[00:00:00] Section: Podcast introduction
[00:00:00] Overdub: Hello, welcome to The Story of Woman, the podcast exploring what a man-made world looks like when we see it through her eyes. Woman's perspective is missing from our understanding of the world. This podcast is on a mission to change that. I’m your host, Anna Stoecklein Lau and each episode I'll be speaking with an author about the implications of her absence - how we got here, what still needs to be changed, and how telling her story will improve everyone's next chapter.
[00:00:34] Section: Episode level introduction
[00:00:35] Anna: Hello, friends. And welcome back. Thank you as always for being here. So in 2013, Disney released one of its most egalitarian films to date- Frozen, which features two strong female leads, but 59% of all the lines in that movie are spoken by male characters. Another fact pointed out by today's guest is that of all the children's books published annually, 57% have central male characters while only 31% have central female characters.
And beyond this basic representation problem, our world is just extremely gendered with strict rules for who gets access to which colors and emotions, hobbies, and careers. And we see all these play out in everything from films to books, to clothes, and even the language we use. So, raising a child in this environment beyond those limitations placed on them according to their gender is gonna be an uphill battle. My guess today is trying to change that. I am speaking with Virginia Mendez author of Childhood Unlimited: Parenting Beyond the Gender Bias.
Virginia is a co-founder of The Feminist Shop, an ethical brand that educates on the topic of feminism. And she's a public speaker who creates bespoke events for feminist parenting, bias at work, and unlearning what we know. She also speaks at schools. So if you are a teacher or a parent or you know of a school whose students and teachers could benefit from these types of sessions, and let's be honest, what school wouldn't, uh, get in touch with her because she is fantastic at what she does. And the whole world could really use this training. And in addition to Childhood Unlimited, Virginia has also written a series of children's books called Mika and Lolo.
In our conversation today, Virginia and I talk about what the gender bias is, why it matters, how the stereotypes that feed into it are absolutely everywhere. And what we can do as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, and anyone else that comes into contact with little humans who are shaped by all these messages about who a girl is and who a boy is.
Her book is called Childhood Unlimited because this is exactly what the gender binary and these stereotypes that go along with it do. They put everyone into two different boxes. So every person is limited in what interest they can have, what personalities they're supposed to develop, how they decide to live their lives. And the only way to overcome that is to break down the stereotypes and expectations and ensure every person has access to what's in both of these arbitrary boxes.
I get into the neuroscience behind stereotypes and the myth of the female brain and the male brain in episode three, where I speak with Gina rippin about her book, The Gendered Brain, so check that episode out if you haven't already. Gina is also featured in Virginia's book, alongside a multitude of other experts.
And through it all, as you will hear, this is not about getting it right. A hundred percent of the time. That's not even possible. And it's not about judging or blaming or making excuses. It's about just starting to notice, to increase your awareness of the otherwise unconscious, ingrained messages we are exposed to every single day and then start making whatever small changes that you can, because just like all these small seemingly harmless stereotypes, add up to a big unequal world. Small changes also go a long way in helping to overcome them so all of our lives can be unlimited.
Lastly, for less than a cup of coffee, you can access some bonus content from my conversation with Virginia on Patreon, where you will hear things like how Virginia approaches dressing her two children in this highly gendered world and what her five year old son thinks about his grandma's new purple hair. There's a link in the show notes, but for now, please enjoy my conversation with Virginia Mendez.
[00:05:17] Section: Episode interview
[00:05:18] Anna: Hi, Virginia. Welcome. Thank you so much for being here today.
[00:05:22] Virginia: Thanks for having me very excited.
[00:05:24] Anna: Yes. I'm super excited for this conversation with you and to talk about your new book Childhood Unlimited. So to start, can you just give us a summary about what this book is about and why did you decide to write it?
[00:05:40] Virginia: So this book is a conversational and not judgmental book that explains the impact of gender stereotypes from very early childhood. It is full of personal stories and science, but in a very easy to digest, as well as interview with experts and especially things on what to do.
