Since finding out in April we were having a daughter, I’ve thought a few times about what this means and whether, in 2015, there really is any difference between bringing a girl into the world and having a boy. Certainly, in the advanced age we live in there’s far fewer differences between the genders than there ever was and my girl isn’t going to be consigned to a life of learning to sew and cook and then being married off in her teens and producing child after child for years on end. But I think it would be foolish to think there aren’t difference prospects for her than if she was a boy.
I grew up in the 90s, when ‘girl power’ was horrendously fashionable thanks to the Spice Girls (yes I have just put the whole feminism movement down to them!) and I was also lucky enough to have a really strong female influence in the form of my mom who has done really well in her chosen sector and has always inspired us to do the best we can. But the facts speak for themselves: following this month’s election it was widely reported around 29 per cent of our 650 MPs in the House of Commons are female (up from 23 per cent last time round) – so an increase certainly but it’s still not 50/50. The Guardian reported in March this year the pay gap between the genders will not close for another 70 years if change continues at the current rate (according to the UN).
And probably the biggest one of them all: they still haven’t found a way to get men to have babies. At some point in her life, my daughter is going to have to choose whether she wants to have children and if there’s any career setbacks because of that, it will be her not her partner who is likely to experience them. Maybe one day in the future childcare will be truly split half and half between the genders and more men will take advantage of new paternity leave rules, maybe one day no employer will disadvantage a woman simply because she’s of child-bearing age. But I don’t think it’s happening now while I’m having children and I’m not hugely hopeful it will have happened by the time my baby’s my age.
Another, slightly more imminent, thing for me is the issue of safety. I’ve got no brothers and one sister but having spent a lot of time with friends who have brothers or just generally walking around with my eyes open, it’s apparent that boys get a lot more freedom than girls. A teenage boy wants to go for a walk in the dark, not a problem. Teenage girl, slightly more worry and risk associated there. Girls are seen as more vulnerable, not just from people they know (I think I’ll be a nervous wreck when she starts dating!) but also from the wider world.
But there are so many advantages to being a girl too. I hope to teach my daughter to embrace the fact in my opinion girls enjoy a closeness with their friends which simply doesn’t exist with boy friendships, girls will always have a circle round them ready to help them eat lots of ice cream, watch films and cry/moan/gossip. Girls get to dress so much more inventively. Girls get to grow up and bring new life into the world, which is pretty special! But now they’re also able to access the best of both worlds growing up – want a Barbie and an Action Man/digger/Lego etc? Go for it!
In the title of this blog post, I posed the question of whether it’s a man’s world and in the intro I wondered if bringing a girl into it was different. My answer is yes it might be a man’s world but my daughter will be one generation nearer to an equal world. And yes having a girl is different, but not worse!
Harriet and bump x