I recently attended the Victorian Anti-Bias Book Launch on March 17th 2017, where the speakers spoke about identity and how they identify themselves. Hearing these stories encouraged me to do some internal reflection of my own.
My head filled with questions. Do I speak with prejudice and if I do, why? What has caused the prejudice? Am I a product of the society I try so hard to defy and challenge?
I think now is the time and forum to explain my personal and professional identities. I want to do this to empower others that have similar thoughts and feelings about their own identity. I want to discuss what I understand about my own human experience – that the human experience is one of multiplicities, complexities, challenges and joys.
I am hoping to give you a peek into my little universe.
I am Jess, born into a girl body and treated as such. In 1981, I was a home birth, born with complications. At 3 days of age, I had a fit, diagnosed as idiopathic epilepsy. When my mum recounts this story, I see the sadness in her eyes – the sadness is due to the way she was treated by nurses in the hospital. They told her that I would be brain dead for the rest of my life and it was all her fault for having a home birth. I believe my mum’s experience of my birth has influenced my caring nature and willingness and desire to help others.
At 18 months, I hit my head on a table and had the last fit I would ever have. My father, who is also amazing, studied naturopathy and worked with computers. My mum studied and practiced massage and was a secretary. Growing up with parents who had split interests and careers had a huge influence in shaping who I am and how I live today.
This identifies me as a daughter. As an adult, I also identify as a ‘tomboy’, a wife and even a hippy! Reflecting on my life and seriously looking at all the influences that have set me on my path has been a really healthy and empowering tool both personally and professionally.
Professionally it gives me hope that the children I have direct influence on are able to reflect on their own identity when they need it. I believe knowing yourself is half the battle and if I can help equip children to be critically reflective and resilient then I feel I have succeeded.
Within my workplace I try and challenge the female stereotype by having a woodwork space and being visible doing more ‘out of the box’ things like rough and tumble play. Work is a place where I reflect on identity a lot. I understand that identity is complex and fluid.
I believe that anti-bias should be embedded in our early childhood education programs. I believe it should be our ‘every day’ practice.
In my everyday practice, I try to challenge children, regardless of gender, ability, age and race, to use tools and challenge their sense of risk. Climb that tree, use that hammer, wear that dress, be that superhero. I truly believe anyone can be anything they want to be. I want children to be strong and have confident identities.
My mantra with the children is ‘be proud, be powerful’.