Before kids I used to be somebody else. I used to play on the wing for Camberwell Old Fallopians women’s football club; I stuck two fingers up at all the shitty misogyny prevalent in every office I have ever worked in (as a production editor at NME, I was called a witch for trying to enforce a deadline with the then predominantly male writers); I followed politics, got angry often and had an opinion that was frequently loudly expressed. And now who am I? Mummy to sexist kids.
I have spent years mimsying about, equipping the kids with reasonably gender-neutral clothes and toys, but I might as well have dressed the girls like Katie Price and armed the boy with a Kalashnikov – our stereotypical gender roles have clearly sown the sexist seed in their little brains (witness the Doctor comment).
I realise with mounting despair that it is not just our roles that are enforcing gender sterotypes, but our day-to-day behaviour: dog put dead bird on child’s bed, who ya gonna call? Dad (Mum will scream like a wuss). Hair needs a nice swingy ponytail, wotcha gonna do? Ask Mum (bald-headed Dad hasn’t a clue). Etcetera. What is more, research by northern Spain’s University of the Basque Country has revealed that mums have a greater influence on children’s sexist attitudes than dads. It is a no-win situation: women are both the biggest victims and perpetrators of sexist crimes. As a mum, I feel guilty – oops, another gender stereotype … But it’s not all my fault. I have my own parents who did for me Philip Larkin-style (“They fuck you up, your mum and dad”). My Scottish ex-military dad frequently visits our house to do DIY jobs and mow the lawn. My wee Scots mum, meanwhile, is the best in the world: she has a large cosy chest for cuddles, and spends all day nurturing and fussing. If the menfolk need tea, she appears cuppa in hand as if by magic.