Star Wars Costumes for Girls Or ‘Why the Hell is Darth Vader in a Dress?’

This morning I was having a quiet 5 minutes looking through my Twitter feed when I noticed a competition from the fancy dress stockist Rubies.  The competition was to win a ‘Girls Darth Vader Costume’. Upon feeling utter disgust at the accompanying image, I decided to offer my own little review of this product.

This costume is described as consisting of a dress, belt, headpiece and knee socks. First of all, why the hell is Darth Vader in a dress? The costume the character wears is pretty specific. If you’ve seen the movies, you’ll know that his legs are prosthetic. The little that was left of Anakin Skywalker had to be put in a full, mostly mechanic suit. This leads me on to the ‘headpiece’. It’s essentially a little hat. With tassels. Darth Vader wears a full helmet with mask, due to how his actual face was horrendously burnt and he can’t breathe without assistance, hence the sinister breathing for which the character is famous.

As if this weren’t bad enough, there’s a Stormtrooper version thats pretty much the same thing with different colouring. I’d love to know how a little dress and weird looking hat is going to protect a Stormtrooper against blaster fire.

But geeky pedantry aside, if your daughter/niece/granddaughter asked for a Darth Vader costume, why wouldn’t you just buy them a Darth Vader costume? Plenty of children’s versions exist that, you know, actually look like Darth Vader. Of course, they’re listed in the Boys category. Lets not even get into the whole ‘Why are things which potentially appeal to all children listed in a gendered category?’ argument. Firstly, I could go on all day about it. Secondly, I already have. Thirdly, so have lots of other people. Fourthly and finally, some stores are starting to get the point and sort it out.

There is only one logical conclusion to explain why this product exists. Once again, it shows how obsessed we, as a society, are with sexualising girls and imposing gender stereotypes on children. Girls must look cute and adorable. But Darth Vader is not cute or adorable, thus the costume must be altered. Yes, I’m sure I sound like a broken record since I talk about this quite a lot. But I will keep talking about it and writing about it as long as it exists.

So how about we stop doing this and start treating girls like human beings rather than dolls, there to be dressed up, to look cute and to be constantly worried about their appearance?

 

 

 

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Christmas is NOT a Competition

Okay people. I’m seeing way too much negativity about Christmas on social media right now.

Someone put their decorations up or ate a mince pie or wrapped a gift before December.

An advert gave someone’s child the idea that maybe Santa isn’t real.

People feel under pressure to provide the perfect Christmas, having seen the pictures of someone they’ve never met with a bigger tree or prettier baubles or beautifully hand-stitched, gold-plated, diamond-encrusted stockings.

Stop it. Seriously, just stop it.

This is not what Christmas is about. You might think I’m about to launch into a speech about how Christmas is about the birth of Jesus but, as I’m an atheist, that’s not going to happen. Obviously, it is about religion for many people but for others, like my family, it’s about a traditional festival creating some light and joy in the middle of winter. For whichever reason you celebrate it, it’s supposed to be a time for joy.

So your friend on Facebook has put up their tree in November. Is that really hurting you? No. Personally, we put up our tree a couple of weeks before Christmas Day. That’s just how we do it. Does that mean that our way is the correct way? Nope! I genuinely couldn’t give a crap when you put your tree up or when you take it down. I’m just happy to see my friends, acquaintances and that person on Facebook enjoying themselves because that’s what this whole thing is about!

The whole Santa issue is becoming a bit silly now. Many of you will know that we chose to be honest with Penny about it. She, at about age 3, guessed that the man whose knee she’d just sat on wasn’t really from the North Pole or has magical reindeer. I confirmed her suspicions. Do I judge those who don’t? Well, maybe a bit. Maybe I do think that telling a child that a magical being is watching them and if they’re not good, Christmas is essentially cancelled isn’t a good idea (except I have literally never heard of anyone actually following through on this threat, no matter how poor their child’s behaviour is). But that’s my opinion. I’m entitled to it, just as much as anyone else is entitled to the opinion that I’m destroying the magic of Christmas by not telling my child that Santa isn’t real. However, will I tell you off for how you choose to parent your child? Nope. It’s none of my business. I believe you’re trying to do the best thing for your child, just as I am. Our end goals are the same, we’re just going about it in a different way.

