You Be You

What happens when you let a child explore their curiosities, predispositions and inner creativity beyond their gender? The answer is clear: they’re allowed to be the best versions of themselves. You Be You is a charity seeking to break down gender stereotypes from primary school level.

They say, “We want every classroom to be a safe, supportive, open environment where children can explore their interests and express their feelings.” That is, they want children to develop as whole human beings, not shamed or restricted for who they are. Because the stereotypes which oppress us are seen as normal or natural, in school and out, teachers need trained to see them and combat them. Now, there is a pilot of their training at two primary schools in London.

Much of this is around empowering girls to be active and assertive. On their news page, there are two articles from May 2017 about girls playing football and girls and the Outdoors. The first article on their useful links is “Girls lose faith in their own talents”, and among the research papers is “Parent gender roles at home and child aspirations”. I am glad I was taught to aspire to university, less glad that my feelings were not valued so I chose the wrong course to do there.

They write, Interventions mostly focus on women and girls, but we need to focus on men and boys just as much. Why don’t more men take a lead role in parenting and go part-time at work? Why don’t more men become teachers and nurses? Why are men more likely resort to substance abuse and violence as a response to stress, anxiety and depression than women? Why are roughly 3/4 of suicide victims men? Both men and women suffer from gender inequality.

Women and girls should not be blocked from achieving, should be able to value their talents and have those talents seen and developed, should be able to be active in any role they choose. Yes! Hurrah! What anyone in this valuable work wants for boys is less clear. We want them happier, more at ease with themselves. But, do you imagine boys cannot be happy following masculine stereotypes? What, none of them? Who do you want to benefit? Aha: If we don’t start teaching boys that it’s ok to express themselves, nurture others, and show vulnerability, we’re never going to chip away at the walls women keep running into in adulthood.

In Resources for parents, there is a list of books, including “Stories for Boys who Dare to be Different”, which includes a picture of Grayson Perry in a frock. The alternative type of hero is a man who checks his privilege and who is kind, selfless, courageous and not afraid to stand up for what’s right.

There is a blog. This has lots of useful stuff, such as a study showing that children whose friendship groups emphasised traditional gender stereotypes were shown to have lower well being than others. Those who chose ‘being tough’ as the most important trait for boys, or ‘having good clothes’ as the most important trait for girls, had the lowest well being of all.

It seems the pilots are about to start. Even in a school full of enthusiastic, creative teachers, and is really committed to supporting the mental health and personal development of its pupils, teaching about “feelings and kindness”, stereotypes remained, including the idea that housework was for females.

Even their own children follow the stereotypes. They don’t fit gay and trans children, but just possibly there may be some “normal” kids they fit. I wonder how much anyone can bring forth the natural child, shorn of stereotype, and how much the training challenges the stereotype whether it is “natural” to the child or not.

I don’t know how much masculinity and femininity are social constructs. Nature and nurture interact like flour and eggs, and girls might be trained to be more assertive- if the nurture is different, and the child remains “feminine”, is that from her, or from other influences the trainer could not control? I have no idea. I know these matters are fiercely disputed. There remain restrictions on women, as on BAME people and LGBT.

I wish them well. I hope a trans child would flourish in the environment they wish to create. I hope none would be told they did not need to transition in this gender-free world, if they asserted they did. In any case, as a child, as a soft apparent boy, I would have benefited from it.

8 thoughts on “You Be You

  1. “I don’t know how much masculinity and femininity are social constructs.” I’d love to know. I see ‘natural’ difference in my two kids but will never know how much they are soaking up from harmful gender roles in society. But then we are what is around us and society will always be constructed, even if it’s deconstructed from its present form to be so. But I agree it’s great that society is recognising some of this and making way for people to express themselves in a way they feel comfortable and less crammed into expected roles.

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    • I want children to know and accept themselves, and each other. Their mental health will be better, they will be happier, they will probably be more productive. Perfectionism as a drive can break people.

      I am so glad you have better things to do than blog, and I have missed you. I have just had a back-and-forth with an abusive and delusional narcissist, but it is not the same as someone friendly with a slightly different view sometimes.

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        • Unfortunately not, a real miserable, angry narcissist. I posted on a woman, and her stalker came to doxx her, and stayed to boast that the rejection of his claim by the ECHR was somehow a win.

          I have just told your target the difference evolution and natural selection. It’s pearls before swine. He had told me evolution could not be true, because “Evolutionists” could not explain the moment of first life from non-living things. Oh dear.

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          • That’s a nice post, like the old days. I like how you included background on her life, some context with the environment in which attitudes are formed. I suspect that many if not most TERFs have been subjected to some horrific behaviour in their lives, and the need to exclude stems from fear. Think that’s possible?

            I also like your handling of her stalker. He clearly felt gently stalked. Was that deliberate?

            I don’t mind people having objections to the theory of evolution, I just find it absurd when they place something like creationism above it. It’s a kind of petulant “I don’t understand science therefore unicorns must exist”

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            • Yes, terfs have often had a dreadful, even traumatic time. That man had a great shock of fear being arrested for rape, which was not prosecuted. That is why he took such an interest in Ched Evans’ rape prosecutions, and in Jean Hatchet, who (it seems) made a rape allegation which was not prosecuted.

              After his arrest, his DNA was kept though he has not been convicted of the crime. He made a claim to the ECHR. It was part of his reconstruction of his personal worth, after the horror of the arrest. He boasted about a human rights win. I looked into it, and quoted the paragraphs showing he lost. If he feels inadequate and his ‘win’ is a crutch, I kicked it away- or, at least, challenged the reassurance it gives him. If he is narcissist that may threaten his sense of self.

              I think people insist in Creationism as the truth, to prove they are part of their Evangelical communities. It shows their devotion.

              Edited.

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  2. Thanks for sharing You Be You, and for this post on gender stereotypes.

    Regardless about whether masculinity and feminity are social constructs, there are definitely stereotypes with men (speaking as a man myself) that do a lot of damage to men and women. I wish them the best in handling those stereotypes.

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    • Yes. If there are a range of possible masculinities, there is social pressure to conform to some. And the old “Camp” stereotype: there was a more tolerated way to be gay. It is a diversity issue: if people can be accepted as trans, others can be accepted with less extreme gender diversity.

      Liked by 1 person

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