Wednesday, 7 January 2015

What's the point of feminism when so many men are shit?

It was magical. Sunlight made the mountain snow sparkle and the only sound was boots crunching. Boots crunching and people talking. 


Three women were chatting - intelligent, successful women enjoying the stunning Scottish scenery, respite from the festive round and the chance to climb a hill. 

What were these women discussing? 

They might have been talking about how they could make the world a better place. They may have been telling fascinating and hilarious stories. Maybe they were recounting the times they'd done something amazing, or the next carefully planned twist in their careers. 

And there was a bit of that. But again and again their conversation turned away from the wide world and their place in it and came round to men and the things they do (and mostly don't) do. 

They don't, it seems, do their fair share (or even half) of the boring domestic things. 
They don't, apparently, take charge of very much if there's someone else to do it. 
They won't, evidently, see chaos and bring order. 
They can't, when ill, suffer the discomfort alone.

But that's just the start of it. 

Now these three women would count themselves as feminists (certainly the one I can speak for does), they'd also fight hard for equality on other fronts too. They're modern, creative and right-thinking (whatever that is). 

So what's going on? They know that 'traditional' gender roles are bunk, that big boys can cry if they want to and girls don't just wanna have fun, they want their voices heard and not to be objectified. 

Why then are they still having the same conversations and experiencing the same frustrations white hot rages and yet still picking up the stuff of the floors of their homes more often than anyone else does?

Have they chosen their mates badly and should have plumped for a more enlightened chap? But their other halves (the one I know fairly well anyway) talk like a man perfectly qualified to walk around in a 'this is what a feminist looks like' t-shirt. 

Are they just dishing us a big fat fib and hiding a blubbery heap of misogyny behind a lot of right-on speak? Do they really secretly wish we'd just shut up about it and get on with the dishes? 

Can we allow them to skulk off to the man caves beloved of the Men Are From Mars, Women Are From The Kitchen subscribers? I don't believe we are really such different creatures on account of our reproductive equipment. It can't be true, can it? 

Everyone hates housework, but women end up doing most of it. (Source: Entirely unscientific survey of lots of people I know.) And I've run out of ideas for how to fix this. 

I tried ignoring the work until it was done fairly. Result - squalor.
I tried discussing the work and organising a rota. Result - either a bad case of bossy headmistress or squalor. 
I tried rewarding domestic effort with sexual favours. Result - bewildered husband.
I tried reminding. Result - I was nagging. 
I tried setting an example. Result - I was doing it all. 
I tried dropping hints. Result - I was doing it all. 
I tried dropping heavier hints. Result - I was nagging. 

I'm tired of the conversations, I don't want to nag but I don't want to live in squalor. Please help, I'm out of ideas. 

I want to be a feminist and maybe make the world a better place, but how can I if I do most of the housework?

(PS I know there are some men out there who do their share and more. If this is one of the two of you, maybe you can shed some light on what's going on here and what we can do about it.)

Monday, 5 January 2015

School dinners: not so nasty now...

I've got a theory. (OK, several)

I think that school dinners are something we love to hate, that we're conditioned to grumble about. Like the weather, the end of the holidays, children and housework. All of which (apart from housework) have much going for them if you think about it hard enough. It's a British thing. 

I'm sure we've all got stories of a traumatic encounter with some leathery liver or a slimy fish, or still get the dry boak at the thought of tapioca and rosehip syrup. I'm certain I once saw tripe, real actual sheep stomach, on the menu. Shudder. And what was it with using the ice cream scoop to serve mashed potato? But these horrors weren't the whole story, were they? 

I remember macaroni, and fish and chips, sausages and mash, piles of pies, lashings of jam roly-poly. Tuna bake, beans and gammon (and pineapple of course). Tinned fruit salad or soup with bread and butter. Tasty stuff. I'm certain. 

School meals are back in favour this week - certainly in this house. That's because we're getting free ones (or Boy Three is). All Scottish pupils in the first three years of primary school get free lunches from this term. Great news and one that kills stone dead any remaining notion that my youngest son might persuade me to lovingly prepare a packed lunch. No chance, boyo, no matter how much noise you make. 

There wasn't much chance before, to be honest, given my lack of enthusiasm for making sandwiches, but when the alternative is a free nutritious meal, well, there is no alternative. 