I will say that nobody, not me, not my child and definitely not Amazon are obligated to aid you in your parenting technique. Your child will hear that parents buy presents and that Father Christmas is a fictional character at some point because those are the facts. Stop complaining. Nobody has wronged you. You made the choice to keep up the fiction and you need to deal with the consequences. It’s still none of my business.

As for comparing what your Christmas looks like and what someone on Instagram’s Christmas looks like, please don’t do this. It will only make you miserable. Get ideas from other people. Be inspired by them. That’s a positive thing. But remember that your Christmas is special because it is yours. It’s the things that make it unique to your family that make it really magical. Create your own traditions. My favourite of our traditions is that we all watch Muppet Christmas Carol and drink hot chocolate together on Christmas Eve. It costs very little. It’s not very Instagram worthy. But it’s special and always makes me feel happy.

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. So quit bitching and enjoy it, for goodness sake!

 

 

 

 

 

The Weekend Box September 2017 review

Last month, we received a Weekend Box. Yes, this post is a teeny bit late but with my daughter’s birthday and lots of other family stuff going on, blogging and vlogging had to take a bit of a back seat in the last couple of weeks.

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The Weekend Box teamed up with Snazaroo, who I’m sure we’re all familiar with as a face paints brand.

The box contained one mini kit that had the paints for a tiger face design and a birthday party stamp kit with several paints and stamps.

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Here’s my vlog review of the box:

 

We were really pleased with this box. My daughter loves dressing up so she found face painting really fun.

If you’d like to subscribe to the Weekend Box yourself, here’s a link.

Disclaimer: We were sent a Weekend Box free of charge for review purposes.

Life as a ‘Girl Mum’

A common phrase on social media and in the blogging world at the moment seems to be ‘Boy Mum/Mom’. This phrase accompanies pictures of or posts about boys getting muddy, making mess and generally being the boisterous, unhygienic, loud, football-loving, book-hating creatures that stereotype tells us they’re supposed to be. I could write a whole post on how damaging that stereotype is (and I probably will). Today, however, I’d like to give you a comparison.

I am a Girl Mum. Actually, I’d never describe myself that way usually, I’ve literally just used that phrase to counter ‘Boy Mum’. I’m a Mum. Anyway, my point was that I am parent to a girl and only a girl. What does that look like?

Well, I imagine that on a daily basis, it looks pretty similar to parenting any other child. I make sure she’s washed and dressed every day. I give her food. I listen to her read. I help with her homework. I get her to school on schooldays.

But what do we do for fun? Well, I look through those ‘Boy Mum’ pictures and posts and I have to say, it looks pretty familiar. Trips to the park, where she generally ends up covered in grass and mud stains. We might take her bike with us, or a ball to kick around together. We might go to collect leaves and other things to take home and look at under her microscope. We go fossil hunting on the beach. We have Nerf battles, our house is often littered with darts that I find weeks later under furniture or lurking in corners. She plays computer games – LEGO Dimensions is the big favourite at the moment. She’s just started up a new hobby – Warhammer 40K, which she plays with her Dad (I am not a fan, just not my thing). Her army are Nurgles, which she picked because, in her own words, ‘they look gross and really vicious’. She loves reading adventure stories with plenty of pirates and ghosts. She watches Marvel films, Doctor Who and Star Trek.

Do I think this is a picture of life that other parents of girls would recognise? Actually, I reckon there are going to be bits they do and bits they don’t. I don’t reckon every parent of a boy would recognise everything in that description either. You see, I have this sneaky suspicion that all children are different and therefore like different things.

Some people are definitely going to accuse me (because they have before) of purposefully directing my daughter towards activities that counter existing stereotypes. Well, no I haven’t. In addition to everything I already listed, she likes baking, My Little Pony and has recently developed something bordering on an obsession with Disney’s The Descendants. She frequently chooses to wear floral dresses (although she’ll equally be found in jeans and t-shirts most days). I believe it’s my job as a parent to introduce my child to as many different experiences as possible (obviously allowing for safety) and encourage her in anything she takes an interest in. I would still be doing this if I’d given birth to a boy instead of a girl.

