When I was a few years old, my godfather liked to spoil me: he always asked me what I would like to get the next time we met. At the time, I loved watching Colonel Wolodyjowski, (a historical drama based on the Ottoman-Polish war) and my biggest dream was to be like the main female character, Baśka Jeziorkowska. Krzysia was lovely, but ‘Hajduczek’ had character and used weapons well, so I asked for a sword. The day I got it was one of the most unpleasant days of my life. So many people were surprised that I, a girl, wanted to play with something like that. I was flooded with a shame that burned like boiling water.
The one positive of this story is that it was the only time I ever felt this way as a child. I was lucky to be raised by two feminists. My parents worked as reporters, had a good co-parenting system in place, and in the evenings I fell asleep to the knock of two identical “Łucznik” typewriters. My father always wanted a daughter, but not because he expected her to serve him water when he was old. Neither ever told me that I should not have done something because I was a girl. My father would take me to the forest and let me run barefoot and teach me not to be afraid of beetles and worms. Even though my mother was a stickler, when she let me out to play in the yard, she would never say: “don’t get dirty,” which I always did.
Therefore, I initially found it hard to understand the difference in how girls and boys are treated, and how much it affects the lives of both men and women. Patriarchy doesn’t only hurt women, although it certainly affects them more painfully. I like to quote Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian Nobel Prize winner, who used to say that patriarchy is like haemophilia: women are both victims and carriers. I bear this in mind while raising my children.
When Staś was born, less than seven years ago, I did not think about raising him in the spirit of equality, but as he grew older, I saw more and more clearly how necessary it was. I do not want him to hurt women in the future, nor do I want him to suffer in a corset of the idiotic expectations placed on men (that they should not show emotions, for example).
It started with the hair. Staś always had long hair–at first because I liked it this way, later because Mowgli from the The Jungle Book did too. Finally, he just got used to it, and under no circumstances would he allow anyone to touch it. At most, he agrees to have his sides shaved; he has ‘feathers’ down to his waist in the back! Ever since it started, I have been telling him with the stubbornness of a maniac that there are no girly or boyish things, and anyone who makes such distinctions is an intellectual embarrassment.
When I was deciding which pre-school he would go to, the deciding factor was the fact that they had a male teacher there. My son was later on surprised that not all pre-schools had men as teachers. As well, I never had a problem with colours: when he chose a pink backpack with Masha and the Bear as a three-year-old, I said: “Son, it is beautiful!” He took it to his pre-school for two years, before giving it to his sister: I guess social pressure worked a little bit.
I always try to remember my experience: the biggest influence on a child is what they see in their own home. That is why I adjust loose screws at home and I put together toys and smaller furniture for my kids. I always have a jack-knife in my purse (I got it from my father a few years ago), which I use to cut flowers, peel apples, and once, during a holiday trip, I used it to fix a radio in a car. I pour the washer fluid in the car myself, and recently I unscrewed the old toilet lid and put a new one on. I teach my son how to climb trees, light a fireplace, and cut branches with a knife. I work, I make money and I make my own decisions. I have my passions and my social life. I work in a women's organization, and I am the head of our neighbourhood council. Since I am divorced, I go on dates sometimes. My son knows about all this, and as a result he cannot comprehend how anyone can think that men and women are not equal.
I show him different women and different men. I am pleased that he will always associate the Nobel prize with Olga Tokarczuk, and on the other hand, we talked a lot about Janusz Korczak being caring and sensitive towards children. At home, we have fusty, idyllically illustrated books about Martynka, and a fairy tale about Princess Elizabeth, who defeated a dragon to rescue her lover, but he turned out to be a scumbag, so she did not marry him. Recently, Staś asked me to vote for Szymon Hołownia because he has a “cool wife” who is a fighter pilot (my son has also seen me me fly a sailplane).
When the fantastic book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women was published, Lusia was tiny, but I bought it for her for when she was older. But I caught myself thinking: why should it be a book just for my daughter? So I started reading it to Staś. I remember explaining to him while reading the story of Elizabeth Tudor, that in her reign it was believed that only men could rule the world. “People who thought that were not very smart,” Staś said. No, they were not, son, but you are: you’re not offended when someone says you look like a girl, because you do not see anything offensive about it.
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