From the editor: an equality party

My son’s birthday party featured pass-the-parcel, very nearly a food fight, and some sexism

 

My son’s birthday party. It was noisy and chaotic inevitably. Almost certainly the last time we’ll host that sort of shambles.

He’ll be 10 next year and double figures tends to herald the end for such simple pleasures as pass the parcel and Kim’s game. (Who is/was Kim anyway??)

But this isn’t a blog about the passage of time and kids growing up. After this year’s barely contained madness I’m very glad to see the back of such events. Who thought it’d be a good idea to give each guest a little bottle of cola (diet of course!) with their party tea but didn’t foresee they’d all shake them up? It was like a sort of whack-a-mole. As soon as one bottle was confiscated the next tell-tale fizzing noise would be heard at the other end of the table. And don’t start me on the cupcake decorating that was this close from descending into an all out food fight.

Balloons

No this is a blog about what we see and what we don’t see. And that is important when it comes to dads roles in the workplace, and at home.

For the party started with all the kids picking up balloons and smacking each other with them. Harmless. (Unlike when I was holding the pinata and the kids were attempting to smack it with a stick. My side looked like I’d been flogged with a cat-o-nine-tails the following morning).

We’d drafted in an extensive army of extended family to share the joy/help police the brats.

And the number of them that commented on ‘the boys’ going mad with the balloons while the girls sat it out. Biology innit? No. For the girls were joining in too. Yet our relatives seemed entirely blind to their involvement. Now, it’s extremely unusual for kids parties these days to feature a mix of boys and girls we find. And there was only a couple of girls invited. So, yes, there were more boys than girls squawking and setting about each other. But the girls were there and equally excited. But people, particularly some of the older ones, were bringing confirmation bias to the party. They expect rough and tumble from the boys, they literally screen out girls playing in a way that doesn’t fit with stereotypes.

It’s fascinating.

But it’s not OK.

Confirmation bias

Because when we put boys and girls in silos, when we expect different things of them, we start down a bad path. And it leads to the sexes in the workplace being treated differently. We expect men to be breadwinner, to be less interested in caring and more interested in hitting things with balloons. We expect women to be more demure, to sit out the rough and tumble of boardroom politics just like they don’t get involved with the wilder activities at kiddie parties.

And then we end up with parental leave and pay policies that entrench the idea that the sexes are different and drive a wedge between them.

Change starts early. We all have confirmation bias and that’s OK. But we can all work harder to spot it in ourselves and others and challenge it.

The fight for equality – which benefits men and women – starts with a balloon fight.





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