ignorant dicks. My boy isn't remotely interested in sport and loves arts and crafts way more. He's pretty IDGAF about it but he does come out with things which make me think he's not totally there yet. He'll still refer to somethings as being "girls" or "boys" and i correct him straight away. Peer influence is so hard to deal with though. Kids can be cruel and no one wants their baby being ridiculed. I am shocked by the teacher's response. That's not who needs to be leading the next generation. I think you're doing brilliantly though. You're an inspiration and the world defo needs more men with attitudes like yours. Thank you Martyn!

JOhn Adams said...

Wowzers Martyn, reading about your upbringing was tough. I had a little of that growing up, but to nothing of the same degree. That must have been tough and must continue to be tough for you. If there's one thing I have come to appreciate, It's that masculinity comes in every form, size, shape and colour. This needs to be respected.

Anne said...

Great post Martyn, these things really do need talking about, it's the only way that attitudes will change. It's very sad when teachers are not on board though, they are such a huge influence in our children's lives and the views of future generations.