“Don’t be silly mummy; I’ll never go to space” declared GinGin so matter of fact. “Oh, and why not?” The question I wish I didn’t have to ask. “Because girls can’t be astronauts!” And there it was. The hammer blow to my chest. Four little words: girls can’t be astronauts. My heart was broken and I was crying inside.
I’d always hoped I’d carried the girls-can flag high and proud for the four short years of GinGin’s life up to that moment. I stupidly thought she was immune to the false limitations society has put upon the female sex. But no. Those four words revealed the truth. I hadn’t done enough. I’d failed her. Somehow, somewhere, this ridiculous idea had crept inside her head. It had taken root. And it was in danger of becoming a fact of life, not to be questioned. Of course I immediately felt guilty. I’d let her down. I’d not done enough to instill a sense of self-belief, self-worth or determination in my own daughter’s mind. It was my fault she believed she couldn’t do something because she was a girl.
But let’s rewind. We’ve always encouraged GinGin to do whatever she wants to do. We’ve read to her everyday of her life. Fiction books as well as fact books. We’ve not insisted on buying the pink version of toys. She’s had as many “boy’s toys” as she has “girl’s toys” – probably more. She has developed a keen interest in maths and science. She loves learning. She loves discovering new things. She loves being outdoors. She knows her mummy is very well educated. She’s grown up with daddy doing household chores. And making dinner most days. We’ve talked endlessly about all the different things in life there is to do. Discussed the jobs that people do. Careers people have. Never once have we even hinted that there are things that boys can or can’t do, and things that girls can or can’t do.
It’s not my fault.
But it is my responsibility to make sure this fire is put out now. These flames cannot be fanned. GinGin is fiercely strong-willed. She is independently minded. She questions most things. I like that about her. It’s hard work, but I like that she doesn’t just accept the first thing she’s told. So quite where this idea that girls can’t be astronauts came from is beyond me. And it surprises me that she accepted it. Except she hadn’t accepted it. Her declaration was more like running a theory passed me. How do I know? Because she didn’t argue with me when I told her emphatically, “yes! Yes girls can be astronauts! You could be an astronaut if you wanted to be!” She looked thoughtful. Triumphant even. I could see the thought process on her face.
“…Maybe one day I could go to space. I might like to be an astronaut one day…”
It helped that we were at The Eden Project when this conversation took place. So what difference does that make? Well, the theme of Eden at the time was space. We were walking through a gallery of images taken from satellites. Some pictures were even taken from inside the International Space Station. We’d stopped in front of a portrait. It was a picture of smiling scientist. She was floating in her work environment. She was surrounded by very technologically advanced looking equipment. She had a view of the Earth from her window. She was in space. She was an astronaut. She was a woman. There was no man in the image. No confusion that this woman was clever, capable, courageous. Thank you Eden for displaying that particular image. And in such a prominent place too. It was the evidence I needed to prove to GinGin that girls can be astronauts. It was such an empowering and important moment in my little girl’s life.
It doesn’t matter that GinGin probably won’t be an astronaut. (She’s fixated on being a singing vet for now *eyes roll*) What matters is that she knows she could be if she wanted to be. That new belief is there. It has now taken root. I know it has. It’s about nine months since all this happened. And now – probably on a daily basis – GinGin will announce that she can do anything she wants to do because, “girls can be anything they want to be can’t they mummy!”
My reply is always the same: “of course they can my little love.”
It’s so easy to nlame ourselves for the way our kids veiw the world isn’t it, forgetting about the host of influences out there that impact them everyday. Last year I brought my girls to listen to a talk by a woman who is training to be the first Irish astronaut, my son wasn’t interested in going! I think it’s great that there are more opportunities opening up for both girls and boys. #itsok
Hey, thanks for stopping by 🙂
Ooooh gosh, he really didn’t want to go? I wonder if it would have been different if it was a male astronaut, or whether it was just the event in general he wasn’t feeling??
And, yes, I totally blame myself for everything!! xx
Lovely post, hun and a very important one too!!! Often, it’s society and advertising and things outside of our control that give our kids these ideas and notions of what boys can or cannot do v/s what girls can or cannot do. But as you rightly said, it is up to us to intervene and change that line of thought, and to instil a fire in them that they can indeed do anything! Thanks for linking up with the #itsok linky
Thank you 🙂
I find it so frustrating how easily children fall into following gendered stereotypes. It’s one of those things that I pray won’t hold my girls back from living the happiest and most fulfilling life possible.