So, I guess this book for me was the possibility to encapsulate all the conversations I was having with other parents around me, that I was realizing that it was making an impact. So I spend an insane amount of time researching for my own parenting journey. Like I know parenting, it's important for me and I want to get it right. And you wouldn't not get everything right, but this side of parenting which is gender bias, feminism, that's one part that it's really important. And so I researched a lot. I make sure I parent according to my values and I was having these conversations with people around me and I could see the impact they were having on how much it was impacting them.
I was like, how can encapsulate these? Because I can not go around just stopping every person with a pram. Hi, have you realized that? So I thought like, okay, this is my opportunity to have those conversations in a written shape. And, you know, just to start put the light on those things for people to see them for themselves.
So this book is a journey about, okay, this is the data, this is what is happening, this is why matter, this is how we solve it, but all you know, we won't get it right, let's not panic. I feel like as a parent myself, there's this pressure to getting everything right. And we carry so much guilt about like, what if, you know, that was the one thing that was going to make my child happy or I ruined it. So I think it's more about we're fighting a beast, probably none of us are going to get this perfectly right, but let's just be a little bit better. Let's just try and let's just make small changes. And I think awareness just facilitate that so much. Once, you know, you can not unknow, and it makes It much easier to act accordingly.
[00:07:54] Anna: Yeah, I loved, how you pointed that out in the book, how there's nothing abnormal about being biased. You know, you mentioned throughout the book that none of this meant to make people feel guilty, that we're all products of this self-fulfilling stereotyped world, but it's just about starting to recognize and increase our awareness of those stereotypes.
And who is it for? So the focus is on children age, zero to five, is that right? And is it just for parents?
[00:08:23] Virginia: It is zero to five because my kids are well, they're four and five now, but they were around that age when I started. So I have Eric, Eric is five now, he was three and a half when I started writing the book. And then Nora is four. I talk a lot about them in the book because I think it's important that people get to know me and my family on how I lived and experienced these things.
But, yeah I feel like that's something I can talk about because I feel confidence that I know enough about it. I've seen it on my own kids. I've done the research, I've done the homework. And also, because I think people underestimate the value of those years. I think even as a parent, whenever I was getting books on the topic, they were like, how talk about those things with your preteen or, you know, whenever they're 10, whenever they're 12 or whenever they're teenagers, but you know, I wanted to get it right from the beginning because I know how hard it is to unlearn things and how much easier is if you just get them right. And you just not, you know, buy into the lies straight away.
[00:09:30] Anna: Some people might ask though, isn't that a bit young? You know, do you really need to consider all of this that early? So can you talk to what you have found in terms of how early this type of awareness should be considered with parenting and with.
[00:09:47] Virginia: The problem is that people think they are too young to do this, but they are not too young to avoid it for me, it's about making sure our kids are not limited by the things that we are doing. So the problem is that we need to start as soon as those limitation starts, we can not start after because by then they are already falling into that trap.
And it start as early as when the kids are in your tummy. I mean, the kids like bias, pre assumption and expectations and the way we refer to them or the way we talk about them, they start even before they're born. The way we feel like, you know, a kid that kicks a lot, it can be either a great footballer or very temperamental and dramatic if it's a girl or the way we feel like we need to be prepared to decorate a nursery different or the way we just go and buy all them baby clothes and all those things in various specific, you know, color shapes, laces, textures, depending on the gender. So the problem is those things to start that early. So the solutions need to start as early for them to be as effective as possible.
[00:11:02] Anna: Yeah, those things start that early and unbeknownst to a lot of people, babies absorb that information from really early days, you had Gina Rippon and your book who is a neuroscientist. And we had on the podcast who wrote The Gendered Brain and she talks about, and you talk about in the book, the neuro-plasticity and how our brains, since the time that we are babies are receiving this information even when you think that, you know, they're just a little helpless baby, actually they're incredibly aware individuals that are absorbing all of these messages from the time they're born. If not before.
