Posts Tagged ‘gender inequity’

I’ve finished reading my twelfth novel for 2020, Bill’s New Frock, by Anne Fine. At just 90 pages, the small chapter book is a nice quick read for the middle grade level, yet still thought-provoking. The simple premise of a boy waking up as a girl and spending the day as the opposite gender is rich material. Bill feels out-of-sorts because he is in the wrong body, and through observing with a child’s innocent eyes the differences in the way people treat him, we see ourselves and society as we know it. This is deep stuff. Of her fiction, Anne Fine says, “A lot of my work, even for fairly young readers, raises quite serious social issues.”

It must have struck a chord with readers, because young readers in Leicestershire, England, chose Bill’s New Frock as their favourite title for 2012. They thought it reflected the Olympic values, being inspiration, determination, courage, respect, equality, friendship and excellence. Bill’s New Frock was winner of the Smarties Award (6 – 8 section) in 1990, the Carnegie Medal 1990, the Nottinghamshire Libraries Award 1990, and the Leicestershire Children’s Book Prize in 2012. First printed in 1989, they reprinted Bills New Frock in 2007 and again in 2012. Egmont reissued the popular novel in June 2017 as an Egmont Modern Classic. People still consider this book highly relevant to today’s generation, as the story speaks about gender stereotyping and those who feel they are born in the wrong gender.

The story begins, When Bill Simpson woke up on Monday morning, he found he was a girl. We readers then tag along as Bill must wear a pink frilly dress to school, and we groan in dismay as he slowly wrecks his beautiful dress throughout the course of the day. It adds a subtle layering of metaphor, as hand-in-hand with the stains and damage happening to Bill’s frock, we observe his candid reactions when he discovers the inequities that go along with his sudden change of gender. As a girl, Bill hardly gets into trouble for punching Rohan while Rohan gets told off for kicking Bill. With humour and the child’s view, we look at ourselves anew. It is the age-old requirement of good fiction, to hold up the window and the mirror. We feel Bill’s confusion as he finds even the educational expectations of him have changed. While Bill gets growled at by the teacher for messy work, and the boy sitting beside him whose work is far messier gets praised with the comment ‘well done,’ we readers say ‘unfair’ and sigh with memories of our own. Bill’s New Frock is a gentle traipse through the minefield of socialization without ever being heavy-handed. Child-centered, it never once loses sight of what it is, an amusing children’s story.

I admire Anne Fine’s effortless style. The second Children’s Laureate is an author for children of all ages, with over fifty books to her credit. She has also written for adults to considerable acclaim. As a young woman, having tried various jobs, Fine discovered her talent as a writer by accident. “In 1971 my first daughter Ione was born. Unable to get to the library in a snowstorm to change my library books, in desperation I sat down and started to write a novel. Clearly this was the right job for me, for I have never stopped writing for more than a few weeks since.” Clearly!

Bill’s New Frock is a thoughtfully rendered child-friendly look at gender. A tricky topic handled well.

My rating: Four stars.

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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Whatever I’m writing, I always end up with the kind of book I would have loved to read (if only someone else had bothered to write it for me). ~ Anne Fine

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I’m sorry to tell you, but you are not equal. And neither are your daughters. ~ Dina Leygerman

Just prior to Christmas the local authorities took a chainsaw to our driveway in order dig a trench under the lower concrete pad and to put fibre into our street. The gravel-covered trench has remained open until now. The natural forces of our vehicles driving over it combined with gravity are causing the other sections of the pad to weaken and subside. Knowing the guys were only planning to patch the gap, I realised we could end up left with the damage. So, I decided to have a talk with the workmen the next time I saw them.

It just so happened that when I walked down the drive to speak to the workers, my ex husband had arrived.

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The head engineer stepped over the hole in the driveway and shook my ex husband by the hand.

Undaunted, I began explaining to the engineer what had happened so far with the drive. He listened, and then replied to the ex husband and not to me.

No matter who I spoke to, these guys were oblivious to me. When it came to talking about the job needing to be done, I was invisible to them and they were deaf, dumb and mute towards me. We did reach an agreement, via my ex as go-between, that they’d re-concrete the lower pad as well for a fee. And, I came away, fuming.

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Later that day, I said to my nephew, who is half Maori, ‘You experience racial inequality, I experience gender inequality.’

He said, ‘You should have just marched in between them, shook the guy’s hand firmly and said, “I’m the owner of this house, you talk to me”.’

He’s right, of course.

I thought about it afterwards. These are very complex thought and belief systems being dismantled, at present.

It’s clear that however much we might think we have striven to move beyond such limiting concepts as gender definitions, that we will continue to experience those beliefs as the negative attitudes of some people. And, further, that because we’re used to these old thought systems, we still sometimes play along with them.

Thanks to those women who have gone before us, we have come a long way in the march to equality. It’s sad we still do not have equal rights. In reality, women are still paid less to do the same work. In New Zealand, we have the smallest gender gap in wages, at 5.6%. In the United States’ the pay gap is 20%. (D.L’s post)

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There are still imbalances within our society which are not okay and haven’t changed a lot. I think writer and blogger, Dina Leygerman, put it best in her latest post, when she said of the modern woman, ‘You are still objectified. You are still catcalled. You are still told you’re too skinny or you’re too fat. You’re still told you’re too old or too young. You’re applauded when you “age gracefully.” You’re still told men age “better.” You’re still told to dress like a lady. You are still judged on your outfit instead of what’s in your head. Our equality is an illusion.’ “You Are Not Equal. I’m Sorry.” by @dinachka82

Yes, it is a trick of the mind to think we’re all equal.

But, I venture to put forth the notion, that it’s just as much a trick of the mind to think we need be restrained in any way from bursting free of that idea. Gender inequality is, after all, another thought or series of thoughts.

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As the ancient Hawaiians said, where attention goes, energy flows.

What my brilliant nephew did was to remind me, ‘you could have reacted differently. But you didn’t. You kowtowed. You gave up. You didn’t stand up and get strong in the face of sexism.’

I saw myself from his point of view. In his eyes, I had let myself become less and I conformed to the definition, instead of having a fresh reaction and changing it.

I learned a lot from that encounter with those workmen and then, the conversation following it with my nephew.

The next time there are a group of men working on my property, I can say, ‘I own this house, talk to me first.’ There’s my side of this equation too, as a woman that I start to act equal. At the same time as men need to cast off those old belief systems, I do too.

The challenge is there, can I find my own reserves of strength? Can I locate my voice and plant my feet, when I need to stand up and assert myself? I don’t know but I intend to find out.

So, are the genders equal, yet? No. But we can take the steps together towards the goal.

Which ideas do you want to break free of in 2018?

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. E.e. Cummings

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