If idleness and parsimony weren't enough, there's all that other healthy stuff to make it easier to swallow - the economies of scale should mean the meals get better and better plus there's the benefit of sitting with your peers to eat it. And in Boy Three's school on two days of the week the option of sandwiches or other snacky-fayre has been removed forcing them to eat a 'proper' hot thing, from a plate, with cutlery. 

Therefore, for the good of our children and to salve away any pain at the thought of our little darlings having to swallow something yukky, it serves us well to remember fondly the dining halls of our youth and the stout dinner ladies with their ladles. 

What do you remember from the long-lost lunchtimes of your childhood? 


pudding by https://www.flickr.com/photos/umami88/

The iPhone can tell your family where your careers will lie

In this country, it’s probably fair to say we have a bit if an obsession with “real work”. And by this we’re talking about real physical work in primary industries such as mining and farming etc., and secondary industries including all types of manufacturing. This may be down to our industrial history when Great Britain was the workshop of the world during the 19th century – but it’s probably closer to the truth to say it’s buried deep within the human psyche.
But here’s the thing – it’s totally inappropriate to today’s world and the iPhone will tell us why in a moment – but it’s vital as parents that we don’t instill the same erroneous beliefs in our children’s thinking.
So let’s let the iPhone demonstrate what we’re talking about here. The back cover of an iPhone will tell you that it has been designed in California, but assembled in China. Now in the USA, the latest version of the iPhone will sell for somewhere in the region of around $700. The requisite components to buy including clever pieces of kit such as the minute flash drive and the tiny yet very high-performance camera and other components account for somewhere in the region of about $200 of this total figure.
Interestingly, the biggest supplier of these specific parts is Samsung, Apple’s main overall rival in the global smartphone market. Meanwhile, the “assembled in China” part of the overall process costs roughly $20. So the rest of the money is down to the part that says the phone is designed in California, and this, of course, tells us exactly why Apple is such an enormously cash-rich and profitable company.
But perhaps it should be telling us something a bit deeper about our own beliefs and, therefore, what we encourage our children to do as they prepare for their own lives in a world we can’t possibly imagine today.
If it’s true that in the UK (and perhaps many other countries) we have something of a manufacturing fetishism (the notion that making things and doing things are the principle and most valuable economic activities and that all other activities are somehow subordinate to this) then we need to think again.
This is based on an outdated perception that solely tangible stuff represents any kind of real wealth and that only real physical labour is real work. This may well have been true a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand years ago – which explains why the belief is so deeply held by we homo sapiens – but it simply doesn’t hold water in today’s world.
Let’s look at another example – a man’s suit. Today, you could go into a major UK supermarket chain and pick up a reasonably well- made men’s business suit for around £25. The suit will be durable, practical, and ready to put on. It will probably be a polyester blended and machine washable product that will look quite smart if it fits well and has the right accompanying accouterments.
Alternatively, you may choose to go a little further up market to a higher quality fashion retailer and pay, say, ten times as much. This suit may be, for example, Italian designed and made with a pretty high quality wool fabric.
And then again, you could pay up another factor of ten, shelling out £2,500 for a tailor-made suit from London’s Savile Row.
So as a customer, you need to make your mind up what type of suit you want and why – what you’re trying to achieve. Are you after real style or just a suit to do the basics? Because if it’s individualisation and real quality and style you’re looking for – you’ll have to pay a real premium and you’ll have to pay through the nose for that kind of personalisation.
In other words, the same principle as the iPhone holds true here; only a relatively small proportion of the value of the product is really made up of the processes of manufacturing and of assembly. Instead, by far the greater proportion of what you’re going to pay up is reflected in the initial clever design of the iPhone, and the individual style of the suit.
The same goes for many other industry sectors such as the intense pharmaceutical research that has gone into the pill you need to cure an ailment or the precision assembly of the aeroplane’s engine that will carry you quickly and safely across the ocean. It is not the metal bashing nature of putting the thing together – despite the fact that many of us remain obsessed with this aspect of working life as it’s so deeply ingrained in our psyche.
In other walks of life, though, we also cling onto the past even though that past may have been a “tertiary” or service industry – where no “real work” was involved anyway. So maybe it’s not only about our pre-historic development as a species which had to really “do” hard work, but also a love and attachment of how things used to be when we were younger – even though that may be irrelevant.
So for example, since the advent of the gambling exchange Betfair, which enables people to gamble online without a bookmaker as the site recognises that a market is a market, some people still choose to gamble with a bookmaker. Betfair also enables people to play bingo online and other games yet some people still choose to go traditional bookmakers’ shops or bingo halls in some cases. This, it is perceived, is a somehow more real or perhaps even “worthy” type of experience in some cases – but this doesn’t stop the perception being simply wrong.
The truth in today’s world is that the physical labour included in the manufacture of goods is a very cheap commodity in a world which is globalised. But the skills that enable that labour to turn ideas into products of huge sophistication and complexity aren’t. So our initial example of the iPhone is a complicated product which does indeed require manufacture, but the real value in it lies in the pure “crystallisation” of the services it provides.
But most of the unskilled jobs that are sorely needed in the more developed countries are, of necessity, found in personal services. So workers in China may be able to assemble your iPhone, but they can’t collect your trash or look after your infirm grandmother. And this is very real work in essential areas which doesn’t look like changing any time soon.
The truth of all this doesn’t stop politicians and media pundits carping on about the real value of real work in primary and secondary industries. But in a  future world where all this kind of thing hots up even more, and the pace of technology arcs even faster – and maybe even robots are doing all the physical labour – the belief in some outdated work ethic won’t help our children carve out useful careers. But what will help them is an encouragement to develop expertise in areas relevant to tomorrow’s world whilst still making sure they’re always adaptable to change.
In other words, the ability to evolve with technology and to adapt to change by welcoming that change and showing an interest in it will stand our children in far better stead than an outdated belief in the real value of traditional physical work.

