There’s a really great method of determining whether something is for boys or for girls, and it should be a rule of thumb for all parents, or for anyone who has anything to do with children. All you need to ask yourself is this: “Does it require a penis / vagina to wear or operate?”
If the answer is “no”, then you can rest assured that the item is for both boys and girls, and sleep soundly at night knowing that you’re not accidentally influencing your child’s preferences based on what was between their legs at birth.
If the answer is “yes”, you’d bloody well better hustle that kid out of the room or click “cancel order” quick smart, because that item sure as all hell isn’t for children (as a rule, even if the shop claims to sell toys, if it has blacked out windows, a back entrance, and ‘XXX’ in neon above the door, you probably shouldn’t be shopping there for your kids).
Now that you know how to differentiate between boys’ toys and girls’ toys, I have one favour to ask of you: please, please stop telling your children that pink is a girls’ colour. It isn’t just stupid (it’s just a colour, just like every other colour in the damn rainbow), it can be really damaging. I didn’t realise the full extent of the problem until I had my third child; an absolutely delightful little boy who loves running, smashing up matchbox cars, annoying his brother and sister, superheroes, and playing with his penis 24/7.
Teddy, bless his little heart, also loves ponies, playing dolls’ houses, Shopkins, and the colour pink. As his mother it breaks my heart to see him trying to distance himself from the things he loves because three and four-year-old kids at kindy and childcare have told him that pink is a girls’ colour. Even if this is not something you’ve had to deal with, does it not strike you as absolutely absurd that any parent should need to pull the new kindy teacher aside at the start of the year for a whispered conversation about their son’s controversial favourite colour?
To look at Teddy, there is nothing feminine about him. He’s loud, crass, loves his hair shaved short, and is as clumsy and rough as a bull in a china shop. And yet, a boy he’d been playing Lego with at kindy on the first day walked up to me to ask if Teddy is a girl because he has a pink drink bottle.
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The worst thing about this sort of conditioning is that it teaches little boys (and girls!) that to be feminine and girly is bad, and that to be called a girl or mistaken for one is the ultimate insult. Later, we’ll lament the lack of respect these men have for women, and their parents will sigh that ‘they weren’t raised like that.’
But they were. It began before they were born, when you found out that you were growing a male child and steered clear of anything pink or floral, because newborn baby boys obviously know that they don’t like pink or flowers (or worse, PINK FLOWERS). Or maybe you opted for a surprise and didn’t find out the sex of your baby in utero, and steered clear of anything remotely feminine in case it wasn’t a girl. Because neutral, or blue, typically masculine colours and styles are acceptable for both boys and girls.
It isn’t only parents to blame though. It’s the stores that divide their clothing and toys into clear boys vs. girls sections, easily recognisable for the pink on one side, and the lack of pink on the other (not to mention the domestic toys like little irons and ironing boards in the pink section, and challenging, creative toys like Lego in the absolutely-no-pink-allowed section).
The big stores aren’t the only offenders. Trendy little boutique stores which claim to sell gender-neutral clothing play a huge part, even though they would like to believe they are anti-everything-mentioned-above. Because when “gender-neutral” for you equals typical boys’ colours and styles for everyone, but not the other way around, it’s still sending a clear message that feminine is bad.
No one ever had a problem with my daughter’s preference for Ninja Turtle, Spiderman, or Thomas the Tank Engine gear, so why does anyone care that my son likes his reversible sequin unicorn t-shirt and his fairy-mouse leggings?
Just let them be children, and embrace every colour of the rainbow equally. Please.
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