[00:11:39] Virginia: It's also the way the brain, in those early years, it's whenever everything is replicating so fast, they absorbing information at a huge, huge speed, but they also have to let go information at a huge speed because they don't have capacity to maintain all. So it's that idea of what we don't use, we lose. So whenever we start stimulating kids in their spatial awareness or in their care and awareness, what messages we're saying to the brain about, okay, this is going to be something important, we really need to reinforce those paths versus nah, no, w we need to make choices and this didn't make it.
So, yeah, I think whenever I was writing about it, I imagine it as a bit of a Marie Kondo with a skills like the brain is like, okay, this is bringing joy. We're going to keep it. This is not, but the joy is external. The way that we get celebrated, the way that we get encouraged, what it's put in front of us. So yeah, we were sending very clear messages to the brain about what do we need to keep and reinforce and whatnot. And that shape us.
[00:12:44] Anna: Absolutely. So the subtitle of your book is Parenting Beyond the Gender Bias. So what exactly do you mean by that? You know, there are all types of gaps that we hear about pay gaps, education gaps, pleasure gaps. So what is the gender bias that you're referring to here?
[00:13:03] Virginia: I'm referring to all of those, because all of those are part of the way we become different because of our gender and the way we are treated differently, we are expected different and our life experiences are different and are very much defined by our gender. Because the thing is that it's all part of the same, all those bias that you were saying, from pleasure, gender, like ability bias, all the things that impact gender, they're all come from that same nuclear of we are different. We are very different and that justify excuse and promote that we are treated differently. And that causes all those problems. I mean, if you talk to people about any of those gaps, they will find out an answer based on, because we're not really like that, or that's because women don't ask or that's because this happened.
It's like, but why. Why women don't ask, or why are we not perceived like that? It's because women choose to have kids, but why? And if you keep asking, but why, but why, but why? I think you get to that ultimate nucleus, which is like, we have been expected to be different from the moment we're born. We were defined and shaped under the idea that we're so different and that justifies and that create itself, all those big difference down the line.
So whenever we just say, oh, well, it's just natural, we're just excusing ourselves from keeping asking, but I wonder why, I wonder why women are always the one that does. I wonder why are we more caring? What is behind? So I think the book is trying to get to that point. It's trying to get to that. Okay, is this a self-fulfilling prophecy and we can actually dismantle it.
I mean, it's a puzzle and once you start taking the pieces out of it, you just see how it works. Like, oh yeah, I see that that is connected with that because all those pieces are connected. That's the way it works. We see a picture and it seems fine, but then once you start unlocking, it's like, oh yeah, I can see how that piece was connected with this other one, because it's all part of the same narrative.
[00:15:13] Anna: Absolutely. So let's look at some of those pieces. So at the heart of this bias, at the nucleus, as you say, are these stereotypes. And you know, most of us are going to be familiar with what these stereotypes are, but because this is an exercise in awareness, what are the kinds of stereotypes that you're talking about? Can you give us some examples?
[00:15:35] Virginia: Well, for example, girls are more mature, more caring, more dramatic, more emotional. Boys are just more simple and, but you know, more loyal, more rough, like a smarter. Girls are hard workers. We have those ideas of what being a girl is. So it's just that, that idea of this is who we are and taking away that, well, this is what a person is in a context of a society, but we are much more deeper, but we tend to reduce people to, okay, well, I know who you are because I first spotted that one thing of you, and I'm giving you a lot of other characteristics, skills, values based on a perception I've got from you based on your gender. So I am telling myself the rest of the story based on that one thing. Doesn't make sense.
[00:16:32] Anna: What would you say to someone who was thinking, well, those are just stereotypes, right? You know, we don't actually think that all women are nurturing and all men are aggressive, those are just stereotypes. So what exactly is the harm?
[00:16:47] Virginia: Well, the problem is that even if we don't think that each and every woman is, we do act as if and we judge them and we treat them in life as if, and we create systems on a structures based on those premises. So. Yeah, we do expect women to want to stay at home with their kids in long maternity leaves, all of them, because they're nurturing.
We create systems that cater for a predisposition and an idea that we've got what a woman is and what a woman wants. And we are denying the fact that a lot of that, even whenever we do want those things, are they really choices, or is that, that we've been told that that's the way we do this? But also what about the people that want something different and how that is penalised or how we're not creating those spaces?
