When we hear about the birth of a new baby, the first thing that strikes us is if it is a boy or girl. Gender becomes the key topic even before birth.
When I first sat to write this post, I wanted to ask questions, seek answers and somehow nudge the brains of the readers that how we stereotype girls’ (and boys’) behavior from the very beginning. While doing some research over the topic I came across a lot of articles and blog questioning the Color coding of babies and then differentiating toys for them but ultimately the question remains is this the way how we want our children to grow up and especially girls for that matter?
I have just became a mother to a baby girl and when I first went to a babys’ store, I saw the world divided into pink and blue. Pink for girls and blue for boys. But this was not always the case. For centuries, baby were dressed gender neutral in plain whites up to 6 years of age because white could easily be bleached. With the turn in century (20th) came a trend of dressing boys in pink (little brother of red) because it symbolizes danger, fierceness and hence, masculine. Girls were dressed in blue because it is considered calm and passive. This trend was majorly contributed because of an infant department’s issue in some magazine setting rules for both boys and girls. The attempt did not work as expected. It was in mid-80s that these strict color gender norms set in.
I once read in my Marketing class during MBA that one of the very important marketing strategy is Segmentation. It is the identification of the portion of the market that are different from each other. So color coding was a marketing ploy by retailers.
Believe you me, My husband and I still get into an argument when we go to buy clothes for our baby. He does not like me buying anything from boys’ aisle. Earlier I used to feel offended but then I realized it is the society/environment talking not him.
What annoys me the most is the gender based toys. Are the children going to play with their hands or what part, seriously? All boys toys are wild and fierce which signify force while on the other hand all that girls can lay their hands on are Barbies and soft toys to signify domesticity and cosmetic beauty .Is this what we want to teach our girls? At least I don’t and neither did my parents.
I was a tomboy till first 15 years of my life. I had chopped hair, and I used to play with my brother and cousins with almost equal wildness as one could imagine. I am not saying that I did not play with Barbies and a kitchen set but I had a choice: To choose my toys. I was not forced or influenced by anybody to take that decision. But things have changed for worse.
My girl is growing up in same society with similar stimuli. I would rather have her play rugged and dirty than sitting pretty and neat with her Barbie. But then that is not my choice to make. What I can do is to make her understand playing with Barbie is okay but playing with cars and star-wars toys is fun too. I can tell her it is nice to be prim and proper but it is also fine to be puckered and crumpled at times. I can tell her it is important to know how to cook food but it is more important to know how to change the tire of your car.
I have been a feminist all my life and when I say feminist, people mistake Feminism for hatred for Men. I am not against men or anybody for that matter but I do believe we live in a not-so-fair-world, where at times we pick our battles but when you are a girl there are some battles that you by default are supposed to fight no matter how good you are. To raise our girls in way that helps them better adapt to the society and help them change the world a little for better, is all we are supposed to do as parents.
If we keep on color coding and differentiating toys , we are molding their brains for specific likings and interests and limiting their exposure to universe out there. We do not have any right to deny them that and trust me,we do not even want to do that.
I want to conclude today’s post with a few lines from the famous poem of Sarah Kay, “If I should have a daughter”
“Baby,” I’ll tell her “remember your mama is a worrier but your papa is a warrior and you are the girl with small hands and big eyes who never stops asking for more.
Your voice is small but don’t ever stop singing and when they finally hand you heartbreak, slip hatred and war under your doorstep and hand you hand-outs on street corners of cynicism and defeat, you tell them that they really ought to meet your mother.
(this post continues with how this impacts boys and how they can contribute from the very beginning in bringing a change.)