My two-year-old son isn't particularly picky when it comes to cartoons. He doesn't get to watch as many as he'd like - so when something new comes on the screen, he's generally happy. His contented acceptance of plot-lines and characters also makes it pretty clear that unless I step in and guide the lessons he's learning from the TV, he's going to grow up with gender stereotypes firmly entrenched in his mind.
He spent the other afternoon feeling unwell and curled up on the sofa in front of the box. He discovered Transformers and, later, Sofia the First. He loved them both. I caught snippets of each programme and realised it's time to teach him to be a Feminist. He's not too young. Now is definitely the moment.
Watching him watching the box made me understand something about two-year-old boys. Sit them in front of a gratuitously violent display of masculine strength - and they won't realise what they're seeing. Turn the channel over to a character created with the intention of selling princess-culture to girls aged between two and seven - and they again won't realise what they are truly seeing.
What I see though, is my child watching a world where action heroes fight bad guys to save beautiful, helpless women. It's a world where beauty is defined by sparkly dresses, tiny waists, and a blessed existence. ( I know Sofia the First is a progressive Disney heroine as far as they go - but the fact remains that she's still a beautiful, white, skinny little rich girl...)
Until now, I have felt like I have had adequate control over my son Milin's socialisation and consumption of media which reinforces the stereotypes I don't want him to grow up accepting. Speaking crudely, I've been mindful about the toys I've bought him, the clothes I've dressed him in and the language I've used (certain toys, for example, are not for boys or girls only.) But I can't help feeling thrown after an afternoon in front of the tele.
My conversation with Milin, I've realised, must start here. It's time now to start laying the groundwork that will see him growing up to speak out for equality. ,I want him to do more than his fair share in quashing gender inequalities. I want him to grow up championing the rights of men and women, girls and boys, no matter who they are and where they are from.
If I don't say anything at all now, while he is two, am I losing a battle as soon as it has begun? The reinforcement of gender stereotypes, of class prejudices, of racist ideology - it is too important to me that I bring Milin up seeing beyond these things. If I don't prompt him to question the world now, if I don't explain how things should be now - surely it will be too hard later?
My little boy is two. I can dress him in what I want, buy him the toys I want, send him to ballet lessons if I want. But he's still going to see the stories our mass media tells the world.
When should I teach my son to be a Feminist? If I don't start now, it might be too late.