Tag Archives: identity

Don’t stick a qualifier in front of whatever I am!

lucky Lionel

As a female child I was labelled a tomboy because I loved playing with cars, building roads in the dirt, making kites, shooting at things with my homemade bow and arrows, riding my skateboard, hunting for tadpoles, playing with LEGO…..and all those other fun things that kids do, well male children do without a second look from anyone. But because I was a girl, well, obviously I was a tomboy! Quick get her a barbie and into a frilly dress before it’s too late………

I always felt there was something wrong (and I was a bit resentful without having that bigger picture understanding) with the way the toys I liked never had girls playing with them in the ads or on the packaging, or the characters in Adventure novels that were having all the fun were nearly always boys. So my solution to this puzzling omission was to make the characters female (particularly for movies and books) in my mind and imagine myself chasing pirates, fighting off aliens, and saving wild animals from poachers and circuses…EASY! Once I became a bit older it all became crystal clear. Two comments from my father will always stay with me and still make me bristle: “Girls don’t have train sets” (the response to my wish for a train set for Xmas one year, my brother got it despite not actually wanting one and I got a barbie…true story! GRRRR) and “Girls are nurses not doctors” (after announcement of my desire to go to uni to maybe study medicine…. GRRR squared! well, that was far too much study thus I became a scientist majoring in botany and entomology instead). Guess it took a while to know what it was all about: hello feminism! Thanks dad!

So the announcement of the release of a “Female Scientists Set” by LEGO was a moment of celebration and vindication for me that finally in 2014 young girls can have some ownership of these toys and see!! women can be scientists too, even LEGO says so. But then I started to get annoyed (never takes long) that it’s 2014 and we still have to be “grateful” for the few token challenges to gender stereotypes. http://www.iflscience.com/technology/lego-approves-production-female-scientist-set
And yet again, that devaluing qualifier “female” rears its ugly head when describing a job, an activity, an idea…. Sounds a lot like “not bad for a female [insert noun]”. That good ole standard complement A.K.A backhanded insult. So, let’s be clear…they are SCIENTISTS…NOT LADY SCIENTISTS or GIRLY SCIENTISTS……They aren’t smart or clever for a girl or….anything despite being a girl!!! They aren’t female musicians, female politicians, or even actresses (actor please!). When do you hear men given the same labels? Male musician? Male politician? As we know, it is implied that the people in these roles are male….unless you are a male nurse of course. Test yourself: what gender is the image of a doctor in your mind’s eye? C’mon, bet it was a male and not a lady doctor.

As Candice Chung from Daily Life argues in her article on the female (nice one Playboy) musician Neko Case: “it sucks to be defined by a single facet of you identity” particularly when it serves as a putdown. http://www.dailylife.com.au/life-and-love/work-and-money/are-you-peggy-olsoning-me-20140605-39k99.html

Thus as Case so eloquently put it “DONT PEGGY OLSON ME”…..


I dressed Ziggy Stardust


Samira Ahmed explores the impact of David Bowie on young Asian women in the UK. For these young women, the thin white duke’s genderbending, exotic dress, identity shifts and alien other worldliness was inspirational to the children of migrants. Yet he was a nicely spoken urbane young man a mother could approve of. The obsession with Aladdin Sane or Ziggy Stardust for these women as they recount their emotional connection makes for a really great piece of radio. Have a listen.

BBC iPlayer-I Dressed Ziggy Stardust

BBC Radio 4 – I Dressed Ziggy Stardust