Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Why Boo doesn't wear pink

This pink issue has circulated in our home since before Boo was born. R is adamantly against pink because of it's associations with stereotypes of women being submissive, passive, focused on appearance, made for domestic chores, etc. We talk a lot about it and read articles on the matter. There's definitely a back lash against pink now, some people think we should reclaim it as a strong feminist colour, other people don't see the harm in letting 'girls be girls'.

I've over thought the whole problem now. But we've come to the agreement that while we have some control of Boo's fashion statements, we choose to make the statement that it's ok for girls to not wear pink. It's ok for a girl to be anything at all. It's ok for a girl to not go along with the status quo, of what the marketeers tell us 'a girl should be'. I see so many little girls dressed as a stereotype, I'm shamelessly using my daughter to make a political stand in the playground.

Pink and Blue. It's a way of marking out the difference between the sexes, and obviously there are differences. But do we need to be colour coded? It makes the difference between boys and girls more obvious, and in a world where segregation and sexism is still rife, surely pointing out our differences all the flipping time is counter productive. We're all humans after all with equal rights to explore the world, try out all the different roles and experiences it has to offer. If we feel pressured to associate ourselves with our gender, a colour, and a host of other gendered activities and experiences (baby dolls for girls, building bricks for boys), we all miss out on getting to know the whole picture, and really getting to know each other.

And, it's not just a case of pink being different to blue, the problem is that pink is seen as a bad colour by many men, whereas blue is seen by everyone as just another colour. From little boys, older boys, teenage boys to men, our society has drip fed them the idea that girls are lesser creatures than they are (cue examples of music videos, gta5, percentage of female CEOs), and if there's a colour to go along with that creature, they sure as hell don't want any association with it. They don't want to be mistaken for a girl. Parents don't want their boys to be mistaken for a girl, or for their boy to mistake themselves for a girl. I sold a highchair recently on Gumtree, and one mother asked me "is there any pink in the pattern because I want it for my son". Sadly, I don't think she was implying that she wanted there to be pink for her son because her son really likes pink.

I regularly dress Boo in blue, green, red, all other colours that are not pink. If she's not wearing pink she will normally be mistaken for a boy. But I don't take offence to it (I just think the person making the mistake is unimaginative). I can't help thinking that if a boy is mistaken for a girl, many parents would be upset, disappointed, angry. Some people are enlightened about the fact that girls are equal to boys, and that pink is just a colour and it doesn't matter if your child looks like a boy or girl at such a young age. But the majority of people don't question their own in built prejudices, or they don't question all the brands and adverts that endlessly target us and force us into pink or blue boxes. So there will be many children who feel the pressure to conform to gender stereotypes because their parents conform in the same way. They may well fear and outcast any of their peers who don't conform to their stereotypes, because it shakes the foundations on which their gender identity is built. So, when the time comes for Boo to make friends, it is highly likely that she will want to wear pink. Whether it's because she genuinely likes pink, or she wants to wear pink because it gives her a safe 'identity as a girl', or because she wants to fit in. We wont know, and neither will she.

We've agreed that we'll let her have pink and 'girly' things, to an extent, if she chooses them, because ultimately she has to understand the freedom of choice. But I can only hope that with time, and with our (mostly sensible) guidance, she will understand these things too:

1. That true friends don't require you to look the same as they do. True friends like you for who you really are, not for what you wear and the colours you like.

2. Your identity as a woman in the world might be a tricky thing to quantify. And that's not a bad thing. You're not a two dimensional being, you change and grow and it can be scary. It's easy to buy into someone else's prepackaged identity of what a women should be, because then you don't have to think about it. But it won't really be you, and you'll have to keep on buying 'pink' things to keep the fantasy of your identity in tact.

3. You can like whatever damn colour you like. All colours are part of the same thing in the end, white light. The sun. And the sun is awesome, just make sure you wear sun cream.

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