Last week I read an article in the Sunday Times Magazine about the way girls are presented and how they learn that pink is the right colour for girls. It interested me, because it is right that the media very much aims pink to girls and advertisements aimed at girls are usually referencing the fact that they are ‘princesses’.
It made me think, I really wasn’t the stereotypical girl when I was younger. Mum never dressed me in pink, overly girly clothes because they didn’t suit me. I wasn’t one for playing with dolls. I tried, though. I would buy barbies and stuffed animals and the Animal Hospital play sets, my grandparents even bought me a proper, posh dolls house. I tried to play with them, I honestly did, but I just think I felt it was silly to play with these inanimate objects. The most I did was cut and wash the dolls hair, change their clothes and take their heads off and have a ‘fashion show’ …. I never gave them personalities and such. And I always wondered why the black Barbies had pubic hair but the white ones didn’t….not that I knew what that was, but you know. Of course, I kept buying them though.
What I liked to do was write stories, paint/draw, read, act and bake. Those aren’t stereotypically girly. In all honesty, they are mostly gender neutral activities that both me and my brother would undertake. I much preferred creative activities, I got bored of the other things. I was very creative as a child, so much so that mum says I didn’t do that well in Year 2 SATS because I focussed on the story as opposed to the grammar or whatever! I also wasn’t one for wearing skirts, I wasn’t girly in that sense, and as soon as I was allowed I would wear trousers to school. Part of it was due to bullying for being fat and such, part of it was because I didn’t like girly things.
Anyway, back to point…it seems odd to me, like the article pointed out, that everything for girls is pink. 60 years ago, pink was a masculine colour that was associated with red! Blue was a girls colour. Not long ago, boys would wear dresses until they were 7. Things have only really changed in the past few decades, and it seems that ‘pink’ is not a natural attraction for girls, but has been forced upon them. The woman who wrote the article said that she always tried to allow her young daughter make decisions and play however she wanted. For her first few years, she played with trains and cars and loved wearing dungarees/overalls. The trigger was a boy in the playground saying “Girls don’t play with trains!” that led to this toddlers lust for all things pink, for Barbie dolls, to be dressed as a princess. People who talk to young girls call them ‘princess’ and always make everything that the girls do about princesses; “Here’s your special princess meal”…”Come and sit in the princess throne” etcetera.
Girls should be allowed to do what they want, play with what they want, dress how they like without feeling pressured to be the same as everyone else. They should be able to feel OK to be different, rather than succumb to gender stereotypes. I mean, as we get older we develop our own personalities and styles and do what we want, but there are some young girls (notably those girls who take part in Beauty Pageants etc) who don’t learn, because they are indoctrinated and forced to believe in an ‘ideal’ for girls and if they don’t act like ‘girls’ then they aren’t treated well. The example of Scout from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ comes to mind. When I first read the book, for half the time I thought she was a boy because the focus was on her take on the events and because she dressed and acted like a boy. However, she was very much a girl but preferred to be a tomboy. She hated wearing dresses, but was at times forced to because she is a girl and had to act and dress like one. Of course, she didn’t succumb to the stereotype and remained her own person, like her father suggested. Girls like that are hard to come by these days, but they need to know that it is ok to want to play with trains, run around outside, get mucky and so on. It doesn’t make you any less of a girl, in my opinion it makes you stronger and a more rounded person!!