 

The only difference I can seriously think of between being parent to a girl compared to a boy is that I didn’t need to teach my daughter to pee standing up. That’s it.

So please stop assuming that your life with muddy children and a house filled with dinosaurs and comic book characters looks like that because your children are male. You are only perpetuating a stereotype. I know that’s easily done. After all, we’re surrounded by stereotypes. They’re constantly reinforced by media and other people and our own experiences (which were probably also modelled on stereotypes, creating a vicious cycle). But we can stop doing it and I believe we should. It is damaging. Instead, let’s accept that all children are uniquely themselves. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Thanks for reading.

 

Guest Post: It’s Never Too Soon to Teach Kids About Cleaning

Like many parents, I’m forever telling my child to tidy her room and pick up her toys. However, I don’t think it occurred to me until fairly recently that she’ll need to learn to do all chores eventually and there are quite a few that she could be helping out with already. I’m not saying we should be getting the children to do housework while we sit down with a cup of tea. But perhaps they could be helping out just a teeny bit more!

My guest poster is Nicole Gardiner, London-based cleaning business owner. She has a few tips to share how on to get children helping out around the house.

It’s never too soon to teach kids about cleaning

Teaching your children how to do cleaning chores will not just simply help you tremendously around the house but it will also teach them some valuable lessons which will be very helpful in their life as adults. It’s never too soon to show them how to do some simple cleaning tasks. Of course you should choose age-appropriate chores but their young age is not a reason to not teach them basic skills.

 

Set some rules

If you are having a hard time to make your kids to clean after their mess, you should start by showing them that there are certain rules they need to follow and there are consequences if they don’t keep those rules in mind. Tell your children that it is important to put their toys in a certain place or box before they move on the next toy. Even if they don’t pay you attention right away, you shouldn’t give in and do the decluttering on your own. Warn your kids that you will store away every toy which is laying on the floor. This will definitely motivate them after they loose a few of their favourite toys.

 

Teach them to declutter

This chore is hard even for adults and this is why it is important to teach your children how to properly clean their rooms from a young age. This is a very helpful skill which will be of a great help for your child when he/ she grows up to be an adult. Baskets may be great tools to make the decluttering easier. It is simpler to collect all the clothes at first and then store all the items that actually belong in the room and finally choose which toys can be kept and which can be donated. A lot of children are reluctant to throw away their old toys, however, if they are told that they can donate them to another kid and make him/ her happy, this makes the process much easier.

 

Let them help with the laundry

Kids can learn about sorting the laundry as early as 3 years old. In fact a lot of toddlers find the sorting of the laundry as some kind of a game. Older toddlers can even learn how to load and unload the washing machine and the dryer. If you start including your children in the laundry chores from a young age, you can be sure that by the time they become 10 years old they will be ale to do everything on their own and be a great help around the house.

 

Making the bed

This is probably one of the first things you can teach your kids. Show them how to make their beds properly. This is a skill which can contribute to the building of the character of your children. A good way to make the whole chore much easier is to eliminate any extra pillows or sheets, if your child doesn’t use them. This way the making of their beds will be much easier and faster.

It is never too soon to teach your children some valuable lessons. If your kid knows how to tackle some house cleaning chores from a young age, it will improve their personal skills a lot. Teaching your kids to be organized and tidy will help them to become responsible adults. Next time you do the house cleaning chores, don’t be afraid to include your little helpers in the process. The sooner you start to teach your children about cleaning, the easier it will be for them to handle difficult situations in life when they become adults.

My Thoughts on ‘No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free’ Part 2

Last week, I wrote a post about the first part of a programme on BBC Two called ‘No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free?’. Last night the second part was aired. It’s currently available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

In the first part, presenter and doctor Javid began an experiment to see if removing differences of gender from the lives of children, their opinions and behaviour could be changed.