Monday, 22 December 2014

What the Glasgow bin lorry tragedy might tell us

Costly beyond imagining, but there must be a lesson in there. There has to be. 

This morning I was feeling properly meh, my big Boys are away and the Panther of News is working this Christmas. I'm having a self-pity party with a Santa hat on it. 

At lunch-time I had an appointment at a tattoo parlour. For ages I've been pondering one. Mid-life crisis, self-expression, something to remind me to seize the day. Whatever. The ironicaly lengthy deliberation was up. 

The tattoo place in Glasgow's city centre is in a basement. The lovely lady with the inky needle chatted about her Christmas. 

Her mother is ill - a mysterious and terrifying neurological condition that means she is likely to spend, at least, Christmas in hospital. But she's facing it with love and courage. It kind of put my meh into its place. 

Then a few minutes later, heading for the car and thinking about what's for supper, I checked my phone. "Ellen, I've read about Glasgow, are you OK?" 

What? 

Google

What!

Streets away the most hideous things had happened. Horrors like you can't imagine in a town jam-packed with Christmas shopping families. 

Tonight several families will be coming to terms with some shocking and devastating news. Getting their heads round the fact that a happy, slightly drizzly pre-Christmas trip to town ended in death. Their lives will never be the same.

And the rest of us? We feel sad, sick, relieved, weirdly shaken. Full of compassion for the bereaved and hurt. I'd say offer up a quiet word of thanks that it's not you, but continue living your life in the knowledge that it could have been. And don't forget. 

Don't wait til the time is right, the weather is nice, the diet has worked or the house is clean. Get on with it. 

And the tattoo? 


The yin and yang is a nod to my brother who wore a similar tattoo, and he was the master of seizing the day.



Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Christmas: How to cope when it isn't your turn to have the kids

Every other year Boys One and Two spend Christmas with their dad. We've been doing it this way for 12 years now. So that's around six December 25ths I've spent without them and, I have to say, it doesn't get any easier. 

Without doubt, it's the worst part of any kind of non-nuclear family. At first I would pretend it wasn't even Christmas and go off somewhere different, preferably not child friendly. 


This was all very well until Boy Three arrived. Now he's expecting something seasonal on the big day. At least a visit from Santa and it's quite tough to gee up the necessary jollity when two fifths of the team are missing. 

Not that it's an excuse for a pity party, that's not my style and it won't help anyone. Plus, on the festive misery scale this hardly registers a quiver. This I know. 

I also know I'm not alone. Every 'broken' home (how I hate that finger-pointing idiom) means that there's one parent temporarily bereft. Statistically that's millions of mothers waking gloomily because they've remembered that there's no one there to open the gifts. It's just we're not really supposed to talk about it, certainly not tell the truth. Not having the kids around is painful and the widespread illusion of gatherings, packed houses and harmony doesn't help a jot. However, no one wants Dreary Deirdre bring everyone down my admitting she's dreading the holidays. She certainly won't get offered a second mince pie. So we keep quiet. 

