I’ve been making a concerted effort not to pink up my daughter. I try to keep it out of her wardrobe, her toys are mostly gender-neutral. I’m not sure what it is – whether it’s a subconscious nature vs nurture experiment I’m conducting, or whether it’s all those perpetuating-their-oppression feminist classes I took in Poly. And perhaps it has something to do with what my male colleague and father of 4 girls once told me sagely – that your house, despite your best intentions, will eventually be overrun by pink and purple tiaras and sparkles. Maybe I’m valiantly trying to delay the inevitable.
But I’ve been making a concerted effort not to pink up my daughter.
Which has therefore induced the weirdest knee-jerk reaction and every mother’s secret default position: guilt. In conscientiously exposing my daughter to colours and concepts that break traditional gender stereotypes (yes, you CAN play with toy diggers! And oh wait, check out your soccer ball and net! CAR! Vroom vroom!), I now wonder if I’m just as guilty of perpetuating my own stereotypes of what a young woman of substance should be – or perhaps limiting its definition.
And yes, I know strength of character and all that goes far beyond whether a girl likes sparkles and make-up. The truth is, I have no real issue with sparkles and pink. I had my own Barbie doll (from age 9), and my favourite colour from ages 4 to 10 was pink. I had a gold tiara (which an aunt sat on and broke, a most devastating event in a 6yo girl’s life and which no amount of stolen sticky tape can truly remedy). My favourite dress-up item was a white tulle tutu which doubled up as a veil, and my heroines always wore long, sweeping skirts fashioned out of my childhood blanket and clothes pegs. But I also had a horse, and a magic scepter like Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty because I could conjure kick-ass spells. And I kept a fire-breathing dragon for long-haul travel. And wielded a sword like She-Ra (remember her?!)
My issue, I think, is that girls should ONLY like sparkles and pink. Or that my little girl should grow up to believe that her femininity is defined by the sickly-sweetiepoo aisles in Toys R’Us, where they sell make-up to toddlers and glam up hair styling. Where the domain of house keeping and baby nursing is marketed as the sole responsibility and interest of the growing woman. (Look! A pink broom! And a wall of baby dolls and bottles! But never in the “boy’s” section.) And because the onslaught of “Girls Like Pink and Sparkles” is relentless out there, I’ve veered the other extreme and kept Arddun as far away from all that for as long as I can.
To the point where I now feel conflicted when I watch her put Kitty in a nappy (slathered with diaper cream – do you know how very hard that is to scrub off?) And my skin crawls a little when she rushes towards a big, floofy skirt. We took a walk through Toys R’Us the other day to get Christmas shopping done, and my heart swelled when she sat and examined Marvel comic figurines. (“Look, Mama! BLUE MAN!”) But then I could not pry her away from the Wall of Baby Dolls that Cry when you Yank the Dummy Out.
Nature trumps all? Perhaps. But I thought deep and long about the messages she was getting. It was the first time I wondered if I had compromised her view of the world by only showing her that Mummy stays at home and Daddy goes to work. (Except now, I leave in the evenings for Tupperware parties, so that view is getting corrected fast.) I know she’s only 2, for crying out loud. But when your child is the very first, and you are trying to bring her up to be intelligent and questioning and self-aware… these things can plague you.
The truth is, I am equally remiss if all I teach Arddun is that pink is yuck. True femininity should be so much more. I want Arddun to grow up knowing she has freedom to embrace both “boy” things and “girl” things. That she can pretend to be both Mummy and Blue Hulk. (Because sometimes, I can be one and the same.) That she can love both Kitty and Thomas the Tank Engine. Which she does.
And so lately, I’ve softened my stance on big floofy skirts. Arddun has started dance classes on Thursday mornings, and she absolutely loves it. I had dressed her up like a hip hop street kid the first few weeks, but all the other girls there dress up like fairies, so this is my compromise. The first time she saw that white skirt, she fell in love with me a little bit more.