This continues in the second part. The children are given tangram puzzles to solve, which can help develop spacial awareness, a trait commonly thought of as naturally stronger in males. However, as experts (such as Gina Rippon, professor of cognitive imaging, featured in the programme) have found that the brain changes its structure depending on experiences. This idea could mean that if boys and girls were given equal opportunity to practice developing spacial awareness, there would be no gender difference in this skill. Indeed, results of this experiment show that while the girls initially struggled more than the boys (who more commonly played with LEGO and other toys that can also develop this skill), by the end of two weeks practice, this difference disappeared and abilities were far more equal.

This part of the programme focused heavily on the toys and clothes that children are given, which Javid claims are separated mainly into blue for boys and pink for girls, with stereotyped slogans common for each. Examples given in the programme were t shirts saying ‘Forever Beautiful’ for a girl and ‘Here comes trouble for a boy’. In those slogans are stereotypes that for a girl, the ultimate aspiration is be physically attractive and to remain so, while boys are almost expected to have poor behaviour and be tough and aggressive. None of these messages are positive. My own daughter does like wearing dresses but equally she likes wearing jeans and a t shirt. She has owned more than one t shirt that came from the boys section of a shop, simply because they had designs she liked (both had super heroes on). I’m pretty careful about clothing anyway, especially as a lot of the clothes for girls are, in my opinion, really inappropriate for the age they’re designed for. I could get seriously lost in a tangent on this though so I’ll stop that there!

Javid visited the children’s homes to try and help the parents take away gender differences there too. A girl’s pink dolls and princess toys were bagged up and removed from her room. While they were later replaced with other, more neutral toys, I couldn’t help feeling a bit sad for her. I know my daughter is quite attached to some of her toys so this felt a bit harsh. Couldn’t neutral toys and dressing up clothes (this girl had a wardrobe filled to bursting with princess dresses) be offered without taking away toys the child already owns? While I agree that having a variety is good, I don’t see anything wrong with a girl having a princess dress or doll if that’s what she wants. Looking in my own daughter’s room, she does have quite a bit of pink but equally lots of other colours and a real variety of toys – dolls that live in her doll’s house, a jewellery box and lots of cuddly toys but also a big box full of books (none of which are very girly as that just isn’t the kind of story she likes) and an enormous collection of LEGO that is threatening to take over the whole room! She does have some pink, girly stuff but there’s also a Spiderman poster on her wall and an Incredible Hulk figure on her windowsill. It’s her room and looking at it shows the vast variety of her interests.

Replacement toys were given to the children to make up for the ones that had been removed. Marble runs and robot kits for the girls, sewing and craft kits for the boys. All of the children seemed to enjoy them and I did think this was a positive way of challenging the toy stereotyping. I simply think it could have been done without taking the children’s possessions away from them.

Another change made was having the children all use unisex toilets. I wasn’t sure I saw the point of this but when you think about it, toilets at home are unisex so why are they using separate toilets? It was not a change that the children really liked. The girls said that the boys’ lack of hygiene put them off using the bathroom with one girl saying that she tried to hold it in all day – very unhealthy! As it was only one block of toilets that had been made unisex, that meant that a whole class of 30 children had only 3 toilets to use between them. These are issues that could be solved though. The boys’ awareness of hygiene, regardless of any gender experiment, needs to be addressed anyway as it’s a health risk. Also, if these changes were made school-wide and all toilets were unisex, the issue of a lack of toilets to use would be solved too. However, I’m still not convinced by this particular change.

Chores were also looked at. In the UK, women do 60% more of the unpaid work such as household chores and childcare. Initially, it seemed that even when the children’s fathers took on more of the chores, the children still believed that it was more of a female task. An experiment on the beach showed mixed results, with the children splitting themselves off into mixed gender groups for the tasks of preparing the picnic or preparing the fire pit but then the boys lost interest and blamed this on preparing food being a ‘girl’s thing’. In our house, I do pretty much all of the housework and more of the childcare than my husband does. However, he works at a full time job, while I only work part time. I have been careful to explain to my daughter that this, rather than our genders, is the reason for the way we manage these things and that other families do things differently, depending on what works for them. If I were to start working full time, the way we manage work at home would change.

