So, here, boys are silly and girls play with dolls.
I am not saying this is a typically Portuguese thing, but I am saying that being Swedish and being abroad makes it real obvious how gender equality is a part of the Swedish soul.
And it’s the symbols that make the difference. The symbols that are words and behaviours. The symbols that are stand ins for the messages you’re really trying to get through. They are gestures, they are tools of classification. Small in the beginning, but when repeated over time and generation they are opinion builders. And as such they are culture formers.
In Sweden boys and girls are dressed in red and blue. The most classic children’s clothes brand Polarn & Pyret sells clothes in one red and one blue line. Some in-betweens, but no pink.
In Sweden boys and girls play with the same toys. Some of the most popular are the uni-sex ones. Classic, neutral coloured and shaped children’s wooden toys brand Brio are considered ‘good’ gifts. When Lego launched the girl directed Lego Friends series, the Danish company flourished and the Swedish debate forums exploded.
In Sweden boys and girls both dress up as super heroes for masquerades. The teachers wouldn’t dream of, nor actually be allowed to, induce any kind of suggestion of the girls taking part in princess games and the boys in warrior activities. In fact, those options wouldn’t be available at all.
Here, the teachers refer to the boys as a group as being silly. And really, not only refer to, but actually address them as boys being silly. Like that’s the way they are.
Here a girl with short hair (foreign) is asked why she has short hair when she is a girl. Like a group, like girls have to and always have long hair .
Here, girls are uniquely invited to dolls parties. No boys. Again, as a group, girls and only girls supposedly like parties and dolls.
Sure, boys can be silly, but all of them? And girls not being silly? Come on. And fashion and hair style, sure long hair is beautiful and vivid pastel colours amazing, but only for girls? Come on. And let’s not even go there when it comes to toys and games. Really never met a boy who has a doll, whether it’s a Superman or Barbie?
It’s all important. Words, gestures, symbols that matter and make a difference. Because things that you say and do over and again are turned into the normal. The standard. The norm. And norm is what forms culture, in the longer run.
To be very clear, I love being a woman and I am particularly lucky to be raised in a culture where I can actually enjoy it. On equal terms. I love being a woman and I think there is all the reason to be celebrating a day like this. March 8. Kind of like celebrating my birthday, because I love being me. I love being a woman and I love being me every single day of the year, and I love to celebrate them both.
But to be equally clear, that does not mean I will be put into any symbolic categories. Neither will I allow my daughter to become the product or bearer of any such narrow sighted symbols, whether it comes to gender or else. We are, utmost and foremost, individuals. All of us. Let’s treat each other as such every day of the year.
It makes me think that this open, mobile, interconnected society of today is a very good thing. Because it makes it easier to share values. We have the chance to influence and form norms here and now. So let’s all celebrate today because of the right reasons, not because we feel sorry but because we love being a woman. And let’s spread that symbol.