Tuesday, 12 March 2013

My name is Cartside and I let my daughter sleep in a blue cot

As Snowflake gets older we're slowly but surely passing on all things baby stuff. I'm not one to just throw things out, most items are in perfect condition and I could never just bin it, so I try my best to find someone who could make use of it.

This has led to the odd chuckle.

I must be a really bad mum. Imagine, I let my girl sleep in a blue cot. Oh my. And I prevented her from falling out of the bed with a blue bed guard. Oh the shame. (I still live in hope that there's redemption for me because both were actually hardly used at all.)

Now, I'm totally resigned to the choices my girls make, and Cubling is pink ballerina princess incarnate. We have so much pink in the house it makes me sick. But it's ok I tell myself (although I'm very tempted to rid ourselves of the chair with her name on it that says "I want to be a ballarina, pop star, stewardess, nurse), she loves pink and is just a lot more girlie than I ever was. Thankfully her sister happily declares she's a boy because she's George and her big sister is Peppa. That's fine too, I quite like to pretend I've got one each occasionally.

But it seems that I live in a land where pink and blue aren't optional but compulsory. You mustn't dress your girl in anything not pink. You mustn't use any toy that is not pink. You mustn't use a blue cot. A colleague introduced her new baby girl who was dressed in something blue and everyone assumed it was a boy. It wasn't baby blue, it was a colour that to me didn't shout out boy and I'd never have made a gender assumption based on the colour of that outfit, so much so that I noticed the various people surrounding her that did call the baby "he".

You see, I'm trying to sell or give away the stuff and have offered things to people desperate for them, only to be told, sorry I have a girl so was really looking for something pink?

People of the kind responding to my gumtree and netmums adverts, I have 2 (TWO) girls and I'm sick to the bone of pink, I promise you your daughter will not even notice they are sleeping in a blue cot or are kept inside the bed by a blue bed guard. I'm not just being terrorised by my older daughter now, but also by fellow mums who I would have thought would be as tired of the omnipresent pink as I was. It's a pink army out there, I tell you.

I mean, I'm really not trying to make a point of clothing my girls in neutral stuff. They wouldn't wear it. I'm not radical and totally ride the wave of my girls' preferences which very often are pink to my dismay. But I'm really surprised that fellow mums have subscribed to the pink marketing to this extend. Welcome to the kingdom of pink. By extension, how can we expect our daughters to choose anything other than what offer them in the pink world of toys and equipment. They will go for the fluffy pink underpaid and undervalued jobs, eventually realising that those don't pay enough to justify staying in work only to become financially dependent and end up on low pensions, on benefit or in low income, insecure jobs. They will choose to want to become nurses rather than doctors and stewardesses rather than pilots. Then have children and leave the job market. And so we perpetuate the gender pay gap and gender inequality, as well as the outcomes of our next generation because maternal education levels are the single most important indicator of educational outcomes of children.

Brave new world that has such pink people in it.


Sarah Head said...

I know I'm way too old-fashioned since my kids are in their 20s and 30s and I'm a grandmother, but my daughter followed her two elder brothers and wore all their clothes without a murmer. Their clothes were colour coded in that No1 son was red, No2 son blue and daughter was green. No pink anywhere except in very small amounts. My sister in law loathes pink being a redhead and her daughter, also a redhead, follows her mother's taste in colours. My daughter is a professional musician and teacher, my niece got a first in physiotherapy and now drives a London ambulance as a qualified paramedic. As a child of the late 50s and 60s and brought up on a farm, my sister and I had one dress for summer and one for winter with trousers for outside and pink never entered the equation. My grandson wears many different colours and if he is fortunate enough to have a sister one day, I suspect she will wear his clothes and not worry about it either. Interesting girls choose many colours.

Muddling Along said...

My girls have worn a lot of 'boys' clothes - mostly helped by having 3 cousins for hand-me-downs and my preference for brights not pinks

Interestingly one is very pink and the other less so - I hope by showing them there are different colours at some stage they will grow out of the pink phase

Leighton Pritchard said...

I think it's possible to worry too much about the social convention of sex- (or gender-) specific colours, which is hardly very ancient, ingrained, or culturally stable. This article puts it in an interesting context: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/When-Did-Girls-Start-Wearing-Pink.html

"Little Franklin Delano Roosevelt sits primly on a stool, his white skirt spread smoothly over his lap, his hands clasping a hat trimmed with a marabou feather. Shoulder-length hair and patent leather party shoes complete the ensemble.

We find the look unsettling today, yet social convention of 1884, when FDR was photographed at age 2 1/2, dictated that boys wore dresses until age 6 or 7, also the time of their first haircut. Franklin’s outfit was considered gender-neutral."

I wouldn't want to be labelled as overly cynical, but if someone has (at least) one child of each sex and there is pressure that otherwise reusable clothes should be coloured according to the sex of their wearer, 'forcing' an unnecessary purchase to avoid social embarrassment, it's pretty clear whose interest this is in ;) I don't think that Smithsonian article is inconsistent with the idea that the colour division is arbitrary, possibly reinforced by media representations just as mass media (In Colour! no less…) became overwhelmingly influential in the West, so maybe it's just a happy accident for consumerism that it's turned out this way?

Clair said...

You are not alone. I promise.

I happily took a hand-me-down bike for my daughter - it belonged to my friends son. She loves it. She didn't notice it's colour. And my nephew? He has worn hand-me-down things from the girls.

As I have three girls I don't often buy the "pink" option as I want to get them different colours and its easier to get three "neutral" than three different "girls" ones- their DS's are variations on blue.

They love pink and glitter and fluffyness but it's not all defining though and that's all I want, that they are open to all the options.

herald said...

Comparing stewardesses with nurses? That's a bit harsh! Imagine making your children feel that becoming a nurse is not good enough, I have to say I couldn't forgive myself! I think the most important thing is to let your children know to their potential and support them in any way possible. To belittle or compare professions against each other is not really fair (and no, I'm not a nurse!).
I do my best to fight the battle against pink too and a friend commented on my son's top (isn't that a girls top?) - even though there was no pink or purple of any other fluff and I was the opinion it was a perfectly scandinavian unisex top, you can't win!
And by the way in our family we have a doctor and a pilot, both female :-)

cartside said...

@herald, I didn't mean to compare stewardess with nurses, maybe I should explain that my older one was given a pink chair for her birthday with the writing on it "I want to be a ballerina, a stewardess, a nurse, a pop star". I cringed because of the female stereotype, and the lower wage slip such professions carry. If you read my blog regularly you will find posts where I make a case for professions with high societal value, such as nurses, child care workers, primary school teachers deserving higher pay than they receive (how come a car mechanic earns more than a childminder? Do we value our cars more than our children?). I didn't intend to liken or to demean any profession, just the gendering of professions and the subsequent effect on the wage slip. I should also say that this post above is full of generalisations, it was meant to be mildly funny and extreme to get a reaction, there is a lot in it that can be argued against and I know this, also some conclusions I draw are not proven. I should also say that I don't believe that a parent who decides to give up a job to raise children is doing the wrong thing, in fcat, it is the most important job in my view to raise children, and you could/should take issue with the fact that I may have demeaned stay at home parents. The issue I do see though is that gender, pink and expectations of a gender do have an influence on children, conscious or not and may impact on their choices. I have found myself in very female professions - I know that I could probably have made better paid career in another field but my choice was not to. Is this bad, am I letting down my gender? I think not. I have the best job in the world. So I've kind of demeaned myself too ;)



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