And same with boys. We don't think every man is aggressive or it's violent actually, but we justify when they are, we give it a sense of like, well, you know how they are, or we tend to hide it, or we compare them with others that are worse, but you know, this is not a big thing because look what these other ones do or look at. So we are creating again that justification and that environment of well it's what it is. And the problem is that even if we don't think we think that every woman is in a way and every money is in another, the reality is that we act and we expect things and we justify things unconsciously under those expectations. And that was one it's problematic because it's unconscious.
[00:18:21] Anna: Yeah, it's very insidious because it's so deeply ingrained and unconscious. And when we think of it consciously, we think, oh, well, it's just a stereotype, there's no harm. But it's everything that's going on that we're not aware of. And that's why one of the biggest themes throughout your book, and as we've already mentioned, is just awareness, bringing this out into the light.
And also, as we've pointed out, how it's not about judging people or making anyone feel guilty, it's also not about judging the choices themselves. It's not that pink is innately bad or trucks or dinosaurs are or whatever, but it's about presenting a whole range of colors and activities so that kids can benefit from what each of them has to offer. And then in turn, eventually adults can as well, everyone can have access to what's in the other box, if you will. What's on the other side. exactly as you say right now, it's just such a strong binary and we're limiting, you know, childhood limited.
[00:19:23] Virginia: We do, and again, on that limitation follows our through life. Like there are choices that we make that are not really choices. And again, it's nothing wrong or right with them. It's just the fact of, we don't realize that it's not a choice or we need to at least admit like, okay, well, I choose to wear makeup for example, because it makes me feel pretty. But I also choose it, understanding that for women, there is a big expectation of being pretty. How pretty is a currency for women, how, you know, there is these extra expenditure, there's extra time invested, I think, and then I can choose to do it because it empowers me. I like it. I feel better, but I think in order to be a proper choice and an informed choice, it's important to understand the context. Because it's very easy to say, like I just, I just like it. It's like, well, you like it in the context of everybody celebrates you. When you wear it, everybody around you is wearing it. Everybody expects you to you're treated better when you do.
But I think, I feel like there's a resistance as a society to understand certain implications because we feel like we've been told who we are and what we like. And we don't like to hear that. We don't like to think, oh, what if the person that I've become, it's a result of a lot of stereotypes. And we all want to believe that we're unique and we can make our own choice. And we have made our own choice, but in a very limited and in a very stereotyped society. So there is a lot of power in deconstruct all that, and then make your choice again, if that's what makes you happy by all means to make the choice, but do it from a space of, I understand where this choice come from and I choose to do it because ABC. So I think that's what I want to give to kids and to adults, is that deconstruction and that just giving them the power back of doing the things without those limitations.
[00:21:26] Anna: Love it love it. So we've talked about what the stereotypes are, how they start from the earliest of days, how insidious it is, and it goes with us throughout life. But I want to talk about how these messages and stereotypes are delivered and reinforced. And you break this down in your book under categories of books, TV shows, films, clothes, language, toys. So I just want to kind of ask an open-ended question to have you tell us about some of these, how are these messages delivered and reinforced.
[00:22:03] Virginia: Glad you act as the question is just everywhere. So for example, yeah, the categories, I choose our books in which if you get a book now, you get things like the difference amount of male presence versus female presence. Things like animals, inanimated objects, obviously people.
So the kids are reading from like every children's book that male is that default, men are the normal. And even whenever women are representated, tends to be like the little butterfly, to me, you drop it, the mother, the teacher, so we get that idea of, you know, females are carers and they are small and they are dainty. And then there is the prey, the tiger and the lion. and, and, even there was this experiment that whenever they did not have a gender, the mothers even tend to just associate with a male. And I see that with Eric. Like Eric and I are in the park and I said, the other day, oh, this, this dog, and I said like, oh, he's very cute. And he was like, or she. And I was like, or she. But it's just very unconscious, like male. We live in a world in which male is the neutral. We assume, you know, male is neutral and women is a disassociation and that's so present in books.
