3 articles Tag Pink

The Pronoun Game

We’re still at that stage where we can’t walk more than 10 feet without someone sticking their head into the pram and cooing over BB, which obviously becomes exponentially worse in Waitrose because the main demographic of shoppers is already drawing a pension and therefore are drawn to small babies like a fly to the proverbial ‘you know what’. It’s sweet that people are so nice and want to pass on that positivity, even if answering the same 3 questions (“Yes, she’s very little.” “She’ll be 6 weeks on Monday” “She sleeps brilliantly for a newborn, yes”) does get a little tiresome at times.

But today, I went renegade. I battled against conformity and threw everyone through a loop. I took BB out dressed…IN BLUE! This, so be specific:

IMG_20140317_145212

It’s a hand-knitted cardie that used to belong to Sausage and she was wearing it with a red babygrow,

I immediately noticed a change.

“OH! Isn’t she beautiful!” instead became “OH! Isn’t your baby lovely!”

Because, by dressing her in blue, I somehow seem to have challenged the gender perceptions of the septuagenarian population of Essex. They could see the pink blanket, my very pink changing bag but the addition of blue knitwear made everyone err on the side of caution. It made me think about MY perception of gender. If I saw a baby dressed head-to-toe in pink, I’d automatically assume it was female, but would a parent not have as much right to dress a little boy in pink, as I do to dress BB in blue?

I’m constantly telling Sausage that pink isn’t just for girls, girls can play with cars and Meccano if they want to. Just yesterday, Husband and I were telling her what it is to be transgender and that some people may appear to physically be one gender but actually feel like they’re something completely different. But how can I expect my daughter to understand gender issues when I buy into them myself?

And then, it occurred to me.

The reason people play the pronoun game is so as not to cause offence. People say ‘your baby’ or ‘they’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’ because they think it would be rude to guess wrongly at a baby’s gender. But…why? I guess parental pride could play a part, plenty of parents would find it offensive if someone guessed wrongly at the gender of their little darling, but that seems crazy to me. Sure, some babies really do look overtly masculine or feminine, but let’s face it, most of them are fairly neutral.

We need to stop treating gender as some hot-button of embarrassment and quit being so ridiculous about it. Dress your boys in pink and your girls in blue – colours shouldn’t automatically signify gender, they should be accessible to all, and when a myopic old lady calls your little dude “she”, laugh it off. It’s really not the end of the world, is it?!

What do you think? Would you be cross if someone got your child’s gender wrong? Do you dress your baby in the ‘wrong’ colours for its gender? Let me know!

Shrink It and Pink It

Being a child of the 80’s and 90’s, I was around when Meccano was going through a period of popularity and I vividly remember thinking how awesome it looked, and how I wished I was a boy so that I could play with it. The marketing was entirely masculine and I’m pretty sure that I was discouraged from asking Father Christmas to bring me some because it was ‘a boys toy’. Girls didn’t play with Meccano and I thought I must have been really weird for wanting to play with it, when all of my female friends wanted to play with Barbies.

Just recently, Husband and I toyed with the idea of getting a NERF Blaster for Sausage (I’m not going to get into a debate about kids playing with guns here, it’s personal choice, mmmkay?) and although we opted for something else (mostly because they’re pretty expensive and we’d already spent an arm and a leg on presents!), it never occurred to us to not buy her one because they’re marketed at boys.

Just recently, we noticed a new range of NERF products available, their ‘Rebelle’ range. Husband astutely commented that they’d probably been made off the back of The Hunger Games, as they’re kind of ‘bow and arrow’ style NERF guns, but I was actually pretty annoyed at the whole thing. NERF has obviously decided it wants to expand its appeal to girls, so this is what they’ve done:

Nerf Rebelle

I’m more than a little bit sick of the ‘shrink it and pink it’ attitude that toy companies and marketers apply to anything that’s aimed at girls – not only is it massively patronising, it’s perpetuating the myth that some toys are for girls and some toys are for boys. Surely a toy is a toy and if a child wants to play with it, gender is inconsequential? Also, by making the Rebelle range, are NERF saying that boys should reject anything pink? Just as there will be girly girls who love pink and overtly masculine boys who’d reject anything that isn’t boyish enough, there will be girls who don’t give a toss about pretty pink things and boys who gravitate towards them.

