While on my daily hate read of a certain right-wing newspaper (to make sure I am not trapped in my own bubble) I came across one of those stories that has the danger of making me agree with the BTL readership.
Needless to say the commentariat where not entirely in agreement with what was, on more than one occasion, labelled as PCGM (political correctness gone mad).
For those not familiar with the awesomeness of Hey Duggee, it is a TV show that has given us this:
As well as this:
Not to mention referencing The African Queen, Apocalypse Now, Scooby Doo and many other moments that make it as enjoyable for parents to watch as well as children.
Today it became wrapped up in a storm over one of the characters using the term ‘fireman’. A tweet from the London Fire Brigade Greenwich took offence at the description and the impact on her two year old grandchild (as surely Grandson while being accurate is also a gendered term we should be careful about using).
Using my two dinosaurs as my own sample group, neither of them seem to have been bothered by the use of -man. In fact the Feliciraptor saw that Roly (the offending hippo in uniform) was a fireman because he wanted to be a fireman. Not that he was a fireman because he was a boy, but that he wanted to be a fireman because that was what he wanted to be.
In fact when you watch the whole episode (which as it is Hey Duggee I think you should) it is not as simple as jobs for the boys. Here is the full cast:
To recap (from left to right)
- A frog is an astronaut
- The Chickens are the Village People (remember this is a children’s show)
- The spider is a bat
- Duggee is a tennis player
- Betty (a female octopus) is a plumber, and not just any plumber but Mario
- Happy (the adopted crocodile) is a farmer
- Noreie (a female mouse) is a pirate
- Tag (the male rhino) is a knight
- Roly (the male hippo) is offensive
So the two female characters are dressed up in two traditional male costumes. Does that need explaining? No it didn’t, because children can distinguish between gender and what interests them. Or at least my two children can.
Maybe it is because we don’t force gender on them, but still refer to them as a boy and girl. The Feliciraptor is very much into dinosaurs because they interest her, and A-Rex likes brushing doll hair (as did his father).
I get it, labelling a role as -man is not helpful in the fight for equality in the workplace. Just as the term Midwife or Nanny suggests a female role and discourages boys from choosing those vocations, as children turn into teenagers they can become aware of the stereotypes.
Yet changing the name is not the battle. I can’t really believe that a job title is all that is stopping women from joining the Fire Brigade. The issue goes deeper than just the word being used and calling a TV character a Fireman rather than a Firefighter is not setting back the cause 40 years.
If one of the female characters was in the Fire Engine and used the same term would this be an issue? Surely it is a matter of showing that anyone can fulfil any role rather than the descriptive term being used.
Mrs ES is an English teacher so she knows the power of words, but even she had a momentary eye roll at this complaint. The problem is not with the episode but with the way we talk to our children and place expectations on them. Rather than taking the exception with Roly being called whatever, have the conversation that girls can be whatever they want and on this occasion they chose to be a pirate and a plumber.
You know, they chose to be what they wanted to be no matter what they were called.