One of my best friends had a baby girl today. It's her fifth child. Her first four children are all boys, so when we found out that she was due to have a girl everyone was pleasantly surprised and, if we're honest, the conversations quickly turned to theories of how this little lady is going to survive in a house full of lads.
Personally, I reckon she'll be fine and will no doubt grow into one of the toughest tomboys I'll know. I'm already assuming that's what she's going to be, especially as the mother (my friend) has put the kibosh on anything pink and she's going to grow up in a house full of cars, trucks, Lego, sports gear, DS and computer consoles that her older brothers adore playing with. Geez, I'm jealous.
This is fine by me, because I have a real issue with pink toys, especially pink toys that try to be “boys toys” aimed at girls, like this recent offeringfrom NERF, which I spotted an advert for while on holiday in France.
I hit on something similar with my first tomboy blog post when I found the god-awful Tomboy Tool Kit. My issue is thus: why does something which women are more than capable of using, because after all a hammer is a hammer, a NERF gun is a Nerf gun, then need to go and be painted pink in order to make it somehow more legitimate for women to use? If a woman, or young girl is in a hardware/toy shop and they are faced with two products that are exactly identical in every way except colour - lets say one is grey and the other is pink - would they choose the pink one because it somehow means that it is more tailored to a woman/girl using it? That somehow the manufacturers have gone the extra mile to produce something specifically for women because they have made it more stereotypically feminine by painting it that colour?
It's a sure fire way to tap into the psyche of women, I'll give the marketers that, and I think this is when the debate around colour really becomes an issue as it somehow implies that 'specialist' pink things should be used by females as a non-gender alternative is somehow inferior or not suited to the female form.
Of course, this is bull shit.
However, this led me to think more about the recent debate around the need for gender neutral toys and question whether I was actually being a total hypocrite for secretly wanting my friend's little girl to turn into a tomboy and therefore avoid pink completely?
The idea of genderneutral toys has been a hot topic recently, thanks to the comments made by the Education Minister, Elizabeth Truss calling for 'gender neutral toys' in nurseries and parent-led projects like Let Toys BeToys and PinkStinks campaign. I fully agree that separating toy sections into “boys” and “girls” should be abolished. No more should a girl be discouraged from playing with a toy tool kit, than a boy should be prevented from pushing a doll around in a push chair. By doing this you'd hope the debate about girly colours and boyish colours would also become null and void, because is it really the colour we have issue with, or the act of the play that the child is performing?
A really interesting article is this on The Telegraph by June O'Sullivan, chief exec of London Early Years Foundation, who argues that indeed toys need to be toys and kids, both boys and girls, should be able to pick up with and play with whatever they feel comfortable with. Reading this and the subsequent comments, certainly made me re-evaluate my opinion on pink toys, because if I think back honestly to when I was younger, whether something was blue or pink mattered less to me. What was important was how I could fit it into my pretend story and if it didn't work, I wouldn't play with it. So, really, apart from doing away with the idea that 'this is just for boys' and 'this toy is just for girls', does colour actually matter?