Blue is for boys and pink is for girls

“Little boys love to be ‘just like daddy’ and now they can” 

What century are we currently living in?  I was vaguely under the impression that it was the twenty first, but according to this press release from John Crane about ‘boys’ workbench toys, it seems be the 1950’s.

They’re not the only toy sellers who insist on girls hoovering and boys wielding heavy machinery.  The Early Learning Centre are shockingly sexist with their colour coded toys.  We know that farms are for boys, because they’re in the blue corner and ironing boards are for girls because they’re in the pink corner.

I don’t think you have to be a radical feminist to think that there’s something wrong with that.  For a start, it doesn’t reflect real life.  Do dads not push buggies?  Can women only be nurses and not doctors?  Do all girls dream of a white wedding?  Are all men a dab hand at DIY?  Of course not.  I wouldn’t let my husband within three metres of a power tool, he’d almost certainly lose a limb.  So why are children being marketed to in such a narrow way?

I suppose you could just dismiss it as not important, after all, if we as parents are good role models, then our children will learn what is right and wrong.  But I think it IS a problem.  Children pick up on all kinds of subtle signals about gender, why knowingly reinforce negative ones?

I can clearly remember being horribly jealous of my brother’s Action Man.  My Sindy was so wimpy in comparison, with her wedding dress and handbags.  Action Man had swivel eyes and a zip slide.  No contest.  I’d like to think that things have changed a lot since the 1970’s, but I’m not sure they have.  Barbie can train as an astronaut these days, but with the BMI of an anorexic, she’s unlikely to get work.

I won’t deny that boys and girls often have different interests.  There’s no doubt that my youngest son’s love of trains bordered on obsession for a while, and his sister still likes dolls aged ten, but does that mean that she never liked trains and he could never play with a doll?  No.  Although he wouldn’t admit to that in front of his friends.  Aged five, they’re already so heavily conditioned to think that dolls are for girls that sadly, he would never live it down.  Who’s fault is that?  It’s certainly not mine.

I want my children to believe that they have the potential to do anything they put their minds to.  It’s a shame that toy marketers seem to disagree.

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23 comments
  1. crystaljigsaw said:

    I know what you mean. It infuriates me too. Being a woman living in a man’s world – i.e. farming – I can totally relate to your view and find it ridiculous that my profession in particular has this silly sexist idea of men in tractors and women with lambs. It’s pathetic. Give me a tractor any day. Fortunately, Amy is a bit of a tomboy – and do you know what? People tell me that is because she’s been brought up on a farm! But it’s because she loves to be involved with the farm; she loves animals, cute and cuddly ones, and she loves dolls, but she also loves being in the thick of it, sitting on the tractor and combine, going round the fields on a quad bike. Some mums look at me as though I’ve gone mad when I tell them what i do for a living. They’re the odd ones, not me!!

    CJ x

    • Victoria said:

      Who wouldn’t love being on a quad bike?! I don’t think she’s a tomboy, I think she’s a normal child.

  2. I share your outrage and the continuing marketing schemes to pigeon-hole our children. My son plays with a little girl his age sometimes. On Sunday, he handed her his Thomas the Tank Engine toys and she handed him her babydoll. They each played happily with their “new” toys for some time. No big deal.

    You know, though, I had heard that the concepts of “boy” things being blue and “girl” things being pink was a fairly new invention. Someone once told me that here in the US, John F. Kennedy had been photographed as a baby in a pink baby dressing gown. The idea that it would not have been “correct” to do so had not existed when the photo had been taken, it seems.

    I met a dad once who was hysterical over the fact that his son enjoyed playing with his sister’s dolls. He was terrified that he’d “turn” gay because of it. Ridiculous. Maybe he’ll be a good, nurturing father, jackass. Playing with dolls could indicate a whole lot of things. Including the fact that perhaps your child just likes toys…

    • Victoria said:

      100 years ago, pink was considered a boys colour, because it’s close to red, which is the colour of army uniforms. Blue was considered more girly because the Virgin Mary wore blue.

  3. Its so true! Even baby clothes are still pretty resolutely blue/pink – I spent ages trying to find green or yellow or purple, in fact anything in between and inevitably when my daughter was still young people used to assume she was a boy if she was wearing jeans and tshirt and not the requisite frilly dress etc. I loved playing with toy cars and climbing trees as a kid but also all the typical girly things like dolls and pretend cooking and I can see Rhiannon showing an interest in both train sets and tea parties which we encourage heartily. If gender stereotyping is going to change it has to start from the early formative years. PS I always wanted an action man too!

