Gender Respect Project 2013-2016

Aiming to help children and young people to understand, question and challenge gender inequality and violence.

International Women’s Day in Sheffield

There were many events in Sheffield to celebrate International Women’s Day. One I particularly enjoyed was a singing and dancing event hosted by Body of Sound, the choir I sing in, on Saturday 12th March at Sharrow Old School. We were joined by women singers and dancers from the Karen community, refugees from Myanmar who have been in Sheffield for ten years, and Sage, a women’s choir which has developed from the Sage Green Fingers allotment project for people experiencing mental health difficulties.

Ingrid Hanson shared two of her poems with us all. Ingrid told me that this one, ‘Dress Sense’ was inspired by the issues when her son was nine and wanted to dress up as a girl for a fancy dress day at school. I really liked it and thought it might resonate with parents and teachers who want to protect young boys from being laughed at but also want them to be able to express themselves freely. The story has a happy ending: the boy’s head teacher, on seeing the boy dressed as a girl, welcomed him warmly, saying how wonderful he looked. Everyone had a grand time. I think it is a good example of the powerful influence head teachers and all teachers have in cultivating a creative ethos around masculinities and challenging gender stereotypes.

 

Dress Sense

My son is nine and he wants to dress like a girl

for the fancy-dress day at school.

 

My son is nine and has long blond hair

and he wants to dress like a girl

for the fancy-dress day at school.

 

My son is nine and likes dragons and swords

and tales of fighting and valour, mystery and crime

and Sherlock Holmes and the young James Bond

 

and he wants to dress like a girl

for the fancy-dress day at school.

 

My son is nine and hoards coins and stones

and bits of string and words like discombobulate.

He reads books adorned with mythical creatures

and ancient runes in which the battles turn out well,

baddies are defeated and boy and beast

live in harmony together forever

 

and he wants to dress like a girl

for the fancy-dress day at school.

 

My son is nine and wants to be a scientist

like Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton.

He’ll build his own lab, invent something amazing

that no-one has ever quite thought of before.

He’s thrilled by the Hadron Collider,

by stars and quarks and the way that black holes work.

 

My son is nine and believes in magic

and the triumph of good over evil

and he waits in hope for the call to Hogwarts

 

and he wants to dress like a girl

for the fancy-dress day at school

 

and nobody wants to let him.

 

Because boys don’t dress up as girls,

not even for fun, it just isn’t done.

Everyone will laugh, his best friend explains,

People might laugh, his teacher agrees,

and I daren’t even think

what his grandfather would say

if he knew which he won’t

but I remember the cautionary tales

of hippy mothers who ruin their sons

by sending them to school

in clothes that aren’t cool

so I warn him: people might laugh

 

– although I think he looked great

when he tried it at home

prancing in the front room

in his sister’s red dress

and a pair of tights wrinkling up his legs,

his face alight with blusher and eagerness.

 

My son is nine and he doesn’t care

what Everyone thinks

and he doesn’t want to be a girl,

but he likes trinkets and pinks and sparkly jewels

and he wants to dress like a girl

for the fancy-dress day at school.

 

He knows and I know that some little girl

will dress up in moss-green trousers

with a bow and arrow

and a hat with a feather stuck in sideways

and perhaps a Disney logo on the breast of her shirt

and everyone will admire the little Robin Hood

and no-one – no-one – will even think of telling her

she shouldn’t dress like a boy

because now we all know, at least when they’re nine,

that girls can be whoever they like,

can be just as good as boys and do the things boys do.

 

But no boy will be Hermione or the Little Mermaid

or Pocahontas or Beauty or Rihanna

or a princess.

 

Because boys don’t do that.

He really mustn’t do that:

it might make him less of a man

at nine

and less of a man

for ever

and worst of all – worst of all –

Everyone will laugh.

How will he live it down?

 

My son is nine and he wants to dress like a girl

for the fancy-dress day at school.

 

My son is nine and he wants to dress like a girl for the

my son is nine and he wants to dress like a

my son is nine and he wants to

my son is nine and he

my son is nine

my son is nine

and he can

dress in

whatever

dress

he fancies

for the

fancy

-dress

day

at

school.

 

I’ll be the evil accomplice.

 

By Ingrid Hanson