How pyjamas galvanised me into action against sexism… sort of

I’ve been meaning to write a blog about this all week – since, in fact, International Women’s Day. But it’s only now that I’ve managed to make the time to, because I am incensed. 

I have been looking for some new pyjamas. I would like pyjamas with a superhero on them. Having searched high and low for pyjamas with superheros on them I can find only two items that fit the bill. What is more disconcerting, however, is what else I found. Here is a representative sample from missimo.com:

Bambi, Little Miss Naughty, TINKERBELL????????

I don’t want to sleep in that. Those are not, will not, and should never be characters with which I identify. The only reference made in the available sleepwear to a strong female character is She-Ra… who let’s face it is only famous for being the kickass sister of He-Man. 

This isn’t a criticism of missimo.com. No no, this isn’t even a criticism of the availability of super-hero themed sleepwear. It goes so much deeper than that. The reason I can’t find the pyjamas I want is the same reason I spent my childhood running through the forests pretending to be Robin Hood or Peter Pan: there are very few strong female role models in popular culture. There were even fewer around when I was growing up, but it’s still true today.

Sticking to superheroes – look at the X-men. True, there are strong female X-men, take Jean Gray for example…but she wasn’t strong enough to contain her power when she became Phoenix. The strongest X-men are all men: Professor X, Magneto, Wolverine, Cyclops – the women always play second fiddle, they never shine as independent characters in their own right.

There has been an increase in stronger role-models in recent years but, let’s face it, lots of them are written to be precocious and annoying in some sort of twisted anticipation of the expected reaction to their anomalous existence. Why is it that it is still not accepted that women can be as strong, capable, analytical or brave as men? Why do male characters still predominate in lead roles? Is sexism still so very pervasive?

This International Women’s Day I was struck by how much strength women have gained in the Middle East over the course of the recent uprisings – or at least that’s what we’re seeing in the UK press. The progress made in these areas of the world are in stark contrast to those countries where IWD is used as an excuse to pat women on the head for being good little girls, like Russia: http://slate.me/iinZFa, where respect for strong women seems to have died entirely, signalling a massive backwards step in the fight for sexual equality.

Aside from these weirdly terrifying distortions of the tradition, IWD is still a strange beast. Although at its best I celebrate it, it galvanises and heartens me, I long for the day when we will no longer need it. Only in those times will we truly have equality. And some kickass superhero pyjamas that I’ll want to buy.
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