Instead it's about making the most, putting out a best foot and seizing the day in whatever way we can. Next year we can deck the halls and push the boat. The very lovely Anya (Older Single Mum) offers some tips on coping and here's what I've learned.

It won't go away. Pretending Christmas isn't coming doesn't work, because it is. And it's coming to get you. 

Make a plan. Therefore, decide what you're going to do and do it with conviction. The day will come and go, you may as well be braced 

Suit yourself. In the same way meat-free bacon-flavour rashers don't work, don't kid yourself that going through the usual motions will work. Figure out how you want to get through the day and don't care what anyone else thinks. 

Make another plan. Have something shiny and fab to do with the kids when they get back. You can all look forward to it and remember it after. 

Put it into perspective. Go and volunteer, do something for those less fortunate. And there are many. I'm going to find something for Boy Three and I to do for some of Christmas Day before we put on our onesies and celebrate the Baby Jesus' birth by bingeing on jelly babies. 

Skype. I know Boy Three will spend a lot of Christmas Day virtually talking to his brothers. His mother just doesn't appreciate the fart jokes. 

Remember this too will pass. And soon they'll be back and there's 723 whole days before you have to go through it again. 





Any fool can be uncomfortable

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”

That’s what my dad used to say when he thought that someone wasn’t properly kitted out for whatever activity they were embarking on. And, as someone who loved being outside walking or cycling, he had years of experience to draw on.

The point he was making was that it’s always, always worth making the effort to put on the correct gear for the activity and weather at hand. One layer could make the difference between misery and utter joy.

He wasn’t necessarily talking about extraordinarily expensive or fancy clothing, just that it was up to the job and – crucially – worn correctly for whatever was going on at that moment.
My sons roll their eyes whenever I say it to them, usually following a conversation about the suitability of the skinny jeans, t-shirts, Crocs or whatever they’re (badly) dressed in for dealing with the weather.

We live in Scotland where glorious warm sunny weather is so rare that when it happens we all go round looking shocked and braced for the inevitable storm that must break at any moment.

As well as psychotic weather patterns, Scotland also has more than its fair share of outdoors – stunning, exhilarating and accessible outdoors just ready to be walked, canoed, cycled, run, kayaked or simply sat about in. If you are going to live in Scotland you’ll be wasting a huge opportunity if you don’t enjoy as much of the outside as you possibly can, and the only way to do that well is to understand how to clothe yourself properly.

Here are some things I’ve learned about not dressing like a fool.

Don’t get wet. It’s far easier to stay dry than to try to dry yourself out once you’ve got soggy. Waterproof jackets – and trousers – (such as those made by Berghaus) on top of everything, zipped up are the way to go. Don’t wait until a few drops of rain have turned into a deluge.

Alternatively, don’t worry about getting wet, just don’t get cold. Yes, I know that’s the opposite of what I just said, but sometimes keep dry is impossible. It’s the wetsuit theory: a little trapped moisture will act as insulation.

Good layers aren’t just about eggs. Lots of layers will trap air and make it easy to adjust what you’re wearing for the weather/activity levels. So start with thermal undergarments, then work through fleeces and soft shells. If you haven’t got ‘proper’ outdoor gear pick sports tops, thick tights etc.

Think like a duck (or a sheep). You don’t see them shivering and whingeing about the cold, do you? That’s why down or wool (particularly merino) are such excellent choices when you want to win the cosiness stakes.

Look down. I’m often amazed by people who have the snazziest jackets and cosiest of fleeces, but then go out with nothing more than jeans or thin trousers on. Like insulating the loft but leaving all the doors and windows open. Keep your legs warm, fool.

Best foot forward. Same idea, but for your feet. You can make yourself toasty everywhere else, but if you haven’t got warm boots (or lots of socky layers) your feet will be cold and you will be miserable and, therefore, a fool.

