It became apparent to me, after the recent birth of my rather squishy moonfaced baby brother, how bad gender stereotyping is amongst almost every aspect of a child’s life. My stepmum was the first to run to Mothercare and buy everything blue the second she found out she was having a boy, even refusing to buy the super cute giraffe onesie that I picked out because yellow is for girls- personally, I thought yellow was more for the school nurse’s sick bowl coloured office, but maybe times have changed. Or maybe girls make her feel sick. Let’s leave the analogy at that. Although I guess this wasn’t that surprising considering she decided to reject feminism a while ago (despite being a kick ass woman in the world of hotels) as she felt she ‘didn’t need it’ and I fear the same closedminded thought track will be passed down to her son.
But how? And it’s a good question because of course we don’t naturally adopt all our parents views, especially if they’re as subtle as a distaste for Germaine Greer, but this is where it gets scary. In Mothercare the clothes are laid out in catagories: boys, girls and (I think) baby (which always confuses me because are they saying that babies surpass gender and can just dress like the White Queen from Alice in Wonderland for the next 12 months?) Instead of giving parents a choice about what they can dress their children in shops are telling them that those super cool sparkly pink ballet pumps that you really want to buy simply do not belong on a boy because they are in the section for girls. Granted, they’re probably ridiculously overpriced and you could be glad that the rather helpful signs have just saved you £24 if you’re not focusing on the fact they’re a huge invasion of self-expression and overall a bit stupid. Why are we telling kids what to wear? It would be way more practical to put all babies in dresses, unlike the faux corduroy babygrows my 4 week old brother wears that have such a complicated system of poppers that you end up sticking his leg through the armhole and putting it on back to front- by the time you’ve dressed him properly it’s time for another nappy change. It seems unfair for everyone involved.
It’s not just clothes either, I was in *cough cough I am middle class I promise* Wilkinson the other day and the variation in toys aimed at children of different genders this Christmas was unbelievable. For boys: plastic ambulances, police helicopters, wrestling figures and, possibly the most shocking, figurines with guns. For girls: plastic babies, prams, red riding hood costumes and of course the mandatory Elsa from Frozen doll, granted this shop doesn’t label which gender belongs to which but the sea of pink on one side of the shelf and images of boys dressed as superheroes on the other kind of gives their game away. Their website isn’t as bad as Mothercare, at least they categorise based on the features of the toys instead of on the children that will use them, yet they’re still implying girls should be the maternal homemakers while the boys fight crime and kick ass.
Why do we even bother to control children in the first place? Sometimes it feels like we influence our next generation in this way in order to maintain gender roles because we fear what would happen without them- I mean, obviously all hell would break loose if we stopped giving 4 year olds prams to push around (to me this always seems like the equivalent of letting them play with tampons) and gave them the option to have a nerf gun that wasn’t luminous pink instead.
Thankfully, some companies are taking the initiative and changing this madness, Target announced a few months ago that they’d rid their shops of this ridiculous signage and yesterday Toys R Us released that they were following suit. I like to think that soon the process of gift buying for children will be a lot like popping down to your local Tesco for the weekly food shop: you park your car, enter the shop, pick up a basket, find your desired aisle e.g. Dress Up, Hobby Horses, Plastic Domestic Appliances and buy your product. No hassle, no stress- no little lost granny stood in the middle of the store weeping because she can’t cope with Christmas shopping unless she knows which toys her grandson is allowed to play with (apparently this is a genuine counter argument! Why should it be our children’s problem that you’re too scared to ask where the Barbies are? How come these poor souls manage to buy their sausages every week without being told how much of a vagina they have to have to be able to buy them? On reflection, that sounds way cheekier than it was supposed to. Let’s move Taylor Swiftly on.)
But you can easily see the point. Every day everyone makes purchases without society telling them whether it’s acceptable or not yet we deny our children of the same choice. We have to put the fun back in playtime and shops are a brilliant place to start- after all, if they can trigger a change then the public will be in a better position to pressure adverts, TV programmes, catalogue images and general parenting attitudes to follow the feminist lead. I can only hope that one day we’ll live in a world where a boy dressed as Tinkerbel and a girl with a toolbox that isn’t pink/sparkly/actually-a-makeup-box-in-disguise is the norm.
Teamales if you liked this post, which I hope you did because it certainly liked you, please give it a cheeky like, comment or follow. Thank you for reading!