Tag Archives: gender bias

The tyranny of Blue & Pink (a blog from 2013)

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?’
Long pause.
‘There’s one here.’
Pause.
‘No. It’s made of plastic. It doesn’t fire bullets…’
Pause.
‘…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.
She nods.
‘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.
‘That’s pink.’
‘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.’
Argghhh.
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?’
Isla giggles.
‘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.’
Isla nods.
‘Now what shall we get your friends for their birthdays?’ I say, changing the subject.
‘Those.’

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.

Discuss…

***

Here’s an interesting study from 2005…

http://web.mit.edu/2.00b/www/documents/ToyGender.pdf

Writing For Girls And Boys – blog post by Alan Dapre, children’s author


Recently, I was browsing in a well-known superstore with my young daughter. She found pink pyjamas decorated with rainbows – ‘For Girls age 7-8’. Then a set of dinosaur pyjamas. Isla turned to me with a frustrated look and said, “I really want those dinosaur ones, but it says ‘For Boys age 7-8’.”

Then a similar thing happened when we walked through a local discount store. The toy aisles were clearly segregated by colour and gender – pink for girls and blue for boys. Isla picked up a blue skateboard then put it down. “They make me think I can’t have it. Why can’t girls and boys share the toys?”

Why indeed?

As I write this blog at home, I am surrounded by Lego models. Some sets are obviously packaged for boys, others for girls. My daughter chose all of them, regardless. “I think boy stuff is cooler than girl stuff. They get to have ferocious dragons and knights and ninjas. Girls just get pretty rainbows and unicorns and lots of pink. Some girls might want to have different colours and have adventures.”

One of my favourite childhood books was The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler by Gene Kemp. Tyke takes on the school establishment in an action-packed tale. It was quite a shock to discover the eponymous protagonist was Theodora Tiler. Most of the books I had read up until then featured boys doing all the exciting stuff.

Being adventurous is a vital part of growing up for all children, not just boys. Books should reflect that. My Porridge the Tartan Cat books are funny, fast-moving, action packed adventures that anyone can read.

Twins Isla (named after my daughter, who calls herself Real Isla) and Ross McFun feature in every book of the Porridge the Tartan Cat series and star in two. Both characters are go-getting children, with enquiring minds who courageously work together to solve tricky problems. I chose non-identical twins because I wanted female and male characters who are equal but different. Children with the confidence and freedom to express and exchange ideas. In each book, they take turns to explore, to question and to lead. I’m not writing for girls or boys. I’m writing for girls and boys.

 

girl reading kittycat kidnap by alan dapre

My wife is an engineer – and a great role model for our daughter. Together we encourage Real Isla to try new things and believe in herself. Anything is possible. Last month she scuba-dived in a cage at Deep Sea World and loved every moment. Not every child gets a chance to do that. Or to be in a book like Real Isla. But all children should see characters with identifiable traits, and read reassuring books that show them it’s okay to be themselves. Books that nourish, sustain and empower children to be the best they can be.

By the way, my daughter loves wearing her new dinosaur pyjamas. And I love that she loves them, too.

This blog re-post is taken from the Alan Dapré author page at the Discover Kelpies site

Arggh. Not another Dad Blog!

My we’re all at it now. Not long ago a few embarrassed Dads were lurking in the corners of Mumsnet or NetMums or whatever Mums-focussed site existed at the time. Everything on the sites was Mum-this and Mum-that, with the occasional nod to Dads.

A few years ago, when I read comments by Mums about Dads they could be broken down into the following categories;

  • Useless Dad – who wouldn’t know one end of a baby from the other, even if it pooed on him.
  • Absent Dad – who wasn’t there for the child and could therefore go to hell in a handcart.
  • Absent Dad – who was there for the child, but only on Tuesdays and Fridays, or whenever ‘the other woman’ let him out.
  • Cool Dad – who could do everything with babies apart from give birth – eliciting pangs of envy from Dads (and Mums).
  • Cocky Dad – who thought he knew everything and ended up handing back a screaming toddler before sloping off to the Pub.
  • Doppleganger Dad – who would act the same as his Dad did – resulting in a child who knows the times tables up to 12 even though everything is in decimal these days.
  • Grumpy Dad – who never seemed to enjoy the time he has with his child, preferring to be on the golf course or watching paint dry.

