I’ve just come back from a local discount store, my arms full of gardening equipment and my head full of questions. While shopping, I overheard a woman speaking into her mobile phone – loud enough for the whole store to overhear.
‘Hmm, I’m still not sure what to get… What about an assault rifle?’
‘There’s one here.’
‘No. It’s made of plastic. It doesn’t fire bullets…’
‘…which I suppose is better.’
Yeah – that’s true. Funnily enough, I don’t really want the Toy aisles stocking working AK47s. Doesn’t seem right somehow.
My daughter is in the Toy aisle of a well known ‘stack them high, sell them cheap’ discount store. The boys’ toys aisle. The girls’ aisle is a row of eye-aching pinkness, stacked with cheap dolls and nail painting sets. The boys meanwhile have Dr Who, Ben 10 and bow & arrow sets.
A few days ago I was walking down one aisle with Isla who said, ‘I don’t want these toys. They’re boys’ toys.’
I explained that there was no such thing, despite us being faced with a long wall of blueness.
‘I don’t want a Dalek,’ says Isla.
‘But you’d like a skateboard,’ I say.
‘So skateboards are for girls too.’
‘I think I would like a pink one. Look.’
She goes down a new aisle and points out a Hello Kitty Mini PINK skateboard.
‘Certainly is.’ I am pleasantly surprised to see it lurking amongst all the Polly Pockets and Disney Princesses dolls. ‘Sure you don’t want a blue one?’
‘No daddy. Pink is for girls.’
My daughter’s actually said it. For the past 4 years I have been trying to be gender neutral. She has had Fireman Sam and Cinderella dressing up clothes. A Doctor’s medic set too. There’s a wooden train set, a dolls’ house, a Playmobil Pirate Ship ….
Basically a real mix of toys. Yet Isla now equates pink with girls and blue with boys.
I blame the advertisers – the sort who have have girls lip-synching along whilst skipping about in glittery pink shoes. The sort who show boys playing with transforming cars and girls playing with sparkly pink ponies.
I ask Isla what she thinks about toys for boys and girls.
‘Well, Daddy…a Ben 10 torch is for boys but I like torches and you have a torch so I can use that.’
‘Would a boy like one of your dolls?’
‘We could play swing ball. James likes swing ball and I like swing ball.’
‘There are no such things as just toys for girls or boys. You can play with what you like,’ I say, with poor grammar but good intentions.
Isla spies a pump action water gun. It is too much like an assault rifle for my liking.
‘That’s not a nice toy.’
‘But you said it’s for girls too.’
‘It’s for warm sunny days and we don’t get many in Scotland.’
‘Now what shall we get your friends for their birthdays?’ I say, changing the subject.
I grit my teeth and take two Disney Princess money boxes to the tills. At least they are the Paint-Your-Own variety.
Apparently the birthday girls loved them.
Here’s an interesting study from 2005…