Speaking up on gender myths
“Pink isn’t a girls’ colour! It’s just a colour!”
Like so many stereotypes boys face, that’s only the case because we’ve told them. So let’s tell them something else.
As the parent of two boys, hearing my young son lecture his brother on why he shouldn’t knock a pink shirt – especially when his cricketing heroes were wearing the colour on television as they spoke – was a proud moment.
But winning points on fashion choices is a small victory in the ongoing battle to convince boys many of the stereotypes created by tradition, peer pressure and advertising are rules we should be breaking.
The colour myth is a great example. Jo Paoletti, author of Pink and Blue: Telling the Girls From The Boys In America, points out at once stage the preferred colour for boys was actually pink. It was clothing retailers who decided boys should be dressed in blue, using the logic: “The more you individualise clothing, the more you can sell”.
The same applies to the majority of toys, furnishings and games.
“The more you individualise clothing, the more you can sell.”Jo Paoletti, author of Pink and Blue: Telling the Girls From The Boys In America
Before they’re taught otherwise, kindergarten kids will play with whatever is to hand, girls happy with toy toolkits while boys host tea parties.
But marketers prefer a gender divide so separate toys have to be bought for both, even if no divide exists in the real world.
One of Australia’s biggest toy stores for example, splits its website by gender, showing only girls playing in their toy kitchens and “design and fashion” section, despite the fact many of the world’s top chefs and designers are men.
But bucking the unofficial rules can be tricky, with peer groups often quick to jump on anyone who stands out from the pack, a problem parents are only too aware of.
So how do you tell your son it’s fine if he wants to wear, sing, or play with something that’s labelled “for girls”?
By simply doing that. Tell him it’s fine. And show him.
Take him to a McGrath Foundation charity day where he’ll see elite-level sportsmen proudly wearing pink.
Introduce him to the athleticism of dance, remind him that Spider-Man sewed his own costume and that good chefs now travel the world in private jets cooking cupcakes and more.
And that the one rule we shouldn’t break is to be true to ourselves.
Brought to you by Brighton Grammar School, Melbourne.
Scott Ellis is a senior journalist and has worked through the full range of Australian media. He has two young sons. This article is about Parenting
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