There were other examples that slipped my mind. Most of the Dad stereotypes centred on Dads being a) useless and b) not as good as Mums.

This was mirrored by adverts on TV where the joke was always on the hapless Dad. I can’t stand those type of adverts – mainly because they are created by all-male advertising agencies who are trying to pander to the female demographic – not realising that women are actually smarter than them – and can see through the product-pushing tosh.

Okay – so why was there such a knocking of Dads on Mum orientated sites?  I suppose the obvious point is that women have been dealt a poor hand over the years. There has been rampant sexism against females who have been repressed at home and work. Even now there is not equal pay in the workplace for qualified women – and I suspect that the ‘glass ceiling’ is still causing quite a few bruised foreheads.

Maybe it was to do with men encroaching into territory where Mums feel they have a natural superiority – borne out of everything that comes with giving birth. Mums know best is often said – probably true, but now Dads were trying to chip in too.

Or maybe it has to do with women being fed up with having to justify themselves, such as always being subjected to glossy magazines – and their depiction of what is ideal in a woman. You know, stick thin twigs with bodies – airbrushed to perfection. Images that men see and wonder why they are not borne out in reality. A woman who has just gone through child birth has enough on without having to worry if her skinny jeans still fit. Which brings me onto Barbie. Arghh!

Tonight my daughter bemoaned the fact she did not have Barbie’s long blonde hair. That hers was ‘rubbishy brown’. I pointed out that Barbie’s hair wasn’t real and felt horrid, whereas hers was soft and a beautiful natural colour.

Barbie. Where do I start?

  1. Barbie has ridiculously small feet that are unbelievably bendy, with a hole in the sole. Ouch.
  2. Barbie’s limbs look like she has been stretched on a mediaeval rack. Her weedy legs are longer than mine!
  3. She has moulded on pants to cover up her dignity. Okay, I get the idea that she has ‘rudey bits’ but such modesty is at odds with her desire to flaunt her boobs. No nipples I note – so breast-feeding is out then, eh Barbie?
  4. Barbie has a freaky wide-eyed stare that implies she is about to go off and boil a few bunnies.
  5. Barbie elicits unreal benchmarks for what is beauty.
  6. Barbie has some words stamped on her back – Ouch again.
  7. Barbie can’t hold things with her hands – she can just karate chop at things.
  8. Barbie’s head swivels 360 degrees which is something I’ve only ever seen in horror films.
  9. Barbie was launched – born – in 1959 which makes her 54. She looks like she has had tons of plastic surgery, but then again, she is plastic.
  10. Barbie is a formidable role model regarding jobs. She has done everything over her five decades. She’s been an Ambassador For World Peace, President, Astronaut, Palaeontologist, Cashier and Cow Girl – the list is endless. Amazing what you can do without any joints.
  11. Barbie is a bully who is distorting my lovely daughter’s idea of what is good in this world. My wee girl is a star!
alan dapre copyright my wee star

My Wee Star – photo (c) alan dapre 2013

Ahem. Moving on.

About two years ago, I started my Dad blog with little fanfare. In fact, I wrote a hurried little post that I hoped no one would notice. No one noticed. Seventy five posts later and I get a small but steady stream of readers. I look at other blogging Dads and envy their ability to stick to task. One writes about the practical sides of being a Dad, another about what it is like to bring up children as a widower, another about life with twins, etc.

I tend to ramble on about the funny things my daughter says, or moan about not getting enough books published. If I have nothing to say then I’ll review a book or come up with tips on Writing for children. I suppose I write what resonates with me. I try to have one eye open for the reader but as I feel that I don’t have an audience as such that I am free to witter on any way my keyboard takes me.

But one thing I am proud of is this. I’m proud to be a Dad – and delighted to show that Dads can be sensitive without being weak, kind without spoiling, nurturing without smothering, educational without dictating, and fun. Without fun then parenting is nothing. Mums and Dads should not seek to differentiate each other – we should play up our similarities – how much we love our children, wish them to grow into happy, well-rounded individuals who care for each other and the world about them.

So this is not another Dad Blog. It is my Dad Blog.

I’m the Daddy.

(And Mummy’s fab too!)