We’re at a playground with the Bean. A little girl arrives at said playground with her dad. Bean starts eyeing up his bike protectively, Girl ignores him completely, Mr P&P and I exchange a look of hello and mutual tiredness with Dad. So far, so ordinary.
And then Bean and (much older) Girl try to climb up the steps to the slide at the same time and Dad says:
"Attenta alla bimba!" [Watch out for the girl]
*Sound the Dum-DUM of doom so commonly heard in Peppa Pig*
We’ve all done it, I’ve definitely done it too - before Christmas I mistook a girl with very little hair for a boy - and it is never meant to offend and always mortifying when you realise your mistake. I know this. But still.
Dum-DUM of doom and I rolled my eyes at Mr. P&P. Bim-ba?!
Because, you see, the Bean has been mistaken for a girl since he was teeny-tiny, and it is usually due to his long-ish blonde floppy hair or his clothes. Or a combination of both. I don’t dress him in pink frilly tutus, but on this particular day he was wearing rather fetching tights:
And yet, to the dad in the playground and to many of the people we encounter as we go about our daily business, these are “girl’s tights”. Just like his yellow striped t-shirt, and his pale blue vest with the pink fish are "girl's clothes". PINK! On a boy?!
Although I appreciate that the “Pink Stinks” campaign is trying to fight the limitation and stereotyping associated with the “pinkfication of girlhood”, it’s not just pink that stinks, is it. “Only blue for boys” really, REALLY stinks as well. As does the idea that boys must play with cars and blocks not kitchens or dolls.
This whiff is something we run up against on an almost daily basis. A mum friend in our apartment block said her husband wouldn’t let her buy a toy kitchen for their son, lest he turn “weird” (?!). A teacher at my son’s nursery once asked me where I get all his “strange clothes” from (from the boys AND the girls sections, that's where).
You can tell yourself that these people are ignorant. You can tell yourself that their opinion doesn’t matter, only how you raise him. You can tell yourself it’s none of anybody else’s business if the Bean likes blue as well as pink, bright tights and toy kitchens as well as cars and power tools.
I tell myself these things but still I am so, so tired of it all. Their comments, their attitude, their underlying belief that things must be just so and that we are “strange” for daring to deviate. Running up against this every day gives me a bloody great headache. Whatever you want to call it - gender-stereotyping, role-stereotyping, sexism - at its best it's annoying and at its worst it's limiting, damaging, sinister.
I refuse to bow to the Girls=Pink/Boys=Blue brigade, no matter how much the Italian nonnas tut at me. I shop where I like, I give him toys of all stripes and colours of all sorts. This morning I sent him into nursery in a bright orange t-shirt and a green coat. Though he might one day decide to only wear black, at least for now my son is a Kaleidoscope Kid. And I’m proud of it.
(*In case you're wondering, the fetching tights in the top picture are from Frugi)