    • Victoria said:

      There’s a great campaign called Pink Stinks, which champions non-pink girls clothes and takes manufacturers of the horrible frilly ones to task. They’re currently campaigning against make up for little girls. Don’t even get me started on that one…

      • How very sensible, I specifically asked people not not to give us pink clothes when we found out we were having a girl, of course we she wears it sometimes but within reason! Defo agree with the no make-up thing too, its fine for playing dress-ups once in a while and I can see Rhi is interesting in me applying mine (out of neccessity!) but kids mani/pedi spa days etc, is taking it a little far. Let kids be kids for as long as possible, growing up isn’t what its cracked up to be

  4. I am so with you on this. My boys have had dolls, pink prams and lots of other things including an ironing board and cleaning kit too. I hate the fact that people, companies and life perpetuates this myth. My MIL got her knickers in a twist that the boys had babies and dolls, thankfully MadDad put her in her place and said that Maxi was just mimicking what he saw him doing.

    I used to pinch my brothers action men!

    • Kelly said:

      I used to play with my brother’s Action Man too, he made a very attractive boyfriend for my Cindy doll, although he had a habit of trying to escape using his parachute out of the bedroom window.

    • Victoria said:

      Because we had a girl first, we’ve always had toys of all sorts and our children have always played with both. I know people who are horrified about boys pushing buggies. Idiots.

  5. Kelly said:

    It just drives me mad when people I know comment on teh fact that Piran has a pushchair and a baby doll that I made him. When he grows up I would love it if he became a Dad and he is just playing at what all Dads do eventually. I am making him a play kitchen for his birthday, because all of the ones I can afford are all pink. ELC drives me mad in particular with their Whizz Around Garage comes in a lovely bright primary colour for boys and then they kindly do a ‘girls’ version which is pastel pink. WHY WHY WHY.

    I get funny looks because Kate wears Piran’s old clothes but she is very obviously a girl and who cares anyway. It all gets covered in the same mess!

    • Victoria said:

      Exactly Kel. Eve used to wear boys clothes too, as well as dresses, which I bought for her because they were lovely. I really hate ELC’s policy of making everything in pink and blue.

  6. Heather said:

    My heckles rose as soon as I read your opening sentence. How hard would it be to replace the words ‘little boys’ with ‘children’? Because we have boy/girl twins they have had equal access to ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ toys, unlike some friends we have who don’t believe in giving their toddler son a toy pushchair because it’s too ‘girly’. I find it hard to keep my rage in check!

    • Victoria said:

      I know people who used to say “my husband would be horrified if he knew my son was playing with a buggy”. What planet do these people live on?!

  7. ruthcumming said:

    Interesting post! I was just thinking about this yesterday when my 15-month-old son was happily playing at a toddler group – his favourite toys there yesterday were a toy broom, a toy hoover and pushing a doll around in a small push chair! Good on him I thought. I guess the kids there are still young enough that he wouldn’t be bullied by any of them for preferring ‘girls’ toys. As I’m pregnant again and we’re not going to find out baby’s sex before birth, I’ve been thinking about what life might be like with either a girl or another boy. If it’s a girl, I’ve come to the conclusion I’m going to one of those mums who dresses her in boys clothes as we have so many (I was often dressed in boys clothes as a child, with a brother and only older boy cousins, and it seems to have done me no harm!) This kind of ‘blue is for boys’ and ‘pink is for girls’ stuff annoys me too!

    • Victoria said:

      It annoys me too! As does the fact that so many people seem to think it’s acceptable to dress a six year old girl like a 20 year old clubber!

  8. Di Zygotic said:

    I bought online one of my boy twins (17 months) a set of toy dustpans and brushes etc. as he loves them and always wants to sweep but can’t manage the real ones as they are too big for him. The (pink) box arrived with “It’s a girl’s world” on it! I couldn’t believe the outright sexism!
    I have twin boys. We have very little pink in the house as it happens – not something I deliberately avoid. When they see anything pink he loves it and wants it! So I guess I need to get more pink for my little boys.

    • Victoria said:

      It’s completely unbelievable isn’t it? Men are just as capable of sweeping as women, surely. And I’m the one who wields a drill in our house, not my husband.

  9. Fabulous post. What enrages me about it all is that when I was a kid this kind of segregation would have been unheard of. The parents of children in the 70’s and 80’s were well aware of how wrong it is to treat boys and girls so differently, to limit their play options, to determine their colour scheme.

    How have we gone backward on this?

    Do you think there is an appetite to do something about this? For parents to challenge it all again? There are a couple of organisations – like Pink Stinks- but without the means to really engage parents, i think.

    • Victoria said:

      I’d love to think that we could do something about this! I know Pink Stinks has campaigned against ELC, maybe if we all lobby them, they’ll finally see sense. Are you up for a campaign?!

  10. I read about this all the time. Why do they feel the need to pigeonhole kids?

    • Victoria said:

      No idea, it’s completely ridiculous.

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