I love the #itsokay linky 🙂
Such a great blog, thanks for sharing. I have seen this in so many little moments in my children’s lives, for example, they had a ‘dress as your dream job’ in reception and almost every girl came as a nurse, but the boys came as doctors, it broke my heart and made me cross. Sometimes I think this is based purely on buying the toys that the children want, or what family decide to buy and they mean nothing by it, but it is still concerning that this divide seems to be apparent so early on.
I adored the girl who came as a builder because she wanted to be like the Dad though – obviously positive messages flying around that household.
My son loves playing with hair and crafting and so that is what we do, my other son loves constructing, so we do both and I hope my daughter can see that there is a wide range of options for her. Boys and girls can be whoever they want to be, we just need society to catch up a little bit!
I agree the Eden summer show was fab 🙂 xxx
Ahh it’s just heartbreaking when they fall into those gender stereotypes at such a young age. High five to the little girl who went to school dressed as a builder!
Both my girls have as many “boys” toys as “girls” toys, but GinGin still won’t wear trousers to school because apparently that’s too boyish *massive eyeroll*
Sounds like you’re on it, though, encouraging your little ones to be anything they want to be!
We adore Eden 🙂 xx
Ah no. I’m sorry. I know exactly what you mean though, the feeling of failing our daughters. Mine once thought that being a mummy is something they should aspire to be an that was soul crushing to me, because whilst I appreciate their love, obviously, I just want them to know that they can do everything else as well! Now my youngest wants to be a Doggy Day Care walker, and my eldest wants to be a Snake Catcher! FFS! Thanks for linking up to the #itsok linky.
Hey, thanks for taking the time to comment, and apologies for taking so long to reply! Oh wow – a snake catchers!!! Crikey, that’s not normally top of the child’s dream job wish list haha.
It’s so hard isn’t it? We just want the very best for them, and to know that the whole world is out there for them to grab hold of xx
Aw another great blog – and of course girls can be whatever they want to be! It’s not at all your fault that she said that – sadly, it’s everywhere. But can be challenged! And what a great display at Eden. We loved it. My three year old was blown away by it. Thanks for linking up to #ItsOK x
Aww thank you so much! She still tells me that girls can be whatever they want to be, but it’s still more like a question than a statement. Just today she was telling me that girls can play football or rugby if they want to.
Eden always put on such fabulous displays and productions. We love it there xx
We do too. In fact a friend of mine wrote that space programme for them. So clever!
Wow! I’m very impressed. The Space thing this year was amazing!
Interesting, as we’ve always been very supportive of both our daughters and made clear girls and do anything boys can and vice versa. Even so, one of our children is much more open to this message than the other. I would put money on GinGin has heard someone from outside the family say there are things girls can’t do. I think this does work the other way around. I know of a mum who once said to my wife and I that childcare “was a strange choice for a man” as an occupation. A sexist anti-male comment to begin with, but also limiting for her daughter. Such a remark would send out a message that there are occupations for men and women and her child should stick to them. Very thought provoking post. Visiting from #brilliantblogposts
Thanks for taking the time to respond, and I’m always happy to hear that something I’ve written is thought-provoking 🙂
I’m utterly surprised that anyone would make a comment like that. But I guess some people have fixed ideas about what male and female roles are.
I also find it amazing what things our children choose to believe, especially off-hand comments from other people. I just hope that we’r raising GinGin (and Roo) to question what they see, hear and read, rather than just blindly accept it all as “true.”
Yes girls can be astronauts. Loved how you wrote the article
Girls can be anything they want to be and well done for trying to instill that into her. But don’t beat yourself about it, it sounds like you’re doing a brilliant job. Thanks for much for linking up at #fortheloveofBLOG. Claire x
Thanks Claire! It seems there’s always something to worry about when you have kids. Each new stage has its own issues and hurdles. It’s the longest on-the-job training I’ve ever had 🙂
Girls (and boys) can do whatever they want to do. I hate that even in this day and age girls still think they can’t do certain things.
Yep exactly. And that’s why I was so heartbroken when my 4 year old daughter said she couldn’t be an astronaut because she’s a girl. It just goes to show how easily these damaging ideas can be planted in our kids’ heads.