Monday, 28 July 2014

Boyhood and Boo-hood, a sort of review

So I went to the cinema this week and saw a really great film, Boyhood, made over 12 years, tracing the fictional story of one (very likeable) family.

By now everyone on the planet knows how great this film is, so I wont go on about it. It just made me want to say some things about time.

When I saw Boyhood I hadn't been to the cinema in over a year, that is how much my life and priorities have changed since Boo. Last time was at the Ritzy Big Scream, when Boo was tiny and would feed and sleep and sit happily for me to watch whatever I wanted.

I should have gone to the cinema more often in those days, although I don't regret the countless days spent breastfeeding and watching the entire series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It provided escapism and joy at a time when time seemed relentless and monotony was taking over.

But even I couldn't watch Buffy all the time. In those days I would often just gaze out of the window. Not because I was bored. Sometimes you can just feel time pulling you, the moment you're in is so fleeting, there's nothing you can do except stop and stare. We meet the boy in Boyhood when he is staring out the window during school. His mum is worried about him, and he can't really explain to her why he does it.

Now, Boo is 18 months old. Everything is different again. And everything I watch comes with a large amount of patience, waiting for Netflix to add a film, then waiting for an evening or nap time when I don't have a gazillion more important things to do. This time I made the time to go to the cinema to see something that I felt would be time well spent.

I didn't read any reviews about Boyhood, mainly because I don't have the time. I am a sucker for stars though, being a Netflix addict, these days I will not watch anything without at least 4 stars. The stars on the movie poster, given by newspapers that are not red tops, and magazines that are not Grazia, are the deal breakers.

There is something to be said about maturity and the need for quality. Quite often quality is on someone else's terms, which we adopt as our own, maybe because we have spent too much time watching crappy films. The mother in Boyhood seeks out a rich husband who she thinks will complete her family and give them a better quality of life. When did she stop believing in the things she felt when she was younger, the things that drew her to the free-spirited father in the story, but who wasn't ready to play the provider.

Even though the film is called Boyhood, it's really just about growing up, getting older, whatever age or gender you are. I found myself intensely interested in his parents and their choices, they represent the universal worry and guilt and pride and love that parents have every day. I think that everyone who loves this film does so because they see themselves and their family reflected at them, and the stages of struggle and realisation that ebb and flow through all of us. The story and premise is simple, but the simplest ideas are often the most effective.

And it's a really long film. Not Titantic long, but almost. At the start I was reaching for the remote, freaking out that the volume was too loud and it would wake Boo. Oh yeah. But do it several more times until it sinks in. Then towards the end I was starting to get back pains from too much sitting. And I wanted to check my texts and make sure I wouldn't be late for dinner. I felt bad for shifting around so much, I knew it would be over soon and then I'd be sorry. Isn't it hard to just enjoy what you have, when there's all these other niggling things happening around you, distracting you, then poof it's all gone.

When the mum in Boyhood laments towards the end, when her son goes away to college, 'I thought there would be more', I thought of all the times that I felt annoyed at Boo or at moments in my day for being annoying in some way. Not quite right. Toys all over the place, every night putting them back just so they can be strewn across the floor again. Wasting my time. Doing laundry all the time. Wash hang fold repeat. And then before I know it I've given all of her toys away because she has outgrown them, and then she's not living here and the only clothes that I fold are my own.

So there, I went to see a film to escape the hum-drum of laundry cycles and I end up missing the cycles and the hum-drum because that's where life happens. In-between all the crap bits and confusing bits, painful bits and crazy bits.  They make you worry and want to find answers, but in the end, there isn't always a reason, a right thing to do, just an awareness of the moment. That is all.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Why Boo doesn't wear pink

This pink issue has circulated in our home since before Boo was born. R is adamantly against pink because of it's associations with stereotypes of women being submissive, passive, focused on appearance, made for domestic chores, etc. We talk a lot about it and read articles on the matter. There's definitely a back lash against pink now, some people think we should reclaim it as a strong feminist colour, other people don't see the harm in letting 'girls be girls'.

I've over thought the whole problem now. But we've come to the agreement that while we have some control of Boo's fashion statements, we choose to make the statement that it's ok for girls to not wear pink. It's ok for a girl to be anything at all. It's ok for a girl to not go along with the status quo, of what the marketeers tell us 'a girl should be'. I see so many little girls dressed as a stereotype, I'm shamelessly using my daughter to make a political stand in the playground.

Pink and Blue. It's a way of marking out the difference between the sexes, and obviously there are differences. But do we need to be colour coded? It makes the difference between boys and girls more obvious, and in a world where segregation and sexism is still rife, surely pointing out our differences all the flipping time is counter productive. We're all humans after all with equal rights to explore the world, try out all the different roles and experiences it has to offer. If we feel pressured to associate ourselves with our gender, a colour, and a host of other gendered activities and experiences (baby dolls for girls, building bricks for boys), we all miss out on getting to know the whole picture, and really getting to know each other.

And, it's not just a case of pink being different to blue, the problem is that pink is seen as a bad colour by many men, whereas blue is seen by everyone as just another colour. From little boys, older boys, teenage boys to men, our society has drip fed them the idea that girls are lesser creatures than they are (cue examples of music videos, gta5, percentage of female CEOs), and if there's a colour to go along with that creature, they sure as hell don't want any association with it. They don't want to be mistaken for a girl. Parents don't want their boys to be mistaken for a girl, or for their boy to mistake themselves for a girl. I sold a highchair recently on Gumtree, and one mother asked me "is there any pink in the pattern because I want it for my son". Sadly, I don't think she was implying that she wanted there to be pink for her son because her son really likes pink.

I regularly dress Boo in blue, green, red, all other colours that are not pink. If she's not wearing pink she will normally be mistaken for a boy. But I don't take offence to it (I just think the person making the mistake is unimaginative). I can't help thinking that if a boy is mistaken for a girl, many parents would be upset, disappointed, angry. Some people are enlightened about the fact that girls are equal to boys, and that pink is just a colour and it doesn't matter if your child looks like a boy or girl at such a young age. But the majority of people don't question their own in built prejudices, or they don't question all the brands and adverts that endlessly target us and force us into pink or blue boxes. So there will be many children who feel the pressure to conform to gender stereotypes because their parents conform in the same way. They may well fear and outcast any of their peers who don't conform to their stereotypes, because it shakes the foundations on which their gender identity is built. So, when the time comes for Boo to make friends, it is highly likely that she will want to wear pink. Whether it's because she genuinely likes pink, or she wants to wear pink because it gives her a safe 'identity as a girl', or because she wants to fit in. We wont know, and neither will she.

We've agreed that we'll let her have pink and 'girly' things, to an extent, if she chooses them, because ultimately she has to understand the freedom of choice. But I can only hope that with time, and with our (mostly sensible) guidance, she will understand these things too:

1. That true friends don't require you to look the same as they do. True friends like you for who you really are, not for what you wear and the colours you like.

2. Your identity as a woman in the world might be a tricky thing to quantify. And that's not a bad thing. You're not a two dimensional being, you change and grow and it can be scary. It's easy to buy into someone else's prepackaged identity of what a women should be, because then you don't have to think about it. But it won't really be you, and you'll have to keep on buying 'pink' things to keep the fantasy of your identity in tact.

3. You can like whatever damn colour you like. All colours are part of the same thing in the end, white light. The sun. And the sun is awesome, just make sure you wear sun cream.