This week I needed to purchase some new toys for a Playgroup I run. ‘That’s easy’, I thought, as I headed to the nearest toy store. Now, I should add, that my children are all adults and I don’t have grandchildren. The various Parenting Consultant positions I’ve held over the past 14 years have all come with fully set up rooms. So, it’s been a long time since I’ve been in a toy store! Frankly, I must say that I was horrified at the sexism and consumerism I was confronted with. Aisles and aisles of pink toys for girls and blue/ green for boys. And, the vast majority of toys had TV/ movie characters on them as logos. Is this what we want for our children – to be pigeon holed into gender based stereotypes, and to be on the consumer trail from 2 years of age?
The pink, ‘girl stuff’’ was basically projecting images of demure, delicate, gentle children, and many toys were of a domestic nature. The ‘boy toys’ projected toughness adventure and, with bold or military colours.
This push towards ‘girly pink’ or a ‘baby blue’ for boys, begins at birth. No, actually, it begins prior to birth when many parents want to know the gender of the child so that they can decorate the room pink or blue. (And yes, I know there are many other reasons why parents want to know the gender). Then once baby arrives often gifts are received, and again the parents have the gender of the child defined by colour , with pink and blue as predominate.
When I was presenting on this topic years ago in Sydney, I conducted a small experiment. I went to a card store and randomly picked 3 ‘girl’ cards and 3 ‘boy’ cards for new babies. I also went to a popular chain store and again randomly picked 3 clothing items for both newborn boys and girls. I took it to the group I was presenting at, and asked the parents what they noticed. Their comments were that the ‘girl’ cards all showed pictures of gentle, delicate babies surrounded by lace and the babies were often asleep ie with messages of being easy to care for, and compliant. The ‘girl’ clothes were pink, or soft, pastel colours, with lace, frills or with pictures of butterflies and flowers on them. The boys cards showed babies riding a toy pony, climbing a ladder to get his bottle, and crawling around ie being adventurous and bold. The ‘boy’ clothes had basically no baby ‘softness’ about them. They were all strong bold colours – red, black, dark blue, khaki, and had pictures on them of ‘being tough’ or bold.
So what’s wrong with wearing pink if you are a girl, or blue if you are a boy – in itself, nothing! And colour isn’t the problem. The problem is the underhand way in which parents and children are ‘led’ to be something or someone, based on their gender. Yes, we’ve come a long way. I believe there is still a way to go. So, dress your girl in and colour, don’t be led by stereotypes. And ditto for boys!
Paint or decorate your child’s room in a colour regardless of their gender, and give both girls and boys the access to dolls and cooking, blocks and cars – who knows where the next Masterchef, Architect or Fashion Designer is!
This quote seems to add to my words:
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Pablo Picasso. Just ensure s/he is given more than one colour to paint with”
Image by janetmck via Flickr