One of my forms of activism takes place in the childcare centre I work at. I challenge biases, encourage diversity, and try my best to treat the children equally. I’ve been teaching my toddlers some basic sign language (please, thank you, numbers, alphabet), and I like to say things like “Some people have two mummies or two daddies” to the Kindy children (as an aside: Kindy children are at an age where bias has seeped in, so it’s a great time to challenge).
An important part of this is using the correct names for anatomy. Of course head is head, foot is foot, ear is ear. But I also use words like: vulva, vagina, breasts, testical, penis. (I say bottom, not anus or rectum, because they all understand bottom. But, I digress).
I also try my damndest to never shame any of the children about their bodies, about nudity, or really about anything.
So you can imagine my horror when I hear one of the carers say to a PF1 toddler: “Put your pants on! No one wants to see you rudey-dudeys!”
Wow. What a way to shame! Not only are her vulva and vagina “rude”, but no one wants to see them! How dare she show her shameful body like that?
What bothers me more is that this took place in the children’s toilet, while said carer was changing said child’s nappy. Of course she wasn’t wearing pants, you’ve just taken her nappy off! How ’bout you simply put it back on instead of shaming her?
Another incident happened with a parent. We have just had two PF’s start in the centre, and one of the ways we transition children is to have them come in for a few hours with their primary caregiver/s. This was such an occasion. The father was in my room with the younger child, the mother was in the kindy room with the older child.
Father noticed that one of the PMs2 was wearing pink polish on his toenails. The conversation went like this.
Father: He’s wearing nail polish.
Me: Yes. Some of the boys here do that.
Father: What, the boys wear nail polish?
Me: Yes. There’s a boy in the kindy room who loves nail polish. We don’t discourage it.
Me: We don’t discourage it. If they want to wear nail polish, we’re not going to tell them they shouldn’t.
Father: But he’s a boy!
Other Carer: He has older sisters, I think they did this to him.
At which point I stopped trying.
1PF = Presumed Female, as in children born with a vagina and vulva.
2PM = Presumed Male, as in children born with a penis and testicles.