Justice family

England

Testimony

How education is combined ?

Girls, boys, what are the differences in education? We all have an education. What kind of upbringing did I receive as a girl? What kind of upbringing did I have as a boy? How do I educate my children, whether they are boys or girls? How do I educate them as a woman? How do I educate them as a man? These are the questions we put to Anita and Justice.

Justice

  1. How was I brought up as a boy?

I was raised in a single parent household with only a mother after my father died when I was four.  My mum did every household task – and I think learnt accordingly that sex or gender-based roles or tasks were a bit arbitrary/random – I could see a woman on her own could do pretty much anything she put her mind to.   Due to the lack of male input in my household my mother sent me to an all-boys school – where there would be more male teachers as role models, but this did not really provide any benefit in my opinion.  As a teenager I think there was something I missed out on not having a close male to explain the emotional and social challenges that I would face as I transformed into an adult man – but my teachers were not close enough to explain those kinds of things.

2. How do I raise my children as a man?

Goodness, it’s really difficult to see what differences my being a man is making to my raising of children.  I’m not really the kind of person who thinks in terms of being a role model, if that is what this question is getting at.  I try to be an honest « me » around my children and let the mantra of « being a good-enough parent » echo around my head as much as possible.  For those not familiar with this phrase, it is an idea from the psychologist Donald Winnicott who is famed, in the UK at least, for the deeply comforting notion that parents don’t not need to focus on being perfectly attuned, but just « ordinarily devoted » or « good enough » to protect and raise their children.  And for me this focus on being good enough very much extends to not trying to be some kind of archetype of a man to demonstrate for my son what a man is, but just being who I am as a man!

What I can say is that existing as a man – in the very odd patriarchal world we live in, which values things perversely – is a pretty toxic thing to have to counter in parenting my children.  For example, I work in financial services and earn as much in a week as my wife earns in a month for caring and listening to bereaved people – we both work equally hard and the same hours. This makes it difficult to give my kids the message that men and women are equally valued in our society or that traditionally masculine things are valued the same as traditionally feminine… all it can do is open up a good conversation about how big the difference is between how things are and how they should be!

3. How I am raising my daughter/my son (do I feel a difference? Which one?)

I think I’m quite deliberate in not really thinking too much about this – I try as much as possible to respond to my children as individuals – and their sex contributes a pretty small proportion to who they are in my opinion.  It would be easy to see all their differences as down to their sex, because we have one of each and they are very different, but it probably would not be true and it probably would not be helpful! 

My children are 10 and 12 now, and I can see that – as the teenage years arrive – I will need to turn a bit more to this issue and think about what I want to communicate to them about what it will mean to be a man or a woman in the world.  Whilst the patriarchy of the current world is clear, I think it might be harder to be growing from a boy into a man at the moment (and harder to parent) than growing from a girl into a woman.  The message to girls seems clearer in my mind: « go for it »! Whilst the message to boys might be « go for it, but also step back and try to see if you can also dissemble the structures that give you undue advantage whilst you do! », which is inherently confusing!

Anita

  1. How was I brought up as a girl?

I grew up living overseas with two older brothers. We lived in warm climates and I spent a lot of time playing outside and I didn’t own many girly toys. My mum did teach us all to cook and involved us in those ways. My parents were very protective of me as an adolescent, especially in relation to boyfriends – as evangelical Christians my sexual purity before marriage was very important to them. My brothers did not ever bring back girlfriends, so I have no idea if they would have been different with them. They were pretty relaxed about my choices in other areas – no issues with my nose piercing! I would say they were encouraging for me to pursue my career of choice and of leadership skills. I did not feel I was surrounded with many role models of women working outside of the helping professions. It never crossed my mind to work in business or to be an entrepreneur.

I remember my mum commented that when I was born, she was happy to have had a daughter: « I now have my little helper ». This is cute… but also perhaps a slightly sobering indicator of the internalised societal expectation of girls to be « helpers ».

2. How do I raise my children as a woman?

I think as a woman I was very much the primary care giver in the early years for the children. In carrying, giving birth to and breast feeding the children, my womanhood shaped the nature of that experience. I also chose to take more time off work than my husband to care for them in the early years. I feel this early pattern has sort of « stuck » in some ways. The children are now 12 and 10, and I continue to look after the school and social engagements for the children, and to think about and organise clubs and activities. I do not think this is ideal, as it passes on an idea to them that this is somehow a female role when I do not think it has to be. I know that naturally our children will be witnessing my version of womanhood, and all the ways that has been shaped by the world around me. I just hope and trust that along the way they will see many other great versions of womanhood too – and that they will both grow up as feminists.

3. How I am raising my daughter/my son (do I feel a difference? Which one?)

I have a daughter and a son. I have attempted not to impose too many « rules » on them in terms of what a girl or boy « should or shouldn’t do or be ». They have always shared toys and activities and sometimes even clothes. I try to encourage them both to take part in sport – although neither are very interested. I feel acutely aware of all the ways society does still form their gender identities. Our son does not enjoy playing football – and for a British boy this is unusual! I worried for a while that this would be a social disadvantage and tried to encourage him; but I realised in the end this wasn’t right: I have to love him as he is and allow him to find his way with his peers.

Cet article fait partie du numéro 77 de la revue FOI

Femmes et hommes : un enjeu de paix

juin-juillet-août 2023

Regard sur le monde  

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