Be what you want to be…

Over at my other blog, I started a list of 100 Science Fiction Women to address the idea that science fiction, in particular, but genres like horror and fantasy as well, are primarily the realm of men and boys. I wanted to showcase the fact that we can find women role-models within “nerdy” genres, and that these women can be powerful and action-oriented, or intelligent and wise, or, quite often, both. Women in science fiction can love men or women or can be strong alone; they can be mothers and grandmothers or can be without children. What the spread of women we see in science fiction shows is that there is no one path for women, and that as a young girl, or as an older woman, we should be free to make choices and follow what appeals to us. I have loved science fiction and fantasy since I was quite young and I don’t think this in any way detracts from being a girl.

In that context and with that background it has been interesting to follow the discussions on girls’ toys and boy toys, which, while already ongoing,  has been galvanised around Lego’s introduction of its “Friends” range for girls.

ImageI must say that I agree with many of the commentators that this Lego ad from the 1970s is a much better representation of how I would like to see Lego marketed to girls. I played with primary block colour Lego as a child and continue to be a big fan. We used Lego alongside our doll’s house, our Fisher Price toys, our blocks and Sam’s cars to build sprawling cities which were inevitably struck by natural disasters (usually floods). These were games in which Lucy and Sam and I participated equally (actually, to be honest, as the oldest I was the bossy one and the director of the mise-en-scene) – not games for boys or girls.

Anyway, a fabulous discussion on the Lego decision from The Age is worth a read. Lego is trying to respond to a market it sees, and it is that broader notion that toys are gendered which is increasingly problematic. Another good discussion of the general approach is here. There have been some alternative views – that little girls can under-cut stereotypes and play subversively with Barbie (and I certainly know some mothers who do that) or that constant attacks on pink or girls’ toys is another form of anti-womenness. While I see these views, it is easier for girls to be subversive if exposed to different ideas and not subsumed in princesses and hairdressing, and while there is nothing wrong with pink per se, why is it all girls can have and forbidden to boys? The fact that pink and Princesses are so confined to the world of girls leads to the denigration, and that same notion that girls are best when they are decorative and house-making. Do serious people of business wear pink? It is funny how mothers of toddler boys (including myself) often end up investing in girls’ pyjamas or shoes because their boys want some pink like their friends. Sebastian insisted on pink fairy pyjamas, which were enthusiastically inherited by Jude. At 3 and 4 children are relatively gender-blind and do not understand the binaries of society.

As I have said in another post, feminism should be about having choices, not having choices made for you. If girls (or boys) like dolls, then dolls they should have. But if they like trucks or trains they should have those also, and not be judged for it. Choice is more than everything being physically available to you – choice is about being able to do things without social approbriation. My concern is that the more girls and boys are forced in gender-based choices of toys and the like, the less choice they have as people around them expect more and more conformity. I had a chemistry set at 11 and bug catchers before then, and I would love my nieces to want the same things. If their choice is genuinely different, then that is their choice, which should also be respected and not denigrated because it is a ghetto for girls.

For Christmas this year I bought Lucy’s daughter Emilie a train set – not because I was trying to force non-gender specific toys on her, but because I am told she loves Thomas (personally, I’ve never really been a train person). I bought the similarly aged-daughter of a friend a Playmobil castle with a Princess and a pink unicorn, but I did buy her a Self-Rescuing Princess t-shirt to go with it. My boys have all had dolls, which they played with to a greater or lesser extent, but various teddies have been nurtured and put to bed and played with over time. They have also had tea sets and have served us endless cups of tea and muffins, and have now learned to cook themselves. I was impressed this year when our 9 year old got real cooking equipment from two different sources. But they also love nerf guns and Star Wars and endless Lego and cars and all those things too. All kids can and should be allowed to be multidimensional, as the following young social theorist says:

Update: Here is a link to another fabulous article on pink-ification and Pink Stinks from The Guardian

Christmas feasting

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Christmas! The boys carefully set up their stockings, along with beer and corn chips for Father Christmas and a carrot for the reindeer. Jude wrote a note which indicated that he hoped that Santa would “successfully” deliver the presents and exhorted him to enjoy the offerings. Then it was time for bed.

Christmas morning and Sebastian and Zachary discovered new bikes and Jude got a special present – and iPad – as a reward for all the work he had done on learning to control his temper this year. There was much testing out of the loot.

It was the time to hang out for a bit before the guests arrived for the afternoon of feasting. This year we were being joined by Jackie and John, Rachel and her mum Shirley and Jasmin. We all made some contribution to the general festive feast.

After some salmon mousse on cucumber nibbles accompanied by the Veuve Cliquot, it was time for the first course.

Home-cured salmon gravlax accompanied by scallops with leek confit and scallops with pea puree. Totally delicious. Accompanied by Tattinger or d’Arenberg 2005 Sticks and Stones.

Next was an old favourite (prepared by Jackie) – the egg caviar.

It was then time for a collection of delicious morsels James had whipped up – baguette toasts with goasts cheese and pimento, grissini with Spanish prosciuttio and venison carpaccio with juniper. By this time we had started on the Campbells 2002 Cabernets. That concluded the entrees.

