Pink gendering

I am growing: I write about this differently from how I would have two days ago.

I was with parents of small children discussing potty-training, general stuff. A mother notices how rigidly gendered toys are: an art easel is either pink or blue, for goodness’ sake. Why can’t it be wooden, and wood-coloured? Fortunately, — is quite happy playing with “boy’s” or “girl’s” toys. At school, another child mocked his pink shirt, and he said, “Don’t you know, real men wear pink?” Wonderful, repartee in a six year old.

On the Tube, a woman gets on with a man and a girl. The woman clutches a cuddly toy penguin, a cuddly toy Santa, and a three foot high helium balloon with a picture of Disney’s Snow White on it.  She loses grip of Snow White, and the balloon hits the ceiling. I catch her eye and grin. “Nightmare,” she says. She pulls it down and it sticks out across the aisle to her daughter, who is sitting forward in the seat despite being told to sit back: as I watch, she caresses the plasticky surface of her balloon.

The thing I would not have written, would not have admitted, is that I was staring at that balloon with great interest and a mix of emotions. I notice the full petticoats and the shape of the pose. It is a symbol for the child, but also for me.

I absolutely agree that there is more than one way to be a girl, and that heavily stereotyped and limiting roles for girls are a bad thing: but not that Pink Stinks. By all means produce wooden easels, and encourage girls to play with chemistry sets and join the school debating team; but leave Disney Princesses alone, for me and those like me.

On the train, crowded with people standing, a man explained that there was one fewer carriage than there should be. Just to make conversation, what are you doing for Christmas? His sons are joining him. He does not know what men in their thirties have in common with him: they have all these electronic devices, and he does not understand them at all. He got off, and three women got on. I stared admiringly at one, in a long-haired fake fur pelt and a narrow headband with a row of fake pearls (large and quite spherical) surrounded by glittery stuff. The woman beside me wore a Christmas red jumper with a cartoon reindeer face on it. I commented that not everyone could carry a headband like that off, but she does, beautifully. The woman in the jumper agreed. They are off on a works night out, to see the musical Matilda and have dinner. She forgot the champagne- it was in her fridge chilling and everything. I condole. What work do you do? They work in a bank- she hopes that does not bore me, she apologises. No, not at all.

I have been in jeans too long. Sod comfort and fashion, I am wearing skirts more.

Snow White

4 thoughts on “Pink gendering

  1. I haven’t wore a skirt for ages – prefer jeans, trousers, slacks…why I even got married in a creme coloured tailored trouser suit – turned quite a few eyes – this was mid-seventies…the French tourists even made home movies of this stunt I made…totally agree about the gender stereotyping through toys and colours… not much choice there so I reckon: go with what “does it for you”. Merry Christmas, Clare!

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    • How bold of you! It was you, not your clothes, that turned the eyes. When women in the UK wore trousers in the 1940s, it was shocking, and mocked, and said to make them unattractive; and even around 2000 there were workplace dress codes requiring skirts, but those got shot down by Employment tribunals.

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  2. I love the way you write!

    I find that people are way to freaked out about what Disney princesses affect girls, or how pinkness affect girls. I was all about Disney movies, but I was also all about Dragon Ball. In fact, I had I don’t know how many barbies, and I had a biology and chemistry set. I played detective in the garden and used microscopes to look at insects. I was an only child and had the liberty to do and be who I wanted to be. While my father raised me basically agendered child, my mother (with whom I didn’t live with) pushed me into dresses and cute hairstyles. I think children are not so affected by what they see on TV or what they play with, or think that you are supposed to look like a barbie doll, they are more affected by how parents raise them and express themselves in front of them.

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    • Thank you.

      Everyone has more than one side to themselves, everyone can express ourselves “masculine” or “feminine” with more or less discomfort. I am delighted at how people seem to be more free than we were even twenty years ago, and as you say some parents want a particular result, but others are content to see what comes out. I prefer the latter.

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