Friday, May 07, 2010

Feminism, self determination and peer pressure

A year and a half ago I blogged this photo, since dubbed "Vengeful Fairy of Doom".

I love this photo so much. I love the sword slung in the fairy wings and the gun holstered under the tutu. I love it so much it's my wallpaper on my phone.

However, recently, Ben has come to dislike it. Wednesday night, he asked me to take it off my phone. About a thousand voices bounced around in my head shouting about his right to decide how his photos are used, and about my right to use my photos on my phone, and about what was making him dislike it anyway. I don't know if he noticed the pause while I waited for the shouting to stop, but I asked him why he didn't like the photo - everyone else I know does. The answer was, predictably enough, that his friend doesn't like "that sort of stuff". At this point all the voices joined together to scream, "WHAT??? GIRL STUFF?????". I said, almost calmly, "What? Girl Stuff? But you know there's no such thing as girl stuff." Standard peer pressure type conversation ensued, and I left it at that for the evening.

Yesterday morning, I brought it up again. It was revealed that said friend is excessively anti-fairy. Ben believes this has its roots in "girl stuff", but he can see the friend's point about fairies being a bit pathetic. Ben has been exposed to "The Fairies", so I can see why he might be sympathetic to this position. Time to leave philosophy aside, and go into bat for fairies. I showed him some classic Brian Froud, which didn't really impress, but then I pulled out the big guns - Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book.

No seven year old can resist a bit of splattered fairy.

After he went to school, I was left to return to the philosophical questions. I still need to revisit whether he really wants me to remove the photo from my phone, and I have just re-published it here. I don't think the latter is a big deal, it really is all about his mate not seeing the photo, but I may pull it down if he really is distressed by it. I will change the wall paper if he still wants me to.

We did discuss that part of the reason the photo is cool, is that he's messing with stereotypes. In it, he's happily playing with "boy stuff"and "girl stuff" all together. I know that he's at least beginning to question these stereotypes. He pointed out, unprompted, a sentence in a home reader that said that boys think they are better at sport than girls. He was most unimpressed. I'm not too worried about this part of the message.

The question for me is how to balance his right to decide his own course with his need to not have that course too heavily determined by peer pressure and also with the cost of challenging his mates.

I'd like him to be proud of the photo, and to have the confidence to tell his friend that he's wrong, fairies can be cool, and Ben dressed as one is definitely cool.

I'll settle for him to be proud of the photo but still prefer to keep it somewhere where his mates can't see it.

I know I can't make him proud of it if he can't feel it.

PS. At the Mothers' Day breakfast this morning, my place card had a picture of a squashed fairy on it. :)


  1. If I was less tired I'd have something more profound to say than hell yes, that's the awesomest photo of a gun-slinging sword-wielding fairy ever.

    I was looking back through old photos tonight and found the one of Tom in the Wonderwoman dress and the one of him wearing his sister's dress just after he'd had a no.2 all over hair cut and I wanted to post them on my blog. But I felt I should ask his permission first and I know he wont give it.

    I talk to him about how he had so much fun with dressing up and that he shouldn't let other people's hang-ups take the pleasure of those memories away from him. I think he gets it.

  2. They'll have to keep until his 21st, but I hope he can own them and enjoy them before then. At least in private.

    Damn shame we can't force our kids to enjoy stuff.