The invitation to a baby shower arrives and the first thing you think of is gender. You want to know if it’s a boy or a girl so you can buy the right gift and if you don’t know you end up with something in conservative shades of lemon or apple green just to be safe. Why all the focus on colour, you think to yourself, then you admit that you wouldn’t put a pink Babygro on a boy, would you? Why not? Because it’s just not cool. There it begins; you don’t set out to stereotype but you end up doing it.
When shopping for my 4-year-old granddaughters at a clothing store, I was horrified to notice that if you want to buy anything for girls (unless you opt for movie branding) your choices will be limited to pink, dark pink and purple. A sea of pink as long as the clothing rack and don’t even get me started on the pre-teen or tween range that looks like it came straight from a hooker’s garage sale. The boys however seem to have variations of green, blue, red and brown. I had to walk away empty handed. (Does anyone know any good tailors and a cheap fabric shop?)
The day a boy got a “girl puzzle”
I am a teacher and I teach four-five year olds - Monday is puzzle day in my classroom. Generally I grab a puzzle a with a few more pieces than they were able to complete last time and set it down on the table, then call a child to come and complete that particular puzzle. I generally don’t pay much attention to the picture, just the composition of the colours and the amount of pieces. A few weeks ago I was doing just that when the little boy I called up looked at me with a look of horror on his face and said “teacher, but this is a girl puzzle”. I looked down and sure enough it was a Barbie puzzle. It was then I realised that I too was contributing to this society of gender specific things. I had obviously never given the boys ‘girl’-type puzzles before (judging by his reaction). I looked back at him and replied “it’s not a girl puzzle it’s just a puzzle” After that I gave all the boys puzzles with feminine pictures on them and the girls got ones with boats, cars and trucks. They had a good giggle at first but then embraced the challenge and continued to complete their puzzles.
Shake up the pink and blue pigeon holes
The lesson I learned that day was that sometimes unknowingly we are adding to the vicious cycle of gender stereotypes and if we don’t break this cycle, the bullied boy in the pink shirt and the girl who likes to climb trees will continue to face a difficult time ahead.
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Do you teach your kids the “pink is for girls” story?