It’s the little things . . .

Pay attention to detail next time you are in conversation with someone or listening to a presentation. Really listen. Do you ever hear the subtle, underlying messages that I heard today?

No teacher looks forward to a staff meeting; if you are in the profession you know the ones. Sat in a stuffy hall after a tiring day teaching, listening to things that you either already know or could have been put in an email. After one of the hottest days of the year this is the situation I found myself in today.  First on the agenda was an outside speaker talking about how to support young carers. 

In a sense, the topic of his presentation does not matter, it was the underlying gender stereotypes which caused irritation. I decided to carry out my own little test. As our guest spoke I began to notice him referring to ‘mum’ when giving examples of people who needed care. At the top of my notes pages I wrote ‘mum’ and ‘dad’. I kept a tally. In the 20 minute presentation our speaker referred to the person being cared for as ‘mum’ six times; not once did he refer to them as ‘dad’.

‘So what?’ I hear you say. ‘It’s just a figure of speech’. ‘Don’t be so sensitive.’ ‘You’re such a feminist.’

Sensitive: no. Feminist: unapologetically yes. 

Why was it mum and not dad on every occasion? Is it that a woman’s role is to be the carer? Women are seen as the ones who do the cooking and cleaning, looking after their family. Maybe it’s because women have historically been submissive and need protecting. Could it be that it would be weak for a man to admit he needs help? Is a man less likely to need the support of others?

Whatever the reason, clearly no malice was intended. I am also fully aware that we all have some innate gender bias. However, if this is to change for future generations we need to challenge each other and think more carefully about the impact of, what we deem to be, insignificant comments. 

2 thoughts on “It’s the little things . . .

  1. I think there are probably inherent gender differences. A varied amount of various neurotransmitters and hormones, even for trans people. Those types of things make us behave and interact in different ways. I’d be willing to bet that individuals with higher testosterone levels (men,) would probably be less inclined to show vulnerability. Not consciously either. But withdrawing form intimate and admittedly vulnerable positions is a subconscious reaction to preserving dominance and perceived strength. It might make an interesting psychological study about testosterone levels, gender, and admittance or self identification in intimate roles.

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  2. SeasideDoris says:

    It’s a deep and stubborn training in the patriarchy we all live under its constraints and will all benefit from the dismantling of it – attention to language is a daily way we can help. Have you read The Gender Knot by Allen G Johnson? It changed my thinking hugely

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