End of year ramblings: Living in a gendered society

I am going to have a moment or two of self-indulgence as I write this Blog and reflect on some of the things I have been pondering this year. As ever it has been an action packed year not only did I move out of London (and so am now a proper commuter). I also made my first visit to South America and feel privileged to have been editor of Evidence Based Nursing (EBN) for another year.

One of the things that saddens me as we approach the end of 2014 is that we still appear to live in a gendered world. The Church of England might have moved forward in relation to gender equality by agreeing to ordain women as bishops but society as a whole still has a long way to go. I had lunch with a couple of friends earlier this month – we have known each other just over 20 years and have all had relatively successful careers but none of us have had children. The question one of them posed was whether or not we would have achieved what we had if we had had children. I suspect the answer is no – as women with children we would probably have made different life choices. Even in 2014 it is difficult to juggle motherhood and a career. Paradoxically some people still seem to think that a woman not having children is abnormal (see for example: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/9847642/Helen-Mirren-confronts-the-final-female-taboo.html). Did I expect to be approaching my 50th birthday and not have children – no. Do I regret the choices I have made along the way – no.

Another example illustrating that we still live in a gendered world was when during a family holiday to Center Parcs in May my 3 year old nephew went to a fairy and wizards activity. The people leading the activity were upset that he wanted to be a fairy (like his sister and two female cousins). As someone who was brought up 40 years ago on “William wants a doll” (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lshobg1Wt2M) I find it hard to believe that a 3½ year old boy wanting to dress up as a fairy is still an issue.

It also appears to me that despite recent changes the English childcare courts favour the mother even if dad has been main carer – again providing evidence that we are still a gendered society. There seems to be a general assumption that young children should always stay with the mother when a couple split up. This may be true most of the time but it is not always the case. As someone who spends a significant time looking at what the evidence says my question is: surely it would be better to look at the evidence on a child by child basis rather than assuming the mother is best person to have custody?

So as we look ahead to 2015 let’s take some time to reflect on what our gender assumptions are and endeavour to move to a place where people are judged for who they are rather than be categorised by gender (or some other label).

I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to EBN over the last year by, for example, subscribing to the journal, taking part in our Twitter Chat or reading our Blog. As a nurse I feel very lucky to have two weeks holiday over Christmas. My thoughts will be with those of you working over the festive period.

Alison Twycross

Editor: Evidence Based Nursing

Head of Department for Children’s Nursing and Reader in Children’s Pain Management, London South Bank University

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