I’m a girly girl. I love pink and purple; flowers and glitter. I favour twirly dresses, pretty shoes and pink fizz. I enjoy baking and decorating cupcakes. All of which, apparently, makes me a girl.
I’m also an engineer, and for the last twenty years have worked in a male dominated environment (construction), doing a ‘man’s job’.
To many, and believe me I have been asked (often), this would be a conflict; surely I must struggle to balance these two sides of my identity?
While I can understand where this question comes from, society still views a female engineer as unexpected, I truly struggle to understand the issue. My favourite colour doesn’t affect my intelligence, ability or interests anymore than the colour of my hair does…
I’m a blonde, girly, creative, crafty, engineer and project manager. And I am proud of all of that.
When it comes to my children, I hadn’t thought much about the ‘pink’ issue. I had two boys, they played with trucks and cuddly toys and enjoyed pushing a toy stroller. They both loved dressing up when they were toddlers and would often be found wearing the pink fairy dress at nursery. They liked Ben 10 and Dora. My 7yo’s favourite colour was pink until he was three.
I didn’t make any conscious decision to ‘gender’ their toys, we bought things they would like; but I did wonder if I was subconsciously influencing their likes and dislikes; and certainly friends and family would always give them ‘boy’ toys. But, it never felt like an issue.
They’re boys. We don’t worry about our boys in the same way, do we?
Then I had a girl. And, oh the pink!
For a start, girl clothes are so much more fun than boys, for a girly girl like me anyway! And, I have always dressed the wee girl in girly clothes (albeit that she wears the boys hand me down trousers!).
As for toys, well… When she was tiny she had all the boys baby toys, all fairly gender neutral, as most baby toys are. Then it was her first Christmas and first birthday, and the pink started to take over. Again, I didn’t consciously make a decision to buy her pink stuff, but to be honest, I did. As did everyone else :)
I have often asked myself if this is an issue? Am I unconsciously telling her she’s a girl, and should therefore like girly pink toys, and not want to play with trucks? That she should fall into traditional female roles; play with dolls and her kitchen; have tea parties and take baby for walks?
But, then I watch her play. She spends all day with me; I see how she chooses to use things, what toys she prefers, how she plays.
And, you know what? She is different.
Without any active encouragement, she plays differently to the boys. She chooses imaginative play far more than the boys did. From the moment she could walk, she put toys in to baskets, walkers, anything really so that she could take them for a walk or put them down for a nap. She loved her first doll, and now has several, and she feeds them and sings to them. When we were given a play kitchen she immediately made us tea and gave us biscuits. I didn’t show her how to do any of this. She watches us, and this is what she chooses to do.
Equally though, she loves Lego and is already a very competent builder of cars! She adores beyblades and hexbugs. Hot wheels can keep her amused for hours…
I will admit to having a slight issue with the pink Lego; I mean, why? But, then again, why not? My 7yo’s favourite colour is green, he will always choose a green car/pencil/ball. If it turns out that my daughters favourite colour is pink, should I tell her she can’t have a pink car/pencil/ball? Why do we have a negative view of an excess of pink, not an excess of blue?
The issue isn’t the colour of toys, it’s the gender stereotyping that goes along with it. For both boys and girls.
I find it worrying that my 7yo now regularly states that things are ‘girly’ or ‘for girls’. He didn’t learn that at home, so school/peers/TV is teaching him that girls and boys should like different things and worse, should do different things. And, with an engineer for a mother, this is not an argument I really expected to have with him.
I believe that my responsibility as a parent is to ensure that my children grow up knowing they can do anything, like anything, be anything. Whether my daughter is girly like me, or not, she will know that she has choices. Nothing is impossible.
And ultimately I believe that I will be a far greater influence on my daughter than the colour of her toys.
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