Lots of things happening here. I’m mostly busy with our forthcoming African trip. Feelings are quite mixed at the moment – I am really excited about it but I also feel a bit nervous whether we’ll manage to arrange everything before we set off.
I sat to write today’s post with mixed feelings, too. My little son came back from the kindergarten with a sparkly blue nail polish the other day. He’s absolutely ecstatic about it and likes to show it to everyone around. Do I like it? Hell, no (blue nail polish, you’ve got to be kidding me)! Am I happy about it? Hell, yes (everything that makes my cute two year old happy makes me happy, too)! So, that was the other day. Yesterday, when I went to pick him, he was wearing one of those pink girl makeover dresses. Did I like it? Hell, no (a pink dress, you’ve got to be kidding me). Was I happy for him? Oh, yes! He was feeling really special and beautiful!
I also felt happy for another reason. I want my boys to grow up in a society where it is OK to be a boy and be appreciated for who you are even if you wear an ugly blue nail polish and a pink dress (and of course, I know that this is probably not a very good picture of the society in general but the kindergarten folks are a mini society on their own, so my excitement still counts).
And with this happy feeling (and minus the pink dress) we went to the newly-opened mega giga super mall (I’m sure that they’ll soon coin it ‘the biggest mall above the polar circle’ or whatever), where among thousands of hungry customers we were given building maps by orange-dressed teenage girls (no Halloween associations intended). And I was even happier to see that there was a breastfeeding room shown on the map. Well, breastfeeding in public is not uncommon here but there might be those who want more seclusion, so cheers for the idea. What put me off, though, was the sign drawn next to the breastfeeding room. It was not the quite recognizable symbol of a breastfeeding mother and child.
Instead, it was a picture of a baby bottle. I didn’t find the room in question and didn’t see what sign they had put on the door (I could hardly see anything but someone’s hair in my face) but I am quite sure that they had used the same sign on the door of the room as well.
And before someone jumps and defends the sign by saying that it’s a reference to a baby being fed, I will argue back and insist that it’s an euphemism for a more socially accepted type of feeding a baby in public. And I am sure that those who came up with it did not have an evil scenario in their minds. What is simply shows is how stereotypes and metaphors are being created and perpetuated even with the best of intentions.
I’ll check the door once I get back to this overcrowded place and if the symbol on it is still a baby bottle, I’ll write a nice letter to the management of the mall and explain my concerns about it. Because small gestures and the messages that they convey matter more than we consciously are able to admit.