I hadn’t really thought about it before , but then a friend, Cas Meadowfield, posted this:
“Now has anyone heard, about this…. sometime ago I was told by an educator that our prejudices were more or less fixed by the time we're eleven. I've tried searching ‘child development’, but no joy…
It seems, (if this is true) that to get women (and others) to have confidence to be themselves, and find the job they love, children's writers have to write inclusive stories.
I know Scott does this…
I try and do this myself…”
Well, after she posted that, I had to think to myself, well gee. I guess I am.
I grew up with that generation that saw Star Trek a lot on the TV, the old multicultural, multiracial show that had the thumbs up from Dr Martin Luther King Jr. But there were other like shows and movies that I grew up with that also influenced me. To Kill a Mockingbird type movies. Books too, the Tales of Narnia (surprisingly good books for cross-species relations and inclusive plot lines), Dr Seuss (yep, think about it), Tom Brown’s school days (anti-bullying book), A Wrinkle in Time (strong female heros), and many others.
And perhaps being at the tail end of other people’s prejudices influenced me as well. It’s funny though, being a white anglo-saxon-irish protestant (not quite a WASP), you’d think I’d be pretty high up on that non-pecking order, but it turns out that it doesn’t really matter. Being a funny, little, sickly, Australian asthmatic in Canada is enough to get you kicked pretty heavily. To escape I started creating my own worlds, where everyone got along – fantasy, yes. Could have gone for hate, and there were times I did feel that, but I couldn’t maintain it for very long, so I went the other way. Oh,I overcame the asthma in my late teens too, I started running. My best time for the mile was 4 minute 17 sec, pretty good for someone who had to go to hospital if he ran a 100 feet as a 12 year old.
Those bad old days are gone. Now it’s my turn to be an adult. I have this picture of my daughter, to show. I insisted that both she and her sister learn how to change the tyre on a car. She changes tires for her less well taught friends now, both male and female. I don’t have to worry about her being stranded anywhere with a flat tyre. It’s the little things that matter, practicality aces traditional roles anytime.
Nothing wrong with girls playing soccer either. Even if they were the only girls on the team – they had a ball, literally. They’ll come and watch the next Star Trek movie with me too, and I’ll watch Cinderella with them. It’s the little things. Both my daughters have their own minds, and then there’s my son the chef, who always loved cooking. They were all brought up to find their own way, stand on their own feet and to respect others. They all chop wood too. I think I’ve seen many families like ours.
And yet, there’s always a dark side to people. Two sides of the coin. For me it’s not so much a dark side as a stupid side. I have chronic foot in mouth disease. The filters are often on holiday. The worst one I can remember was when my company bought a piece of equipment, I was halfway back to Canada from California with it, when the person we’d bought it from asked for me to ship it back by courier. I thought it was an emergency, went way out of the way to get it back as quickly as possible. I later found out they didn’t even use it. It sat on a shelf. Well… the term from my youth, which I never mentally ascribed to any ethnic group, it was just a term to me…was ‘Indian giver’. Not the best thing to say to someone whose actually from sub-continental India. Culturally insensitive. Of course I didn’t think of that until after it came out of my mouth, my mind didn't make the pre-clunker association. Worst thing I’ve ever said …well, maybe not, but it’s up there… and what could I say? No apology is great enough. I’ll never use that term again. But at least I realise that it wasn’t acceptable. I wonder if we all say stupid things, or is it only me?
So not a saint. I just try my best. Little wonder I’m still surprised by those two tags that I was given. I’m not sure I deserve them, though I won’t reject them either. I just am who I am.
You can only try. Maybe you're a feminist and a humanist too, and didn't even know it.