Busy times for us both at the moment because, as well as everything else going on in our lives, we are working on the first draft of our second book. Generally, this seems to involve occasionally meeting up for coffee and comparing notes on how much (or how little!) we have done and promising to try harder before the next meeting. We work very well together as writers, dividing up the chapters to write and then getting together to give each other critical feedback and make sure that what we have written flows.
Whereas as our first book focused on approaches to research in early childhood, the second is looking at the often contentious area of gender issues in early childhood. It’s always problematic writing about gender as you can easily tie yourself up in knots and start to talk in stereotypical ways without meaning to; as the seminal gender theorist Connell warns (2011, p. ix): ‘The issues are explosive and tangled, the chances of going astray are good’.
Once you begin thinking about gender, it’s difficult to stop and can colour everything you see. We think about conversations with our predominantly female students and the breadth of responsibilities they have working with young children, yet how little they are rewarded financially and how much of their goodwill is taken for granted. We think about the media highlighting the ‘female’ leadership response of Jacinda Ardern following the terrible terrorist attacks in New Zealand and wonder why this has to be seen as a gendered response. We also think about the disastrous Brexit negotiations in the UK context and wonder, as one of our students said, ‘I don’t agree with Theresa May’s politics, but do you think there is some gender bullying going on?’ In her wonderful book ‘Of Women in the Twenty-First Century’ Shami Chakrabarti describes the post referendum meeting between May and Trump when he ‘grabbed and patted the hand of Britain’s second woman prime minister and she allowed him to do it….It was a sad day…’(p.23).
What is the connection between all these instances? Connell (2016) encourages us to see how gender issues on a micro level impact on those on a macro level and vice versa. For example there is a connection between gendered issues such as femicide, militarisation and ‘the erosion of women’s rights’ on the one hand and every day issues of ‘intimate relationships, [and] personal identities’ (p.4) on the other. If this is so, we can see the link between Trump holding May’s hand and the status of the underpaid, predominantly female sector who work so hard to improve outcomes for young children.
Please contribute to our conversation about gender as we work on our book; we appreciate your insights.