So here’s the thing. I’m not a feminist activist. I’ve never been to a march or staged a protest. But I do feel very strongly that women and their bodies are nobody’s business but their own; that women can be whatever the hell they want to be (except a serial killer. That’s never advisable); and that the female figure is an incredibly powerful one in life, love, the family, the workplace and beyond. I’ve just never done anything about it in a public or vocal way.
Perhaps I’m not so bothered about myself. I’m already in my 30s, I’ve determined what I want in life and for now at least, I’m happy with the job I’ve worked to be good at, with the role I play within my friends and family network; and I surround myself with people who respect me as an individual, regardless of my gender. Having a daughter, however, has turned me into a defensive lioness.
When she was only a few weeks old, we were in the supermarket when an elderly woman began talking to us in the queue. After a moment of chit chat she asked ‘How old is he?’. It’s an easy mistake and I’m not offended by it, so I responded, ‘It’s a she and she’s 8 weeks old.’ Her reply? ‘A girl? Why have you put trousers on her?!’. She huffed off once she paid for her goods, clearly disgusted at my modern ways. Now while I know this is partly a generational thing, the pink/blue divide is huge when it comes to babies and children.
I love a bright pink t shirt or pretty dress as much as the next person, but as a couple we also love dinosaurs (move over Ross Gellar) and superheroes and the colours blue and green. With that in mind we’ve regularly ignored the boy/girl signage and purchased what we like, not what little girls ‘should’ wear. I was delighted when John Lewis got rid of their boy and girl labels and established a simple ‘John Lewis baby’ brand, leaving the choice about who wears it up to the parents. Our daughter has proudly worn wonderwoman outfits, a Flash babygrow, flowery dresses, a dinosaur sleepsuit, a Disney princess all-in-one and several Harry Potter outfits (for that I can only apologise, my love). Funnily enough they didn’t come with the word ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ emblazoned on the front and she looked equally adorable in all of them.
It was only recently on a trip to a well-known chain of toy shops, that I noticed that the ‘action and adventure’ section was entirely blue – the walls, the signage, the shelves; and the ‘arts and crafts’ and dolls section was bright pink. Perhaps I simply need to reclaim the colours as non-gender specific in my head, but it seemed pretty sexist that the traditionally feminine, arty toys should be for girls and the more aggressive, masculine toys for boys. Perhaps our daughter will love wrestling and racing cars. Perhaps she will indeed have a dolly and a pram and will enjoy painting and crafting. Either way, I’d imagine some children would feel awkward and even intimidated walking into the section aimed at the opposite sex, just because they don’t fit the traditional gender moulds for their interests.
I guess my point is this. If you have a little girl who loves tutus and dollies and jewellery making, great. If you have a little boy who loves wrestling toys and superheroes and cars, great. If you have a little girl who loves rugby and Star Wars and Pokemon, support her; a little boy who wants to play in a toy kitchen, watch My Little Pony and wear a dress-up princess dress, support him too.
Basically, let’s take gender out of it and just let them do what they enjoy.