Pink is for girls.
I’ve written about this a little bit before – when I was musing about toys in particular in my post ‘different toys for girls and boys‘ and honestly that post opened up a whole world of ideas and thoughts and questions in my busy brain.
So many thoughts that it’s difficult to extract them one by one and write them down but I will give it a go. I apologise in advance for going off at tangents!
Gender stereotypes exist in our culture. They have ALWAYS existed. Will they always continue to do so? The nature of said stereotypes have varied from culture to culture at different times. There have been matriarchal societies and patriarchal societies with each gender fulfilling different roles and therefore the gender stereotyping in that particular culture has reflected this.
Yikes I feel like I am back in cultural studies at Uni, or worse my boring Sociology A level!
Our culture has a long history of the subordination of women. Of women not having equal rights to men. We have thankfully come a long long way forward with this and many things are much more equal now. But, even with the increased freedom and the rights that women have, we still have Gender Stereotypes. There are still ‘manly’ things and ‘girly’ things. It starts when you are tiny. Pink and Blue. Cars or Dolls. Etc.
There’s a part of me that rebels against this, and as I have mentioned in my previous post Monkey plays with all sorts of toys, girly or otherwise. His bedroom is yellow. We don’t want to stereotype him. BUT we dress him in trousers and not skirts. Some of his clothes have dinosaurs or trucks on them because that is what is sold as ‘boy’ clothing. If we have a little girl I’m sure she’ll wear a lot of his hand me downs (to save money) but no doubt she will have some prettier things too.
There was an article not too long ago about parents who dressed a little boy in a Tutu and said they were trying to raise him as ‘gender neutral.’ Part of me thinks ‘good for you’ while another part of me feels sorry for the little boy, because is it really possible to raise your child in a gender neutral way, when the society we live in is not gender neutral? Is it fair on them to expose them to potential ridicule by parts of society rather than to protect them from it?
I am all for men and women working having the same rights. I am all for stay at home dads or working mums, of female CEOs and male nursery nurses (I am just coming up with some random examples here). No I don’t like stereotypes that pigeon hole people, I don’t want Monkey growing up in a world where something ‘girly’ is bad. I don’t want him thinking that girls are less intelligent than boys (as a SAHM I worry about his female role models) or that boys are less caring or sensitive than girls. My hope is that I can nurture him so he feels he can be whatever he ‘wants’ to be, rather than what society tells him he should be.
But it’s not entirely up to me. I can’t keep him cocooned in a world of my making. He watches TV and will read books and magazines that portray the stereotypes I hate. He interacts with other children who have their parents’ values. I know of parents who use the gender stereotype of ‘boys will be boys’ to gloss over the fact that they are aggressive or hit other children. Or on the flip side when a girl turns on the taps at the slightest knock and are immediately cuddled and cooed over because they are a girl.
I don’t want monkey to be aggressive or over-sensitive. He usually laughs when he falls over (unless he really hurts himself) and he is learning that hitting is always wrong – even if someone else hit you first. But it isn’t my place to enforce my values on other parents and their children. (Who even says that I am right and they are wrong? I certainly don’t know for certain!) Everyone has to do what they believe is right and because of the gender stereotypes embedded in our culture, many parents teach their children (maybe even unintentionally?) that they are correct. I can try and teach him why I believe them to be wrong, but I can’t choose what he believes or decide his opinions for him.
Should our society even be gender neutral? Men and Women are different. Our bodies and physiology are different. In the broadest terms we do have ‘different’ skills. Men are often physically stronger than most women. Women have the physical ability to produce children and breastfeed. We are physically different, and men and women are ‘said’ to have different cognitive abilities. Such as multi-tasking, or spacial awareness (though of course things like this vary from person to person and can’t always be simplified down to one gender does this, another does this. maybe that’s the point?). We are different so why not celebrate that and be proud of the gender we are?
I also wonder where it ends, should we all wear the same androgynous clothing? Have the same haircuts? Should none of us (men or women) wear clothes that flatter our figures? Should we not care about looking nice? That opens up a whole other avenue of thoughts and do we only care about looking nice because of the objectification of bodies and the sexualisation of our culture and I guess the two are linked but I won’t go down that road for now!
I rejoice at the small steps taken by groups such as “Let toys be toys” which tries to take away some of the gender stereotyping that influences our children from such a young age. But I feel that these are just tiny chinks in a huge wall that will take many years to knock down. I also worry about what happens when the wall is down? What are we left with?
I don’t know the answers and if I’m honest what I think about it isn’t really fully formed. i guess some kind of middle ground… but what would that consist of and who decides?
Interesting debate though eh? What do you think? Is pink for girls?