What should I tell my daughter?

Books. Books are good. If I cannot figure out a way to answer or help my daughter, I buy a book for us both to read and talk about. I know more about dinosaurs then when I was 7 years of age, and I know more now about precipitation and marginal gains than I ever thought possible.

Usually the questions from my daughter arrive in twos. For instance, a while ago I was asked the following questions:

What is the point of humans ?

Followed closely with;

Is pain actually real or something we imagine as being humans and non of it’s really real ?

There is usually an outpouring of stories and questions when we are not sat opposite one another. Car rides are particularly good for this. The back seat of the car, can often yield animated discussion about life. Some of it is school based, but often it is based on books, people, overheard conversations, tv programmes or as I call it “what that hell is that about mummy ?” But despite buying lots of books about important women in history, role models and important valued women. I got this one question last week:

How come some things aren’t equal for girls mummy ?

So, yes there are books that I can share and I HAVE shared. I have quite a lot. I am not short of literature. The question has come after reading ALL of the books. So, who wants to have a conversation with their daughter about equality, and well stuff that every adult woman who I know has had to consider for all of their lives ?

How can I as someone who works in the arts support this learning ? What are we doing in the arts sector to engage and have a good conversation about this with everyone? Empowering girls and learning about consent isn’t just my responsibility surely? Surely its about everyone. It is a fairly obvious. A lot of the books about equality, suffragettes, feminism, activism for women, powerful women are still marketed towards girls. Surely, if we are to talk about safety, consent, misogyny, patriarchy and equality,  we need everyone to read them? Is it really just for girls to figure out for ourselves ? Surely, we need ALL kids to read those books, books about amazing women, girls who challenged, questioned and did something ?

Today I was reading a story about a dad whose son went to school, (reception). His son is into lots of activities; sports, cars, reading, playing, climbing, being silly. Pretty much the standard things that a lot of kids are into. On this particular day at school, he chose to wear nail varnish to school (which was allowed btw). He was teased ALL DAY about it by his peers. He was repeatedly called a girl by his peers about how it was wrong and laughable. He came home with an enormous amount of shame. So, think about it, we as a society are clear that girls should be supported to be empowered, equal in society. There is an endless road to achieving this. But in contrast, if a boy decides to wear and relate to toys/clothes and thing generally associated with girls they are ridiculed and mocked.

So, in the arts sector what do we do to engage children around this subject? Do we actively engage children differently based on their gender ? Are we working hard to actively facilitate a conversation for everyone to take part in ?

So, if I am going to be able to answer the question my daughter posed, “How come some things aren’t equal for girls mummy ?” I will need to do some work as it’s not just about girls. This is going to take more than a few dozen books about history, art and empowerment. It is going to take engagement, talking about good behaviour amongst girls and boys when we see it as well as challenging things when it is difficult.

A last word from her:

” I think if boys read some of the books for girls about power and how to be powerful and sticking up for yourself that would make it more powerful for girls. Girls should do the same and read the books that are about boys. It would make it more powerful. If everyone joined in, then everyone knows to be better and actually IS better”. 

So, we are off to study. Study artists, books and people and do as she says…include friends, boys, girls, everyone. Fancy joining us?

Everyone is talking about it…

This morning, my father sat down in his usual spot with tea in one hand and over buttered toast and jam in the other listening to his raspy untuned radio. It’s a ritual that he repeats every morning.

Today, the voice from the radio informed us that more and more of us are taking solo holidays to manage and support our wellbeing. A mocking tone in his voice, the presenter talked about how ridiculous we have all become as a nation.

Some of us are taking holidays to get away from the people we love. To reboot and repair ourselves.

I have read lots of threads from parents seeking any kind of private time away from their families. Nothing new really. There are hilarious stories about adults retreating to toilets to escape the constant requests from children or partners. We mock and joke about our desire for private time. In contrast, some of us regularly share photos of solo trips around the UK or beyond.

But, increasingly we are a nation of lonely people with growing referrals to gp surgeries for people experiencing isolation.

I recently completed a study about a local area and its “wellbeing” as a community. It is a fascinating concept. What began as a study about young people and their wellbeing, quickly became an exploration of community wellbeing and how we as a collective people work to support one another. It is virtually impossible to explore and develop plans to support children and young people’s wellbeing without looking at the whole picture. With half of all mental illness beginning by the age of 14, its gonna take a village, a town, a community to work together to support one another better. Shockingly, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds.

From speaking to members of the community, the overwhelming comments where that people do like to connect with one another. Slow down and take time to notice.

Just talk. Connect. Take notice.

Share stuff and be kind to people.

Check in with your neighbours, the ones that you see and the ones that you don’t.

#Worldmentalhealthday