The great girly pink debate.

There’s a bit of a furore going on in the UK at the moment because a government spokeswoman has been reported for suggesting that the excessive use of pink-for-girl and blue-for-boy identification in the marketing of toys may not be such a good idea.  In another item a journalist observes that ‘parents should not be demonized for putting their girls in pink’.  Both have received the same kind of response from the ‘common sense’ brigade.

‘Don’t you have any real news to report?’

‘Kids should be free to choose.’

‘Bloody political correctness again.’

‘Not more feminist crap!’

Expressions like those, though not exactly those.  I don’t have the words in front of me and it is in the nature of this sort of junk to be unmemorable.

Remember, no-one has said parents should be demonized for letting their little girls wear pink or play with pink plastic horses, and no-one has proposed a ban on the use of pink and blue in toys and packaging.  They are suggesting it is something we should think about.

I have thought about it long and hard. When my first child was expected about a quarter century ago I looked very carefully at what was even then a debate and decided any child of mine would be positively encouraged to play with toys of any ‘gender identity’.  She didn’t live to play with any, but when her brother came along I built for him a toy washing machine and a cooker, as well as buying him the routine boy stuff.  I have to report that playing with a toy washing machine did not make him particularly receptive to the idea of learning how to use a real one when he was old enough.

But it’s not as if the choices parents make are the only influences on our children.  Indeed, if our children are judged entirely as the results of our own choices alone most of us would rightfully be condemned as lousy parents.  As it is we do not control the larger part of their lives.  We can give them love, should give them unqualified love, but we can’t actually prevent them from absorbing the world around them, however horrible it may sometimes be, from the media, school, from the vicissitudes, often, of the disasters in our lives and our relationships and the ever-changing, all-knowing specialists in childhood.

Why expend energy, and the time when I should be abed, writing about something as trivial as the pink and blue debate?

Because they may – and I believe do – impact on the childhood formation of gender identity.  Twist the common-sense arguments as you will, the fact is that the boy who goes to primary school with a pink backpack or lunch box is going to get hassled for it by kids who have fully absorbed that ‘pink’ is a girly colour.

Michael Morrones, a native of North Carolina, is in hospital, with I believe suspected brain damage, after trying to commit suicide as a result of bullying and harassment.  The ‘justification’ for the bullying?  He’s a fan of ‘My Little Pony’.

I can hear the words they used without ever having seen them described anywhere.  One of them will be ‘gay’.

We live in homophobic societies, intolerant of difference of so many kinds, in societies where women equally qualified with men rarely earn the same money, in societies where many women have learned to assume that the Barbie Doll body is an ideal that they should sweat and paint themselves and diet to attain, despite that if they did attain it it would kill them, in a world where tough, intelligent, strong women are often defined as unwomanly and where gentle, loving men are most often regarded as freakish wimps.

Anything that might contribute to bringing this about ought, surely, to be looked at very closely.

‘Good Bless’ Michael.

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