Don’t forget to breathe. There’s a lot of weight given to the breathability (or otherwise) of high-tech (AKA expensive) fabrics for rugged outdoor folk. The theory is that if you do exercise while wearing something that doesn’t let water in – or out – then you’ll get condensation building up and you’ll end up just as wet as if you didn’t bother with the waterproof. I’ve found that when it’s pelting down it can be quite hard to stay really dry whatever you do as moisture sneaks up your sleeves and down your neck. In this case, resign yourself to sogginess but focus on warmth.

Get ahead, get a hat. And gloves. And a scarf. The thing is, you don’t have to wear them all the time, but when the wind is biting it really does make a difference.

Cotton on. Cotton off, actually. Don’t wear cotton – it’s horrible when it’s wet. It gets cold, heavy and it rubs. Just don’t bother – instead choose man-made fabrics… apart from down or merino. All that hoody will do is wick water from your head down over your body.

Foolish isn’t sexy. Warm is, even if you need to wear long-johns and grannyish thermal underwear to achieve it. 

The bottom line. If you park your backside on a cold damp rock and there is insufficient insulation, your arse will get cold. This is foolish and will spoil your lunch break. Sit on something warm. The best solution to this I heard of was to carry an old (bum sized) mouse mat in your backpack!

And don’t save sensible for the mountains. You often see outdoorsy types striding off to bag a Munro in all the right gear, which is great. Only you can sometimes catch the same folk shivering on the touchline at their kid’s football match cos they haven’t bothered to dress properly. If you’ve got the gear, put it on.

So there you have it, my guide to not being a fool on the hill (or anywhere else it’s cold and wet).






Keeping your children safe online

It seems that our children are getting into technology younger and younger. Toddlers can use tablets, and kids seem to get on social media as soon as they reach school age, which can leave many parents feeling anxious about what their children might be doing and seeing online. That's why it's essential for us parents to stay ahead of modern technology, so that children can still learn about technology and use the Internet, but without running into dangers.

Talk to them about the dangers

Children are incredibly innocent and trusting, and it's important that they know that people online aren't always who they say they are. As with any difficult subject, a chat about Internet dangers is a good idea when they are old enough to understand. Let them know that you are always there to talk if they feel uncomfortable or concerned about something they've seen online. Make sure you lay down some ground rules, with sanctions such as losing their Internet privileges if they do something that's not allowed.

Protect your computer

Your child could be lured onto sites with viruses by dodgy pop-ups or links, and so installing the right antivirus software is essential before you let them loose on the computer. Choose a program that will protect from viruses as well as online fraud, and ideally one that will back up your data automatically so you don't lose important photos or work documents.

Keep devices in a public place

Make sure that your computer, laptop, or tablet is used somewhere where you can see the screen, and check what they are doing on a regular basis. Although you won't be able to keep tabs on them constantly, they are less likely to try to do something that's not allowed if they know they are in public.

Block unsuitable sites

There are many types of software that allow you to put parental controls on the internet, and many of them also trace what your child is doing online, so you can make sure they aren't attempting to access unsuitable sites. Some parents of younger children also insist that their children give them a list of their social media passwords, as well as passcodes for tablets and smartphones, so you can check their messages and e-mails.

It can be scary to let your child online for the first time, but by setting up a secure Internet connection, you can be sure that your children enjoy their time online. This allows them to keep up with their peers, and learn how to use new technology, without the negative effects that can come with it.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Christmas shouldn't be this difficult

Little faces lit up with joy, families coming together over good food and laughter and a few days off the treadmill. The most wonderful time of the year.

Why then are so many people looking stressed and knackered? Normally calm children are barely making it to bedtime without a fit of sobbing and minutes are being counted until it's all over. Credit cards are being abused and fridges stuffed to within an inch of their lives, and don't forget multiple cautions being flung to the winds. 

It's just all got too much and it needs to stop. 

You'll be glad to hear that for the purposes of this post I'm not going to patronise you by pointing out that there's a centuries old religious festival at the heart of it all. This much we know. 

The problem is that a little bit of sparkle is no longer enough. 

Starting in November (or even October) it builds. Lights, presents, plans - buy this, book that, go there and don't forget to do something else. So much bossiness and all for what? A couple of days, gifts for people you care about and a few nice meals. That's all. 

Everywhere you look we are being urged to spend more, find the perfect present (not just one that's good enough), cook the most elaborate things, throw our homes open, drink, look amazing in something too short and sequined. We're supposed to decorate our elegant houses with a festive theme for goodness sake, isn't Christmas theme enough. 

