I just saw a tweet from the F word, a feminist organisation that I follow, being a feminist myself and all, and being employed in this area too sort of.
The tweet was about a pink globe. Yup, apparently little girls want their countries in pink. *eye roll*.
Now I have a little girl as you probably know if you have read any of my tweets (find me at @Eclectic_Gina), or seen bits of her in the photos on this blog. And I have often wondered about how to bring her up so that she can make choices based on her true wishes and interests and not just on what is expected of gender.
So from as soon as she could express interest in things I've let that guide our buying and viewing choices. To the credit of the nursery she attends that seems to be their policy too. So I have a little girl who likes pink sometimes but whose current favourite colour is blue. Who has a best friend who is a boy and a best friend who is a girl. Who like dresses and Thomas the Tank Engine, and has asked Santa for a doll's house and a train set for Xmas (her current one needs more tunnels apparently!).
To be fair my mother was a strong woman who did things not considered feminine for women of her generation (building etc) and who revelled in her personal physical strength and intelligence. She always wore lipstick, dyed her hair and once in a while even wore a skirt. She was short, mostly slim but always dieting.
I am tall, fat and have a 'pretty face' - oh yes that old chestnut. As a child I wore dresses made by my mother, forced to have very long hair, but also as an only child helped out with house building and various other things that in some families may have been the boy children jobs.
Yet at a certain age, even with a 'pretty face' I got the impression from my mother that I wasn't very feminine. I had cut my hair as a rebellion so maybe that helped but I think it was my weight that was always the reason she didn't see me as feminine. Thus I to got this stuck in my head. Fat isn't feminine. It's not girly or pretty. It's asexual or even manly.
Being 5'8 it's hard to be dainty and cute. Being a size 24, or a size 16 at my thinnest, means that I have never feel waif like.
The messages we get are that real women have curves but some how for many years of my life my over abundance of curves made me feel less like a woman. The reality is that for some women fat seems to make them hyper-feminine. But it's not the way I've felt. I've felt like my weight stopped me from wearing the pretty clothes and the revealing outfits that seems to define femininity.
I didn't wear dresses because I felt like a man in drag, and similarly makeup was always worn a little self consciously. And wearing makeup always made me a bad fat woman in my mother's eyes. She always used to made snide comments about women who spent time on their face while 'ignoring' their weight. I didn't make the same mistake.
But saying that, I managed to dress up (in trousers), show off my boobs and get laid. So it wasn't all self hate and dungarees for me. The message still stuck though. I was less than feminine in appearance.
I should stress that it is the appearance side of femininity that has been the issue for me. I think I am stereotypically feminine in other ways. I love shopping, bags and scatter cushions. But also love aggressive sport, being able to do DIY and driving fast. I am thankful for a mother that made me realise girls can do anything, but am sad that her feelings about her own weight and fat meant that I didn't get similarly positive messages about appearance.
Somewhere though this began to unravel, although unfortunately it has only happened lately. Maybe it was going through the ring of fire (quite literally) that is motherhood. More likely it is discovering at long last a sense of okayness with my weight and size and shape - helped immensely by reading fat positive blogs and blogging myself.
I wear dresses now. And skirts. I have still got the fat legs and the height and the size, but I FEEL different. I feel attractive and feminine. So much so that I have cut my hair because I think it suits me and I can 'pull it off'.
Finally I should say that I'm not angry really about my past with my mother who has been dead for over two years. I feel sad. I feel jealous (and to be honest, simply amazed) that other fat people have caring, happy and nourishing relationships with their parents. I didn't, and I feel that loss. I want to pass on to my daughter the 'women can do anything' message my mother gave me, but with more acceptance of whatever she should look like or choose to be.