So yeah, books keeps reinforcing that idea. And there's a lot of studies that I bring about the percentages and even tips or things that I do with my kids, which I automatically change all the genders in the books and how uncomfortable it is because you're like, and then daddy was cleaning and their mum left for work and then you realize the over presence of male when you turn it around. And it's like, and she, and she, and she, and she's like, it's a lot of she here, but you wouldn't have seen it with he because we're so used to it with in it. And it's very similar with, I go then to TV shows and how, again, main characters, the way, you know, girls are niche.
So you got your TV shows for everyone. And then your TV shows for girls because they're about girls and who would want to watch that except girls. Or the presence of one various stereotypical woman or girl, obviously lashes pink in a group of males. So everybody get a personality, you get the clumsy, the smart, the brave, and the girl whose whole personality is being a girl. Um, and we don't see that. We just, we're so used to that.
I then explore things like toys and how they nurture certain skills. So spatial awareness versus caring, the way we don't give dolls to boys, or we don't give Legos to girls, but now we do, because they're pink, and now that we've made pink legos we can give legos, you know, but it's all those things about boys are being given toys that do encourage and nurture spatial skills. And then we're like, they're just not really better. It's like, why are they naturally better? Have they been more in touch with those kinds of things?
So, yeah. My goal was just, if I get every topic one by one and section it, and just go through those things, then you get that sense of like, wow, it is everywhere. It is really everywhere. And, and especially in the life of a child. We have language, we have clothes, we have toys, we have books, we have media. Like that's how they are shaping the world. That's how they are understanding who they are. Who am I expected to be? Who my parents are, who the world around me is. And whenever the way we present it to them is the same, and it's very narrow, they're going to think that's the truth because why wouldn't they? Because it is really everywhere.
[00:26:02] Anna: It really is. And like you said earlier in the conversation, once you see it, it is so hard to unsee. So, uh, just a warning for everyone. I mean, that is, that is kind of the point, but it's one of those things that it's like, it's so deeply ingrained and unconscious until it's not, then it's just you. And because it is everywhere, then you just, you see it everywhere.
And I didn't even know there's a name for that phenomenon, shall we say, that you described of the group of male buddies accented and by the one lone females, called the Smurfette principal. Cause I guess in the Smurfs like you say, everybody has their personality and then the girl's personality is literally just being a girl.
And I know Paw Patrol was another one that you mentioned in your book, which is very popular and there's so many shows like that for children and for adults that follow that guidelines that we just think nothing of it, yet if it was reversed, it was a group of gals and one boy in there, we would probably all be like, oh, what's that boy doing hanging out with that group of girls?
[00:27:06] Virginia: Or we will be probably like, oh, this is a show for girls, because nobody else will be interested in the show because you know, girls get to all have a range of personalities and awkward. Um, so you know is just, but Yeah, it's exactly what you say. Once you see it, and then you start looking at it's like, how did I see that? Like, it was just, it wasn't even hidden. And so whenever I get upset now, well upset, well, I do get upset let's be honest watching some of the things, and I'm like, I can't believe nobody in Disney, nobody, so these people earn a fortune, you know, they have like teams for literally the detail of the hair of the character, but nobody in that production team, nobody in the direction team, nobody in the marketing team, nobody spotted that that was wrong. And then Chris, so Chris is my husband, and sometimes when I get all ranty, he's like, well, you didn't see it either. I mean, it took you to see it for you to start seeing it.
[00:28:08] Anna: Yeah.
[00:28:09] Virginia: So sometimes I need to remind myself, like, it's normal not to see it, but it is also very angry when you do like the people in charge don't like, come on, people can do better. And that's why I feel like there's a lot of call of action, for the parents. And then I'm always referring to parents, but I guess when I wrote this book, I thought, grandparents big problem because, you not a big problem, but they, they have a big impact in the kids, teachers, early year practitioners, all the people that are around children, if they had that kind of intention and that awareness that will be, you know, more, more impactful.
