I recently heard a good story from someone about becoming a dad. After his child was delivered the man was handed the tiny baby, as the midwife did so she quickly checked the sex, and proudly said 'here's your big strong boy.' The father wondered if the midwife had delivered a girl whether she would have said 'here's your big strong girl.' Right from the first seconds of being born we are judged and compartmentalized.
We assume that boys are big and strong, that they should then be dressed in blue, and need to work in the heavy industries to be satisfied. Such assumptions are not only hugely out-of-date, they are extremely damaging. Yet, all of us, in some shape and form, subscribe to them, consciously or unconsciously. Remarkably, they are all very recent concepts, and we need to challenge their validity, whilst remembering the opposite is almost invariably true as well.
A June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw's Infants' Department says, 'The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl'. In less than a hundred years we have turned that around and blue is the strong colour, and pink is for pansies. Co-incidentally, has anyone noticed that pansies are incredibly strong, vibrant and tough plants?
I had an interesting discussion with some men about the miners of South Wales, they felt sorry for the miners who had lost their identity because they no longer had jobs down the pits.
Having worked in the South Wales Valleys for over 30 years I know the loss of the mining industry has been a huge blow for many men. However, we have also had a remarkable turnaround in the role of men in the area. A very high percentage now do the majority of parenting, they have found a completely different role, and with this comes a decrease in domestic violence, child abuse and the macho violent behavior of the past.
Within the context of human evolution the pits and mines are very recent additions to our landscape. During a reminiscence project I ran in Merthyr, the older men retold their grandmother's stories of when the Valleys were sparsely populated and most people were farmers. Not long ago.
We are entering a period of great uncertainty, and by doing so, we are desperately hanging onto various 'truths and certainties' about masculinity. Please just let them go.
As part of this uncertainty gender identity is being questioned through the influence of gender equality, we still have a long way to go, but there are green (pink) shoots of change occurring all around us, we just need to take notice.