We have an old, plastic blue spoon which must be magical because it’s argued over every morning. This spoon symbolises all that my daughter wants to be. This blue spoon represents being a Tom Boy.
I asked some of Mademoiselle’s 7yo girl friends what being a Tom Boy means, and why it’s different from being a girl. According to them – and I quote – being a Tom Boy is
“not being a girl who only likes to play with her hair and doesn’t like to do sports. Someone who doesn’t just wear dresses and likes playing football and it doesn’t matter if you get dirty. Someone who likes to climb trees and doesn’t cry if they hurt themselves. It means not liking pink but liking blue. Being a Tom Boy means doing things like the boys.”
This makes me sad & furious. Not that these girls want to climb trees or play football, but they think they need to re-label themselves to justify it. Where does this social stereotyping come from, certainly not from me! And who says boys don’t (or can’t) cry if they hurt themselves or that they can’t like pink?
Unfortunately this stereotyping is all around us, and as much as I’ve tried to educate both my boy and girl in a gender neutral environment we just can’t escape it. Why is this topic of conversation still going on decades after women won the vote and burnt their bras for equality? This 2 minute video from Always, although it’s a year old, is still very relevant. It questions the negative connotations around the phrase ‘doing things like a girl’ – whether you have boys and girls it’s worth a watch
I’ve found colouring books showing ‘Activity Books for Boys’ themed around sport, outdoorsy activity & wrapped in a blue book jacket, whilst the girls get puppy dogs and fashion wrapped in a pink book jacket.
Why gender label the books, and as such the children?
Some may say the words don’t matter, but for a 7 year old child they do. My girl says “But mummy, that’s for boys.” I love her strength of character when she goes on to say “but I don’t care I’m going to do it/use it anyway” (a line I hear a lot at the moment).
Subconsciously she’s being told she’s going against convention; that she’s in the ‘boy’s’ territory; that she’s being a rebel. Consciously she’s being told if you like pretty dresses you can’t also like climbing trees. I just hope her strength of character stays with her as she gets older and isn’t eroded by the pressures of the Big Wide World.
As parents of a boy & a girl, everything we do, have or play with is fair to all and we’re very much about leading by example. Dadtired plays Barbie City as well as builds Lego towers for the dinosaurs to knock down, and vice versa. We both wear pink, blue and every other colour in between and it’s accepted. The TV world is catching up but the real world is still far behind. Even after the England Ladies recent World Cup success the FA seemed to refer that they were coming back into the kitchen, or that being in a competition stops them from also being themselves – ladies.
I don’t know how we change things, I’m no social expert, but I think we all have a responsibility to tell companies & organisations when they get it wrong. We can put social pressure on those who want to put our children in pink and blue boxes – it’s up to our children when they fit, not social pressure. At the same time, I will continue to tell my children to be proud of who they are & that colours and activities have no boundaries. Go, go Pink Power Ranger...
This week’s The Prompt phrase is ‘Blue’
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