Then we need to preserve the magic by making all this excess and effort seem, well, effortless. Even the adverts tell us so - if you aren't utterly exhausted and at full stretch, you're not doing it right. 

"Are you all ready yet?" is the question on everyone's lips. No, of course not and I don't see why I should be. How long is it going to take to cook a meal, buy and wrap a couple of things and watch some repeats on the telly? 

I don't mean to rain on anyone's Christmas parade and I'm actually rather partial to mince pies and mulled wine. And, of course, I want my children to have joy-filled, memorable Christmases, but going large on every aspect of the season is simply not going to achieve it. 

Instead it'll give us all tension headaches, critically injured bank accounts and an overwhelming sense of failure, none of which is a recipe for good will to all men - or even the ones within punching range. 

If you find yourself suppressing the urge to sob into the cooking sherry as you wonder how you'll get it all done. Take heart, you are not alone and it's time to lay down your to-do list, kick the clutter under the sofa and have a little sit down or wahtever else you fancy.

And if I want anything for Christmas it's for the vast juggernaut of enforced jollity to pull into the lay by and give us all a rest. Lower expectations, slow the pace and maybe we can actually enjoy this wonderful time of year. 


Christmas is making mugs out of us all





Great Gadget Gift Ideas

We all know a self confessed tech-geek who gets overly excited about the latest fashionable innovations in the go-go-gadget world. With Christmas Day looming, let’s take a look at the best gadgets of 2014 that you can give this certain someone as a gift.

1. Smart watch

The fashion statement that keeps you updated with emails, helps you track your fitness, lets you play with apps... oh and tells the time. Yes, smart watches are set to be the next big thing and are great for friends who like to look sharp while staying connected, especially when at the gym or in work meetings: two situations where you don’t want to be carting your mobile around.

2. E-cigarette

An e-cigarette perhaps isn’t the most romantic item to present a loved one with, but it sure will be appreciated by someone looking to ‘kick the habit’ in the New Year. Give a starter kit to set them on the right path, or present something a little jazzier like a selection of various flavoured vapours. It will also be rewarding to be part of their journey to a healthier lifestyle.

3. Smartphone projector

Enjoy your movies in a old fashioned way, using the latest gadget. A smartphone projector is so easy to use: plug your phone in then watch enlarged videos on the wall. This could be personal videos, downloaded imagery or a streamed film. This is a great way to get the family together over the holidays, just like the good old days.

4. Computer game

If in doubt or tight for time, pick out a game for a console you know they have (making sure they don’t already own the game!). Some of this year’s best releases includes GTA V, Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros for the Wii and FIFA 15.

From electronic cigarettes that will change someone’s life for the better, to a smart watch that will look slick on any wrist, or a novelty gift that will put smiles on happy faces: there are plentiful gadgets in 2014 for you to pick out the perfect one for any taste.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Why are there no boy angels in the nativity?

It was nativity play week again. And following in a fine and noble family tradition, Boy Three was the second cow at the stable. A role he played with style and panache. 

Udderly brilliant performance
 Over the years he and his brothers have variously been sheep, goats and even robins. It's important to celebrate the birth of Christ by dressing up as an animal, apparently. And the other years they wore their dressing gowns and tea towels with great aplomb. It's traditional. 

But there are some other less jolly traditions at play here. 

The thing none of the boys have ever been is an angel or a star. Boy One did achieve the lofty heights of a villager with a speaking part, but he never made it to celestial being. 

Watching this year's show, I was struck by the thought that no matter how twinkly his performance none of my sons was ever going to be cast as a star or an angel.

Charming as the nativity was there was something sexist in this view of Bethlehem. The boys were shepherds, animals and wise men while their female classmates were stars and angels. No exceptions. 

It does seem like the most ungrateful and minor of moans, what with the school being, in the main, a terrific and nurturing place. But....

Surely these little ones shouldn't be absorbing this subtle sexism at this stage - they've got years and years for that. The five and six year olds need to be cast entirely at random not being cloven-hooved if they're male and pretty and sparkly if they're female. 

Since my school days there have been enormous changes in attitude to sexuality and race. Brought about by effort and care on many fronts. Why not gender then? Lip service isn't good enough. Telling little girls they can be engine drivers and boys they can be nurses if they want is so last century. We must all be on our guard against sneaky little acts of sexism - at home and school. 




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