#DressDownFriday is six months old!!!

I can hardly believe it as the months have just flown past, but my little ‘bug-bear’ of a campaign is now officially six months old!

I didn’t really have any specific goals or a grandiose mission when I set it up; I simply wanted to vent my frustration at lingering and pointless stereotypes that I was encountering daily when it came to the clothes my daughter was wearing.

I aired my frustrations via the blog and decided I would embark on a one-woman mission to kick-back at gender stereotypes.

It turns out that many parents harboured the same frustrations at supermarkets and shops that seem to lazily perpetuate the same tired gender-genres through kids’ clothes.

Before long, we became a global unit of hundreds of parents who post their #DressDownFriday pictures of their kids sporting clothes that challenge gender stereotypes every week. Our mission is a simple one – we want to normalise the idea that a girl can be more than ‘pretty’ and a boy can be more than ‘tough’.

In the last few months, #DressDownFriday has been supported by some wonderful kids’ clothing companies including Zac & Bella and The Green Flamingo Co, and I was chuffed to bits when fashion-icon Gok Wan got in touch and gave his own personal backing to the campaign.

Since I first scratched the surface of this issue six months ago, I can’t help but see these inequalities and outdated gender-norms every day; in shops and high streets and supermarkets, online and out and about. I guess having an opinion on this sort of stuff makes you more heightened to it, but it’s undeniable that our society still has some serious issues with how we guide our girls in one direction in life, and our boys in another.

In the last six months, our collective of awesome parents have done incredible work in spreading awareness and helping parents to consider the potential impact of the clothes they dress their children in. But in my opinion, one ‘pretty like Mummy’ / ‘tough like Daddy’ shirt on sale is still one too many!

Having been pulled in a million different directions over the last few weeks, I’m now renewing my impetus to eradicate gender stereotypes! And I’d love your help! Here’s what you can do:

  1. Post your #DressDownFriday pictures on social media each week to spread the word!
  2. The next time you go shopping for your children, whether it’s at Liberty of London or Lidl of Leeds, try and choose one outfit that doesn’t conform to ‘pink or blue’ or that goes against traditional gender norms.
  3. If someone passes comment on what your child is wearing, especially if they’re questioning your decision to give the traditional boy/girl clothes a miss, respectfully put them in their place! This sounds far-fetched, but I’ve had swathes of parents share their anecdotes of family members –and even strangers – commenting that they’ve dressed their daughter ‘in a boy’s coat’ or that letting a boy wear Peppa Pig wellies will ‘turn him gay’. The only way to quash these outdated points of view is to politely, but firmly, challenge them.

And that’s it! The more people that take up the challenge, the more of an impact we will make together!

I’d like to say a bloody great big ‘thank you’ to each and every person who has posted their own #DressDownFriday picture over the last six months. We’re slowly but surely chipping away at outdated gender ideals and making the world a more kick-ass place for our kids. Here’s to many more Friday gender-slays!

What if we’re not The Gilomre Girls?

Working in the coffee shop near mine, I’ve just seen a mum bring over two cupcakes to the table her young teenage daughter was sat at. Looking eagerly for her approval, the mum said ‘these really are ‘instagram-worthy’ cupcakes aren’t they?’, to which her daughter rolled her eyes and looked back down at her phone.

Aside from being a real ‘of its time’ comment, it got me thinking that in 10 years or so, I too will likely come up with cringe-worthy statements to try to endear myself to my teenage daughter.

I find this scenario of struggling to build connections with Emily a completely alien concept. Ever since she was born, I have been her number-one favourite person in the whole wide world. I’m the first person she comes to when she’s pleased with herself for completing a new task for the first time, and I’m the person she runs to when she’s upset and in need of comfort. Presently, at this point, I can do no wrong.

As this is all I’ve ever known, I’ve never considered the fact that in a few short years, I’ll probably be secretly reading the messages on her tablet to just get a glimpse into a life that she tries to keep hidden from me. I shudder at the thought of me accidentally catching a few minutes of Radio 1 during school drop-off time and saying ‘I really love this track! Who is it again? Justin Bieber?’, to which I’m told to shut up and stop being so embarrassing.

I’ve always thought I’d be the ‘cool mum’, the Lorelai Gilmore to Emily’s Rory. But what if it doesn’t pan out that way? What if she’d rather die than talk to me about a boy she likes in her class?  I don’t think I could deal with that.

I guess that decision isn’t up to me though. I can do my best to maintain openness and honesty with Emily by respecting her, listening to her and leading by example. But if Emily doesn’t want to let me in, there’s not much I can do about that. It’s a natural and normal part of the growing-up process. But that doesn’t make it any easier to bear.

Until that time comes, I’m going to savour being her ‘number 1’ for as long as it lasts. And when she does cut me out of her life, I’ll console myself by eating a ton of ‘instagram friendly’ cupcakes.

Girls Run the World

Raising a daughter and helping her fine-tune her emotional and social intelligence is a complex business. And for me, a huge part of helping my daughter learn about herself and the world around her will be framed within the context of feminism and equality.

There’s no right or wrong way to do this, and you may disagree with my approach, but this is how I see it…

My daughter will receive every support and encouragement in achieving everything and anything she wants to in life. I will bring her up to know that with hard-work and self belief, she can do anything.

However, I won’t sugarcoat anything. I won’t pretend that getting what you want is easy. I won’t shy away from telling her about the disadvantages that face many, many women. She needs to have an awareness and an appreciation of the hardship and struggle that the ‘fairer sex’ has endured for a over a millennia, and how this impacts her as a woman today.

She will know though, that this isn’t an excuse to hide behind, nor is it an opportunity to admit defeat. In fact, I will encourage her to use this as ammunition to work harder to achieve what she believes in. It won’t be easy, but she will know she has all the love and respect in the world from me.

Maybe a ‘girls run the world’ t-shirt is just a bit of fun. Maybe it’s a manifesto for tomorrow.