When I was a small thing, I really, really hated visiting DIY stores. Those hours and hours spent standing around while my parents looked at tiles, or wallpaper still fill me with dread to this day. Magnolia paint on woodchip. Shudders. Toy shops, for the obvious 'I'm a child' reason, were great. Big Barn Toy Shops weren't the order of the day back then, it was all Woolies and John Menzies with Cabbage Patch Dolls and Star Wars Toys. Then came warehouse size stores, cable TV and endless streams of advertising. Now, the sea of pink that appears when you round the corner to the girl's toys doesn't just offend me, it makes me feel dizzy and sick. Even thinking about it makes me feel sick.
I did think that I was safe in the Lego aisle, with their 'toys are for everyone' ethos but the whole Lego Friends thing? It's even appearing in the Duplo range. Why are we so obsessed with genderising our children? It's not so long since women were throwing themselves under horses so we could vote, yet we seem to be hell bent on disenfranchising a whole generation of girls by giving them toys that are all about housework and babies, and making them pink beyond belief. I have no problem with children having kitchens or Henry Hoovers, just so I'm clear. Kids should play these things, it's natural and good for them. But they don't have to be PINK. I am secretly very pleased that the Lego Friends advent calender (the city ones were sold out) has been visited by a Character Building Dr Who and a Cyberman on skis. I've had to spend a lot [read: far too much] time telling Abigail that toys are for whoever wants to play with them not for 'Girls' or 'Boys'.
It works the other way too. We're scared to let our boys do things that might be seen as 'girl' things, and it can be even worse for them. Boys should not be excluded from hairdryers or kitchens. After all, are some of the most successful chefs and hairdressers and fashion designers in the world men? And *whispers* they are no more likely to be homosexual or hen-pecked than the rest of the male population. You would hardly go up to Gordon Ramsey and accuse him of being effeminate or 'under the thumb' because he likes to cook, would you? That's because the world doesn't work that way. I was shocked to see some comments on Facebook yesterday when a mum suggested she might buy her son a toy kitchen for Christmas. Someone actually said 'if anyone asks you could always say it's his cousin's toy'. Why? What's the problem? Surely by encouraging him to lie about who his toys belong to you are making him ashamed of who he is.
If we want to work towards breaking down the last barriers to equality then we need to start as early as possible. It's only by growing up thinking that wearing a pink dress and being a scientist is just as normal as a man looking after a baby and letting them be who they want to be that we'll be giving our children what they deserve.