But as a customer, we do have a say, we consume better things. We buy better books. We choose programs for our kids that are better. We buy better clothes. And those things matter because people like companies just want to sell. And if they keep selling us those things and we keep buying them, they're going to be like, well, I'm just giving you what you want. So the power of saying like, no, I do not want that. Not only because I don't want my kid involved in that, because I want to send a very clear message to the people producing these that I don't want that, not for my kid and not for any other kid, because this is how we become the society that we are.
[00:29:34] Anna: All right. So we've talked children's books, TVs and films, toys. Another category, which might be surprising for some, maybe not for others, because this is becoming more of a talking point I feel is clothes and not just pink and blue, we're all kind of familiar with that, but the slogans and designs and then the shapes. Can you talk to us about those? What are the differences that you found in your research and how does that fit within the wider context of everything we're talking about?
[00:30:08] Virginia: Yeah. Like clothes are really a rabbit hole. Once you open the box, they like the clothes one, it's really bad. So, yeah as you said, it's not only being blue. And I do make a point of explaining in the book why the pink and blue things started. But things like slogans and, and again, it's some of the slogans very obvious and they're awful. Like I remember with the latest world cup football, they made a slogan for girl that was goal digger.
[00:30:36] Anna: Oh, God for like a little baby.
[00:30:38] Virginia: Yeah. Like, ewwww, like it's a game of words, it's like, yeah. But no, or, you know, those kinds of like lock your daughters for little boys. Like, okay. So there's so many slogans that are obviously wrong. Fine, but the problem is those that are allegedly okay. So the way boys get genius and, leader's, hero super something, girls get keep dreaming, smiling, happy.
You know, it's like the narrative again, the way those things perpetuate. So even food, I found the food one really interesting, like food boys, get all the saturated, like pizza, hot dogs, like barbecues and girls get all the candy and sweet things, you know, like you would never put a boy in a cupcake t-shirt. That's ridiculous.
[00:31:32] Anna: Everybody loves cupcakes.
[00:31:34] Virginia: Like everybody, but it's almost like, yeah, but not in a t-shirt for a boy. And it's like, how absurd, how absurd, but we know like if I also you a t-shirt with a cupcake and I told you, who is this for? You would know, just kind of know in you that it's like, no, that's not for boys.
Or even the way, whenever we do actually cross those lines, we need to overcompensate in others. So you get dinosaurs for girls, but they are like with the lashes, you know, closing their eyes looking peaceful or if there are prey again, they like in the puppy cute version with like a flower, because you know, you won't get a girl tiger except it's a baby, cute baby tiger. So all those things, the way we design some things are very obvious. Once you start seeing them, it's like, okay, what are we telling the girls.
And then you can go even deeper to the shapes. So the bodies of the boys on the girls are very similar until pre-puberty. Identical. And I always point out they share nappies. If there were some thing that would be different, it will be probably that one where it's like, this is where the genitals are, but no, like nappies are fine, but everything else apparently is not. So the girls clothes tend to replicate adults clothes. So girls get sexy clothes from very early stages. One of the things that I really noticed is swimming, costumes like girls.
[00:32:59] Anna: Swimming suits for our American listeners. Just a quick translation.
[00:32:59] Virginia: but yeah, so you'll get girls are Nora has those on hand me downs with bikinis like, I'm not going to cover Nora Nora and Eric test is chest is identical, but they're telling me that I need to let her be wet in her chest, because you are wed whenever you get out of the swimming pool. So I just get her obviously they're the bottom of it, but The way underwear covers their bum in kids it's different. Like girls underwear it's really smaller shorter, it has all these lace, all these unnecessary little things. There's more flimsy. Like the texture, like boys' clothes are much more sturdy, practical, logical. On the other side, girls, all the sequins and things that ask you to be touch. You know, we just get girls more used to be touched by a strangers or to be comment on, Oh that looks good. You know, they're clothes that are much more exciting on their eyes.
So it just makes it very easy to people interacting with them to comment on the clothes, while you're not going to comment their gray joggers. Hi, you look awesome in those gray joggers and random brown t-shirt. So again, the conversations those clothes promote are very similar. I know everybody likes to be told they look good. And we like to be celebrated. So girls realized very early that the things that they are more celebrated for, they're more encouraged to do. They can create more of an impact on people around them are around their beauty and around the way they present to the world.