The children were then split into mixed teams to practice playing football, a stereotypically male sport. When asked if they wanted to remain in mixed teams or change into boys vs. girls, most of the children chose to remain in their mixed teams – a positive result. I know my daughter has struggled to be ‘allowed’ to play football with her male friends at school and often feels the boys are being too rough for her to join in.

At the end of the programme, Javid presented the overall results from tests that were done at the beginning of the experiment and repeated at the end.

The difference between boys and girls in self esteem dropped from 8% to 0.2% with many of the girls saying they felt more confident, echoed by their teachers and parents. The girls also started using more positive words such as ‘unique’ and ‘happy’ to describe themselves, rather than ‘pretty’ or ‘ugly’ and were 40% more accurate when predicting their own abilities when at the beginning they had tended to drastically underestimate themselves.

The boys’ pro-social behaviour improved by 10% and they scored higher on the emotional intelligence tests.  Their female classmates, their teachers and their parents all commented that the boys had become more caring and empathetic and less aggressive.

These results, to me, are really indicative of the positive changes that come from challenging gender stereotypes.

This school’s headteacher announced that she wants to extend the changes made in the classroom to the entire school. I hope that other parents and educators watching the programme take similar steps. I would love to see my daughter’s school making these changes.

Mr Andre, the teacher whose class took part in the experiment, took on board where he needed to change and has embraced it so whole heartedly that he’s now presenting new gender neutral teaching methods, not just within his own school but also to the Institute of Education. I hope this leads to UK-wide change.

Personally, I think this programme has shown the good that can come from making boys and girls more equal. Of course there are biological differences between the genders. But in most ways, we can be equal and if we start showing our children this now, maybe our future society can be a more equal place for all.

What were your thoughts on this programme?

 

 

 

Trying the 5:2 Diet

I am the Queen of Yo-yo Dieting (yes, that is my official title).

I generally manage about a month, maybe two of healthy eating and exercise before the treats start to creep in and before you know it I’m consuming whole tubs of Ben & Jerry’s in one sitting (yes, really).

I heard about the 5:2 ages ago. I heard 500 calories a day and immediately dismissed it. However, recently I heard some positive things about it on social media and decided it might be worth another look. I spotted the book ‘The Fast Diet’ by Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer at our local library, borrowed it and read it.

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The idea is that you eat normally for 5 days of the week but fast for the other 2. On fast days you eat only 500 calories (for a woman, it’s 600 for men). Aside from weight loss, which should occur due to the 3000 calorie deficit you’re creating, there are loads of other health and wellbeing claims made about this diet – such as lowering your chance of getting diabetes or heart disease and helping you live longer. Ever the skeptic, I always need a lot of convincing on any health claims made about diets or certain foods or supplements. There have been a number of studies and the results have all been pretty encouraging. Plus, the more I read the book, the more I began to think that this could suit me pretty well.

There are always a couple of days in the week (usually when I’m working and Penny has after school activities) that I’m so busy that I could probably manage eating only 500 calories without constantly thinking about food all day long. There are also days during the week (like Date Night and weekends) when I’d love to not worry about calorie counting or anything like that.

So, I’ve decided to give this a try. It could well be that a month from now, I’ll have given up on it. But could it also be that this can really work for me, sustainably and long term?

My first fast day will be tomorrow. I’m starting work at 7 so I’ll just have a banana for breakfast beforehand. I finish work at 3 and I’ll have another snack when I get home. Then I’ll have a small portion of whatever I make for dinner.

I do have a few concerns. Firstly, I’m picking my busiest days to fast on because I think I’ll be able to keep my mind off food if I’ve got lots of other stuff going on. This might not work because my job is cooking and serving food. But food I know I can’t possibly eat in any case, diet or no diet. Another concern is that surely I’m going to need more energy on a day when I’m busy. My job isn’t physically challenging exactly but I am on my feet all day. What if I get halfway through a shift and run out of energy?

I will give this a proper try and see if I can make it work for me and my family life. I’ll update you next week to tell you how I’m getting on!