If Sausage happens to ask for something for Christmas, I certainly wouldn’t stop her from having it if it’s something that’s been deemed ‘boys only’ by the adverts, nor will I stop the new baby, should it be a boy, from playing of any of Sausage’s pink things. Male/female stereotypes are wildly outdated now – when my grandparents were little, it was fair to say that the majority of women stayed at home and did the cooking while the men worked, tinkered with cars, etc, so in those days toys for girls would have been dolls, ironing boards, toy food, so that little girls could emulate their Mums and boys would get cars and fire engines, to be like their Dads. These days, I know many men who consider themselves ‘foodies’ and the best mechanic I know is Husband’s Aunt.

It’s a real chicken and egg situation – Sausage loves pink thinks, but is that because she actually loves pink things, or that those are the things which are marketed directly at her? Surely, the only way we’re going to get around this gender stereotyping and division is if we start showing girls playing with Meccano (and NOT the pink sets of Meccano that they’ve made, either…) and boys pushing prams. Perhaps if kids were to see these things, there would be more acceptance of the interchangeable nature of gender and roles in the 21st century – perhaps then, girls who wanted to play with cars wouldn’t automatically be branded ‘tom boys’ and little boys who wanted to play with a dolly wouldn’t be automatically assumed to be girly, or gay, or any other ridiculous label.

The best way to make change in society is to normalise things to children – it wouldn’t occur to children to question which toys they should be playing with if they see play with all kinds of toys as normal or gender neutral. It could give children the freedom to be themselves and express themselves through play however they damn well want to, and I genuinely believe this could help them grow into well-rounded adults in the process. I’m not, for one second, saying that we should take Barbie away from girls and give them to boys, and vice versa, but I think there should be a choice, and not a choice that’s influenced or dictated by what kids are told that they’re supposed to like.

What do you think? Do your kids play with only gender-specific toys and if so, why? Do you think it’s a positive thing to market girls versions of things in pink, or should toys be accessible to all? Most of all, do you think that it’s important to define gender and set boundaries accordingly? Let me know.

Welcome, Barbara Millicent Roberts.

We’ve bought Sausage a Barbie.

If any of you remember this post, that may come as something of a shock.

was going to call this post “We Caved”, but actually we didn’t. Caving in would mean we put no thought into the matter and just blindly allowed our daughter to manipulate us with her childish covetousness. But this isn’t how it went down.

Sausage had been talking about Barbie for a while, she’s seen her friends with them and she’s quite a girly girl, so it was only natural that she wanted one. Husband and I had told her that Barbie was rubbish, in the hope that this would quell her desire for one. It was only after we saw her light up when a Barbie advert came on, then turn to us trying to hide her glee and say “Barbie is rubbish, isn’t it?” that we realised how selfish we were being.

A few months ago, around Christmas I think, a Barbie film came on the telly and I let Sausage watch it. It was actually quite immersive and I was just as gripped as she was. I didn’t tell Husband at the time, partly as I thought he’d be annoyed and partly because I was annoyed with myself. Then, during the February half term, I got a phone call at work from a very guilty sounding Husband who said “I just had to tell you…I’m letting Sausage watch Barbie”. I heard the film playing in the background and said “Yes, Barbie Charm School, the one where they get locked in the vault…”. DOH! Talk about dropping myself in it, but I should never have kept it from him in the first place. Turns out, we were basically on the same page on the matter anyway.

As I said, we’ve ummed and ahhed and reasoned with ourselves over whether to let her have a Barbie and we came to the conclusion that, yes, she can have a Barbie.

It makes her happy. All of the ‘unhealthy body image’ ‘Barbie is a bimbo’ ‘it’s too overtly feminine’ is stuff that we’re throwing into the game. We decided to just let it be what it is; a little girl wanting to play with a dolly. And I’m standing by that.

It also helps that, further to my previous post about Barbie aiming a bit higher, it’s now possible to buy the ‘Barbie…I Can Be’ range which includes a vet, an architect, a teacher, paleantologist, nurse, doctor, computer engineer and racing driver alongside ballerina, lifeguard, bride and movie star. Now that’s what I call progress!