And they do get more compliments when they were in the sequins, fluffy and exciting thing. Then whenever they were in the practical warm clothes. So which one are they going to choose? And then it's like, well, is that what she wants? That's what she's choosing. It's like, well, yeah, she's using it in the context of all the role models that she has on TV look a certain way. You know, they have these gowns, they have these things, the things that she gets celebrated for the guests that it's associated with fun and excitment and celebration. It is a choice. Yes. But is it a real choice? Not really. So yeah, things like shoes, shapes, textures. So I got really deep in all those different things because you never see a t-shirt at the same whenever you go at night. And every time I go to a kid's shop, I'm like horrified, just horrified about like, that's not okay. It's just not that one thing. It's just the mix of everything. Sending a very, very loud message.
[00:35:19] Anna: Yeah, I would definitely encourage anyone the next time they go to the store, just look at the difference in the slogans in the animals and everything that Virginia is saying, you know, the fact that they're shorter and tighter and everything that you say in that
[00:35:41] Virginia: Women like pockets!
[00:35:43] Anna: I know, I mean, we know that this is a problem for adult women, but even children, little girls don't have pockets. And the boys do like w why, why do all these clothing designers refuse to give women pockets? I don't understand. Drives me nuts. And then yeah, the practical element is not only that the girls are getting these reinforced messages about what's important, what people value and them, but also boys are encouraged to have this comfortable and active lifestyle. You know, you write about how the clothes are just even restricting and making it harder for girls to kind of hop around the playground and move around because their clothes are a lot shorter and tighter, which just makes all of that a lot more difficult.
[00:36:26] Virginia: And even, and the shoes are a big one. The shoes that we give to girls are not made to run. They're not made to be active. We're starting to get heels to very small girls.
[00:36:35] Anna: My God.
[00:36:36] Virginia: Yeah. And then we are surprised. We say like, boys are much more active. Boys are much more outdoors. It's like, well, I wonder why the girl in the fluffy dress and the, you know, the uncomfortable shoes is not feeling like climbing and they do, they do, you see a lot of girls climbing in those outfits, but it's like, it's not the ideal outfit and it will be more difficult for them and they will be worse.
And also they get more penalised for destroying it. Oh, you're ruining your dress, and again, those are unconscious messages that they will be receiving and they have to choose, you have to choose between, you know, being pretty or climbing And can't have both or, or not at the same level.
[00:37:19] Anna: And his t-shirt says, jump, dive, flip, whatever. And her t-shirt says, sit pretty and smile.
[00:37:27] Virginia: Yeah, smile. A smile is a big one, like, because every woman loves to be told to smile, right.
[00:37:32] Anna: We love it please more of that.
All right. And moving on to language. You have a chapter on language and you write about how we don't clarify pieces of information about people we are talking about, unless it's relevant for that topic, with the exception of gender. You know, you write about how, if someone's telling a story and says that person did this or that person said that, instead of women or men, you kind of feel like there's this gaping hole in the story and that there's some important information missing, even if gender has nothing to do with what that person is talking about. So can you talk to that point? Is that just our conditioning? And also why does it matter? You know, I imagine there could be some people listening that might think that's a bit over the top and say, well, why can't we just include an extra descriptor when we're talking about people.
[00:38:29] Virginia: I don't think it's about not being able to, I think it's fine. It's just understanding that need, it's understanding why we would never say, oh, I, the other day I was talking with this blonde person in the street and everybody would be like, why do I care that they were irrelevant? Or like, oh, there was this short person the other day. And like, it will just feel like that does not add anything to the conversation, but the things that we do say it's because we feel that they are adding something. It's not only gender, gender is probably one that we do the most because we always talk about man and woman, girl and boy, it's extremely persistent, but you will do it consciously whenever you think it adds something.