The first of the main courses was prepared by Jasmin: rolled stuffed loin of pork with crackling and rubied gravy accompanied by beetroot orzotto and bean and blue cheese salad. The cranberry and bacon stuffing was absolutely delicious – as was the rest of the pork. We had a couple of bottles Kooyong 2008 Pinot Noir to accompany it. At this point it must be noted that all the wines had been fabulous.

Between mains we freshened up with Rachel-made lemon sorbet. Andrew V rocked up at this point, and managed to try some of the last of the pork. Sebastian also played some Christmas carols on his guitar for us to enjoy.

Then, finally, time for the traditional Christmas fare – free range turkey accompanied by the free range ham brought by Rachel, potatoes roasted in duck fat, Moroccan carrots with feta and honey, potato salad and warm roast vegetable salad. James had experimented with brining the turkey over night before cooking it in the Webber as usual, and this left it deliciously moist. A bottle of Lark Hill Sparkling Shiraz (a local touch) and Heathcote Pyrette Shiraz went along side.

Time for dessert – this was a feast in itself with six individual dishes plus berries and cream. The pudding was a purchase from Cornucopia, but I did make the brandy butter to go with it myself. I also made a white chocolate cheesecake. Rachel chipped in with three desserts – the fabulous pineapple fool, macadamia and lemon slice and chocolate coconut-flour cake. Jackie made the pavlova under strict instructions from James. A d’Arenberg 2008 Stump Jump Sticky Chardonnay and a Stanton and Killen Muscat filled our glasses. Even though Young Andrew had arrived in time for dessert, there was no way we were getting through all this food. And even when the coffee came, no one had any room for chocolates or cheese.

A fabulous Christmas with family and friends and lots of presents and fun. And now the holidays really begin!

Lego Star Wars-mas Day 24: Christmas Yoda

So the final day – what will be the Christmas Lego highlight for 2012?

Father Christmas Yoda! Complete with sack full of presents.

We have loved our Lego Advent calendar this year and definitely looking forward to another next year.

The last stand of Milo the Clown

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A couple of weeks ago we went to the childcare Christmas party – our final one as Zac finished up at childcare on Thursday. We’ve been at the centre since Sebastian was about 9 months old, so that is a long time. Althought we haven’t been to every Christmas party, we have been to a lot of them.

This party was much like the others, starting with face paint:

Zac was a tiger, Jude – Harry Potter obsessed – decided to be a Dementor, while Sebastian who initally resisted, eventually was a wolf.

There was also lots of playing in the sand pit and trees and with various friends.

The traditional sausages were eaten and shared salads consumed. Then of course it was time for Father Christmas, although because it was also time for a gigantic rain shower, we had to move inside.

Father Christmas bought Jude the next Lemony Snickett book he needs to read, leading him to exclaim “Father Christmas is a genius!”

Our little tiger started to look a little concerned that he would miss out as the pile of presents decreased…

But eventually he too was rewarded with a book. Father Christmas brings everyone books at childcare.

And then, the Christmas party’s traditional finale – Milo the Clown.

Sebastian ended up volunteering to be an assistance, and there was a lot of giggling. Ah Milo, after 8+ years of Christmas parties I know your act of by heart. But I guess I won’t be seeing it any more…

Goodbye Acton – you’ve been a wonderful community to be a part of and a wonderful place for our boys to learn and grow. We’ll miss you as we move to another phase of our lives.


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A little late, but yesterday James and the boys procured a tree and we decorated it last night. With Christmas lunch at our place, probably a good thing to be at least a bit Christmas-y!

Lego Star Wars-mas Day 23: tree!

Was it going to be a droid, a ship or a person? No – it was a Christmas tree!!

Lego Star Wars-mas Day 22: Jedi fighter

Zachary’s last turn this morning – and we did not have a clear idea of what it might be.

A ship! As it turns out, Obi Wan’s special personal ship, a Jedi fighter.

So the big question is, what will tomorrow bring?

Lego Star Wars-mas Day 21: I win another bet

So, the small boys and I were backing the Millenium Falcon as the most appropriate things to follow a tie-fighter as noted yesterday (hey, it chases them away), but James thought that was too many ships and was punting on a roller-droid.

Ha! Proved right. Again. It was indeed a Millenium Falcon, beautifully rendered in small size.

We have no idea what might be next though – still betting on Yoda for 24th.

Lego Star Wars-mas Day 20: tie fighter!

So the bets were in – following the tie fighter pilot of yesterday, careful analysis made the prediction that today would be a tie fighter fairly strongly supported.

And indeed it was!

I am predicting a Millenium Falcon tomorrow – after all, it chased down the tie fighters!

Lego Star Wars-mas Day 19: dressed in black

This morning James was predicting a clone bomber pilot as a follow up to the bomber of yesterday, but as the boys rightly pointed out, we’ve already had a clone pilot. So what was it to be?

James was half right – it was a pilot. But an awesome pilot dressed in black – a tie-fighter pilot! James is now predicting that tomorrow will bring a tie-fighter to match. We can only hope.