The Trouble with ‘The Trouble with Women’: Thinking about Gender


Not many things get me ranting… Well ok, maybe evil Nestlé, the Daily Mail, scaremongering articles about birth, the Daily Mail, Katie Hopkins, the Daily Mail…

Anyway, last week I stewed on this one before letting rip on the safest place you can have a rant - Facebook. It all started when I stumbled across “The Trouble With Women with Anne Robinson” on BBC iPlayer. Anyone who knows me well, and even if you don’t, will know I feel passionately about equality and women’s rights. I am a feminist! I was raised to be one by my Dad (and Mum, knowing her place didn’t argue about it). I went to a girls’ school which further cemented my commitment to all things Girl Power, and now make my living supporting women as they go through pregnancy and become mothers.

In the programme Anne asks why 50 years after she “smashed the glass ceiling” inequality is still so prevalent in our society, with pay gap revelations and the Weinstein scandal dominating the news. Where did we (by that she means women, men having no responsibility in forming our society-apparently) go wrong? Before you know it we are working through territory covered by another BBC show “No more Boys and Girls: Can our Kids Go Gender Free?”, demonstrating that school-aged children already have some pretty entrenched stereotypes when thinking about certain professions. Walking down the sea of pink toy shop aisles, Anne is disgusted at how young girls are being targeted to play with dolls, princesses and things relating to adornment and domesticity.

I can’t help but feel that this misses the point. By asking our girls to change and be “go getters” aren’t we just contributing to the idea that to be “girly” is to be “less”? Rather than attacking or scoffing at the aisle of pink, should we instead be asking why it isn’t mixed up with all the other toys? Shouldn’t we instead be asking why it is that most people wouldn’t look twice at a girl picking up a Star Wars Lego set, but think a boy playing with bright pink Minnie Mouse vacuum cleaner is a bit strange? Anne herself admits the she is uncomfortable with her eldest grandson’s interest in ballet.

As a society it seems that we are ok with women taking on some of the areas previously dominated by men, but it does not seem to be happening the other way round. Why are there still so few male nurses, midwives, care workers-even primary school teachers? Why are there no boys in my daughter’s ballet class?

And although around 285,000 couples are eligible every year for shared parental leave, take-up "could be as low as 2%” according to the Department for Business. Why is that?

I can’t help but think whist we have rightly been fighting for choices for our girls, the same fight hasn’t happened for our boys. They deserve the same emotional freedom and support as our daughters. They deserve to wear their Princess Anna dress to Disneyland without it (a) making the news, (b) getting a load of abuse from ignorant commentators (Adele, you are awesome). I fear that the way society currently limits and pigeonholes men is the reason why they make up three quarters of all suicides. Let’s try and change that.

I really believe that a more equal society is going to mean that rather than “losing out to women”, men are going to enjoy a better quality of life than before. So let’s fight for our sons too.

By the way, if you would feel uncomfortable seeing your son in high heels or wearing nail varnish, it doesn’t mean you are a bad person. That deeply entrenched patriarchy is going to take some time to overcome, but you can do it! My advice- smile, tell him how awesome he looks. And why not get your toes done while you’re at it, and feel the inner joy that comes with shiny feet!

Clair McGill

Clair teaches Pregnancy Yoga, Postnatal Yoga and Antenatal Education classes in Bristol. A mum of two, she is also a Barnardos Breastfeeding Peer Supporter and member of Downend WI who loves reading, food, camping and of course Yoga!