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Sun 30
Nov
2008

The War on He

What Max Reckons HerI was reasonably confident we had this whole gender inequality thing licked, until I fathered a girl. I mean, I was aware things were not perfect. I worked in corporate-land; women were clearly held to different standards than men. But still: close enough, I thought. In the grand scheme, there were bigger problems.

Now I realize the smallest hint of sex discrimination is A GLOBAL CONSPIRACY TARGETING MY DAUGHTER. And it’s everywhere. Why is every animal assumed to be male? Why is “he” used interchangeably with “it” in a great swathe of children’s picture books? I’ll tell you why: because male is the default setting for everything, unless it’s soft and pink. Or a cat. I’m not sure why cats are the exception. But everything else is “he.”

I realized this was a problem when Fin began naming her teddies. I don’t mind her having boy teddies. Boy teddies are fine, in limited quantities. But she thought almost all of them were all boy teddies. That didn’t seem right. I realized I was doing that thing: using “he” as default. I had imprinted her.

So I switched defaults. It’s a simple rule: you assume that everything is female unless there’s clear evidence to the contrary. Animals, teddies, unseen car drivers: all girls. It proved surprisingly difficult. I’ve been doing it about a year and I still sometimes slip up.

I also began converting Fin’s teddies. Now, possibly I’m teaching her that boys sometimes spontaneously turn into girls. But I had to do something about that men’s club. She’s picked up on it: many of them now waver between male and female, according to Fin, and a few I think I’ve turned completely.

Just the other day we saw a dog in the street and Fin asked if it was a boy or a girl. I asked what she thought. “I think it’s a girl,” she said. That was new.

That’s why all my examples now are going to be “she.” I used to try to mix it up: a “he” example here, a “she” example there. To, you know, be balanced. But now I realize the world is full of “he.” I don’t need to add any more.

Next I plan to father an illegitimate child with a Kenyan and discover we still haven’t solved racism.

P.S. Last day of Movember! I’m so happy; I finally get to shave off this monstrosity. Look at me! I’m a broken man.