A mother’s place is in the wrong, doubly so if, like me, you’re a feminist mother of boys. Barely a day goes by when I’m not dreaming up new ways to emasculate my mini patriarchs.
Whether it’s buying them the wrong-coloured Kinder Surprise eggs or cunningly slipping "girl" words, such as “music” and “sunshine” into everyday conversation, I’m always coming up with tactics for disrupting the natural pink-and-blue order of things.
One of the worst examples of this occurred when I was potty-training my eldest two. For this, I didn’t just use a normal potty – I used a pink one, largely because I got it cheap from Asda. Furthermore, when they weren’t sitting on said potty, waiting for “something to happen”, my sons wore pink Disney Princess pull-ups (chosen by them, I hasten to add, on the basis that the toddler on the “girl” packet was wearing fairy wings, whereas the toddler on the “boy” packet was wingless).
At this stage, my sons remain too young for me to know the long-term effects of such callous disregard for their innate manliness. In my defence, one could argue that potty-training itself – since it is about wee and poo – remains an inherently masculine pursuit (girls, as we know, are too feminine to defecate; one merely teaches them to powder their noses). In any case, the fact remains that the colour pink I chose was wrong, as was, I’m now finding out, allowing my sons to sit down to wee.
If sexist potty-training products are a must, the one I’d like would be the one that enables me to 'potty-train like a lady' – that is, without having to deal with any actual wee or poo
“Grow your boy like a men!” is the grammatically dubious proclamation accompanying the froggy potty for boys, a mini urinal that prepares boys for full-on man-weeing by getting them to piss in a frog’s mouth. “Don’t let your boy pee like a girl!” parents are urged, hinting at the possible links between low pay and leaving down the seat.
With one as-yet untrained son left, it’s not too late for me to mend my ways. I could get one of these, thereby promoting just the kind of weeing that produces a Bear Grylls or a Russell Crowe. I could even purchase the accompanying portable potty urinal for walking and camping, allowing my youngest to wee in what appears to be the trunk of a stoically smiling elephant.
There is, surely, something to be said for encouraging correct aim early on? Then again, pissing on the floor and leaving it for your wife or girlfriend to clean up is peak manliness, so you’d want to make sure your boys didn’t try too hard. It’s all a bit of a minefield (extreme sport idea: stand-up pissing in a minefield).
Products such as the froggy potty are, of course, a symptom both of fragile masculinity and of backlash politics. And, as symptoms go, they’re better than an increase in male violence or female objectification. At least we can make fun of the potty, then move on (back to the bogstandard potty, which doubles up as a seat for CBeebies-watching in the long, long hours between wees).
But, really, if sexist potty-training products are a must, the one I’d like would be the one that enables me to “potty-train like a lady” – that is, without having to deal with any actual wee or poo. Scraping faeces from toddler underpants isn’t what I’d call feminine.
Something tells me, however, that it’ll be a long time before the patriarchy gives a shit about that.