So for example, I live in Northern Ireland. I imagine if you make a point here of saying, I was talking with this person, Irish person or these Protestant person, you will be associating a certain amount of expectations, or you're just trying to say, okay, well that is relevant to the story. You will understand better the story once you have that kind of information while maybe in other places of the world will be like why do I care? But with gender down there, we do it all the time because we feel like we need it. So I don't think there's any problem per se in saying it it's about questioning and challenging why we feel it matters. And we do and Eric is very good at always using non-gender words. And I find myself like but who was it, you know, like, oh, this person was telling me the other day, person in the shop or all these kids, I was playing with this kid and we were playing this and I was like, I find myself finding like, who was that kid? But it doesn't matter who was that kid? Like the fact that I feel it matters because my brain wants to fill the gaps, my, my brain who wants to give importance and wants to like, I'm going to fill the information that I'm not having with expectations I have. You know, that kid being a boy or being a girl. And then the story is going to play my brain and in my head, based on those preconceived ideas that I have.
And in a world in which we're trying to be more aware that gender is a spectrum, I think those things are particularly damaging because you know, the fact that we feel uncomfortable whenever gender is not a specified, it makes it very difficult for people that don't live within that binary to access without having to constantly out themselves, if it makes sense, like, everybody's expected to be boy or girl with a certain thing. So if you're not existing in that space, you're the one that has to carry the weight to get there, explain that you're not. And then while, if we just assume that people are people and their kid that my son was playing with is just a kid, then, you know, it will be a much less heavy way to carry for them.
I think that's where we should all be go in. And again, it's not about blaming anyone for doing, it's about sitting with the uncomfort of why we feel it matters. And what if it didn't how much free will all be if it didn't matter. And if we were all just the person in the shop. Nobody's taking anything away from us because we are the person in the shop. So why don't we just feel comfortable with that.
[00:42:02] Anna: Yeah, I think it's, that's just a great point and really the fact that it feels like it matters, says a lot. The fact that it feels like you're missing this information, says a lot about our preconceived ideas and what's going on in our head unconsciously, when people are telling us things.
And you write about this new thing that you're trying, trying to live your life as you would like Nora, your daughter, to live hers. And you know, that sounds, I don't know, maybe like an obvious idea, but when you break it down, I don't think this is what most people, especially perhaps women do. So can you tell us about this, this new thing that you're trying out.
[00:42:47] Virginia: Oh, yeah. I love that. I was really excited to add this to this book because hopefully this is not a book about childhood unlimited. It's about everybody unlimited. But yeah, whenever I feel like I'm conditioned, that's what I asked myself, what would I want Nora to do in a specific case? So I don't know, like somebody making a comment about my appearance and I just reply, you know what, the only thing that matters that I like it myself and I really like it. So I appreciated. But, you know, it doesn't matter because I love it. And I was like, how cool would be if like, that's what I would love Nora to do, you know, like that sense of like whatever.
So if I wouldn't like that for Nora, why would I allow that for me? And also Nora is watching. My kids are watching. They're learning what a woman is because they see me be a woman in their life. And the power of role modeling is huge. Since I do that, I am much braver and I love myself more. I give myself permission to other things. I tend to be less of a people pleaser. Sometimes I want to say no to something I'm like, oh, I really want to. If Nora is 20 and she's asked to do something she doesn't want to Nora would be like, I don't think so. Like very much I'm gonna pass. So, I think modeling for our kids, that idea of badass, you know, like empowered, secure women, we want them to be, it's really powerful because what a gift for ourselves as well.
[00:44:14] Anna: I love that because exactly as you say, it feels like such a gift for you personally, like to think about it in that way, what would I want my daughter or hypothetical daughter or niece, or this girl that I know down the street, whoever, or this boy, you know, what would I want them to do? And that's so freeing for you as an individual, because it's probably quite different than what you might've done in that moment, what you might've done for yourself, but then also exactly, as you say, the power of role modeling is probably bigger, eh, you know, bigger than, than what you tell your daughter to do. If you're telling her be this way and then you're acting the opposite or a different way, what she going to do? She's going to pick up
[00:44:59] Virginia: Well, they're definitel