Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places


gender stereotypes

P is for Princess (of Power)

I’ve written before about how I’ve been making a concerted effort not to pink up Arddun – or at least to teach her that ALL colours are gorgeous, and that just because she’s a girl, she’s not expected to default to Pink, Purple or Sparkle.

Lately, my Facebook feeds have thrown up lots of mini debates about gender equality, nurture vs nature, and if or when a child should decide if they are a boy or girl regardless of the genitalia they were born with. Until Arddun, I don’t think I’ve ever bothered to mull over such topics in great detail, having never questioned my sex. But as a parent, these have become Hard Questions because they hit the heart, the head, and the faith.

In anything – whether we decide that we want our babies to play with “unisex” toys and wear “gender neutral” colours. Whether we allow them to choose the design of their next birthday cake, or decide what party theme they are going to have to live with.

Whether we decide if they go to a private Christian school or a public secular one. Whether we bring in God and theology from the start. Whether we let our child play with the rough kid next door, whether we teach them to push back or retreat. … we shape these individuals. We mold their world. We craft their mindsets. At least for a little while.

The difficulty is understanding where that fine line sits. Therein lies all the difference between a hug and a smother. When does setting boundaries start to snuff out freewill? When does instruction become indoctrination?

I don’t know. But in thinking about colours and my aversion to overtly Princessy things, I’ve lately wondered about the bias I was bringing to the table. And perhaps I’ve been looking at it all wrong because I’ve assumed Pink, Purple and Sparkle are way too girly girl girl. As if being a girl’s girl were a bad thing, ala this fabulous ad campaign:


Other things I’ve noticed – Lego. The tiny ones for older hands? They are now either in dark boy boxes or pink-purple girl ones. The ones I grew up with – the ones where the bricks are in primary colours and you can build anything that springs up in your fertile kiddy imagination, all that’s gone.

It frankly appalls me that they only put Male and Female Lego figurines in those dark and pinky boxes respectively. And truth be told, Arddun adores diggers, trains, and trucks, along with playing Masterchef (she made noodles this week) and offering hair styling services. But because I want Arddun to have heroines to fly those Lego planes and haul dirt in Lego diggers, I went and got a bunch of pink Lego boxes for her.

So now she has Mimi (the brunette) and Mary (the blonde with the lamb).

Hair slightly askew with oversized bows, but still good.

Anyhoo – sorry this got all dark and twisty. I actually started out this post just wanting to put up Arddun piccies. Like this one:

Arddun reading to herself in her bedroom while dressed as a princess
Princesses are brainy people. Lots to keep up with when running a kingdom.

Arddun has no difficulty saying the word “Princess”. This we’ve known for at least a year, because we have a CD of Australian Christian songs for young children, and Arddun calls it the Princess CD because it has a picture of Christ’s crown on it. She can also say “Promise” and “Umbrella”. So we don’t understand why she can’t say the word “Properly”… you know… properly.

Me: (While getting Arddun into her car seat) Are you sitting properly?

Arddun: I’m sitting plopply.

Me: Are you sure you’re sitting properly?

Arddun: (A little indignant) I am sitting plopply!

Me: Not plopply, Arddun. Prrr…. prrrrrroperly.

Arddun: Pppppppp… plopply.

Me: PRRRRRRR… Properly!


Cracks both of us up all the time.

We also made a fairy castle today.

Cupcake stand unassembled and in packet
Okay, so it didn’t come from the toy section. Which is why it only cost me $10.
Arddun stringing bunting together
‘Scuse the hair: Deep in concentration, as Arddun strings the bunting together.
Close up of bunting
Tiny industrious hands
Arddun pushing hair aside
“Phew! Finally done!”
Arddun sitting beside finished Cupcake Castle
The finished product
Arddun playing with paper fairy in castle
Castle in action

Staring intently at the fairy

Black cygnet

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.

Arddun in dance skirt

Black and Gold
Black and Gold

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