My daughter and I are about to celebrate our eighth Mother’s Day together. She’s at a beautiful age where her joy at showering me in love and gifts to express her gratitude that I am her Mummy is matched only by the hideousness of the present I must graciously accept.
Whether handmade or from the Mother’s Day Stall, it’s all useless, tacky or ugly. Regardless, you’ll see it on my bookshelves collecting dust, testament to our devotion to each other.
Watch what Mamamia staff would like to thank their mums for this Sunday (post continues after video).
Of course the gift is irrelevant.
Her cuddles and giggles and the fact that she still wants to hold my hand in public is a blessing way beyond any present. And really I don’t feel l like it’s up to her to be doing the giving anyway.
That’s my role as her mother, to gift her all the things she needs to be a happy, healthy and well-resourced human. Things like a love of learning, an understanding of good nutrition, a healthy obsession with Beyonce.
But the thing I am most passionate about imparting, to the point where I bang on about it so much I now am met with the perfect eye roll (to be fair, I’d say that’s hereditary), is teaching her to recognise and fight against rigid gender roles.
It began because of my passionate desire that my daring Willow, clever, funny, kind and creative little monkey that she is, be entitled every opportunity that her male classmates will have. Now it is because I know that a complete embrace of gender equality and the freedoms it brings will save lives.
Internationally, studies have repeatedly shown that individuals who hold rigid gender beliefs are more likely to perpetuate violence against women, while in societies in which men and women are more equal in their relationships, and where they are not expected to play rigid roles based on their sex, violence is less common.
I read the statistics – that one in three Australian women has experienced violence at the hands of a current or former partner, and one woman a week is being murdered – and I am terrified for my baby and every other little girl of her generation. I want my generation to be the one that stops this atrocity.
Thus I raise my daughter with a freedom from gender restraints, and together we identify and reject any such restrictions whenever we see them.
It's amazing to me how often it comes up.
This week alone, we've spoken about how even though there aren't any boys in her class, they can learn ballet if they want; and even though all the scientists in her reader were men, girls can definitely become scientists too.
How if Daddy wants to get a pedicure that's fine. And how in the DC Super Hero Girls comic, when Wonder Woman goes to Super Hero High and her first challenge in becoming a super hero is to design and sew her own costume, that probably the male super heroes were not sitting in front of a Janome all day but learning powerful qualities like flying and smashing through ceilings, which is precisely what such infuriating and belittling gender stereotyping makes me want to do!
But it's not enough just to talk about it. We need to model it in our homes. As parents we need our children to see respectful relationships that are defined by equality, adults relating to each other as equal individuals, not limited by gender generalisations.
We need to redefine notions of masculinity and femininity, encouraging all facets of our children’s personalities. We need to empower our young people to identify gender stereotypes, to speak up and to reject them in their own lives, so that both girls and boys are free to be the people they wish to be.
Of course I want my daughter to reach her full potential, whether that be in the home or in the boardroom, classroom, lab, stage, page, parliament, building site, cockpit or rig. But most crucially, I want her to have healthy, happy and safe relationships. I couldn't think of a greater gift to give her, and it would truly make this Mother’s Day.
Jo Stanley is a comedian and media personality and an Ambassador for the Our Watch youth campaign, The Line.