Walking through the supermarket this week, I saw and was once again confused by the Kinder eggs marked ‘for boys’ next to the ‘for girls ones’. I was not bothered by the separation; I was confused by all the fuss that has been made recently regarding gender specific merchandise.

My biggest concern is that these days, anything ‘for girls’ is seen as insulting; that femininity is frivolity. What message are we trying to give the world? That it’s not OK to be a girl?

I am a part time piano teacher. For my beginners I use a star-chart reward system for homework done, books remembered and a few bonus stickers on special days when they blow my socks off with their efforts. When their star-chart is full, they get to choose from a bag of goodies -1 prize per completed chart. I have a mixture of toys for them to choose from: dinky cars, sticker packs, loom refills, glitter pens, Hello Kitty figurines, elf-ears, Barbie headlamps, monster dolls, slime pots and dinosaur stationery.

I never guide any of the children, but present them all with the same opportunity to select their own prize. And I have noticed something that I’m pretty sure doesn’t break any molds of child phycology or mount any new discoveries in the gender question. Boys often tend to pick ‘boy’ toys, and girls ‘girly’ ones – even the girls who prefer blue to pink.

I guarantee that the marketing departments of Ferrero, LEGO and all major toy manufacturers have noticed this too.

So my question is – is it really so bad to give children the option to have/play with/dress the way they want to, even when it falls into a traditional gender roll?

While I agree that gender stereotypes should never be forced on a child, we must not forget that gender ‘general-ness’ still happens quite often, and quite naturally. Sure, old-school thinking would push toys relating to motherhood and domesticity on girls while toys of war be placed in the hands of boys, but lets not get ahead of ourselves here. Is it possible that sometimes a boy just wants to be an imaginary race car driver? And a girl just likes to feel like a princess?

Everyone seems to be happy with little Johnny (and his sister) playing with racing cars, but suddenly it’s totally not cool for Jane to have a doll. ‘Quickly, quickly – give her the action hero costume – NOT the princess one!’ Since when did being a girl become so bad? Since when is being a ‘girly girl’ reason to mock, shun or shy away from? I think women are the stronger species, and better still for doing it all in heels!

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My nephew, all of 3 years old, is OBSESSED with anything with a motor. From cars to dump trucks to planes to the weed eater, he gets visibly excited and enthralled with anything that moves and goes ‘Rrrrrrrrr!’ Should we try to knock that out of him and force something pink and frilly on him to try prove a point? Should we slap the wrist of anybody who buys him a ‘Cars’ book for his birthday? I don’t think so.

My niece is a princess through and through. From fairy wings to her favorite pink and purple tights, she loves to be an unashamed girl, as girly as they come. And I think it’s wonderful. Does that mean she won’t ever be interested in owning a science starter kit? Not likely.

Another one of my nieces is 7 years old and loves dinosaurs. She knows more about T-rex than I ever did (before she educated me) and impresses me with her knowledge and love of the reptiles. I think that’s pretty darn awesome, and think she would make the cutest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle next Halloween, if she was still keen on the idea.

I don’t feel that gender specific is as dangerous and demonic as some make it out to be – I feel that it’s up to the user/parent to be open minded enough to know the difference between forcing a colour on their child based on their reproductive organs, and giving their child the equal opportunity to choose what their own little heart desires. And to be able to allow them to be exposed to both, so that they themselves really can make the choice. If that means cricket for boys, so be it. If that means ballet lessons for your little girl, who cares? It’s all exercise, which is far more important to their developing bodies and muscle structure than making a social statement.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that if your girl wants to play cricket and your boy is more interested in ballet you should rein them in with gendered chains. Let them be, let them explore.

What concerns me is that the back-lash against gender specific merchandise always seems to put emphasis on how ‘cool’ traditional boy stuff is for both boys and girls, but how un-acceptable anything ‘girly’ is – that a girl child ever be given a baby doll, a pink tutu or a Frozen Tiara to spend her play time with.

When did perceived femininity become synonymous with weak, frivolous and the ‘lesser gender’? Frankly, I’m quite surprised that the people who perpetuate this message are mostly those who strive for women to have equal rights. Doesn’t equal rights and equal opportunities include femininity too? Feminism, by it’s very name and nature, should include the feminine, not ostracize it. These ovaries aren’t the enemy, and my estrogen levels never made me ashamed of who I am.

An article in TIME titled ‘I Don’t Want My Daughter to Hate Pink’ stated:

I was embarrassed because I put my daughter in something feminine, because feminine means frivolous and silly. This is NOT OK.

This is an excellent account of how sometimes we get so focused on being anti the ‘or’ that we forget there is another way – the ‘and’.

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I am the girliest of girls. I love high heels, make up, babies and anything that sparkles. I prefer elegant champagne glasses to beer bottles, cute coffee mugs with princess slogans, and only buy gym water bottles with pink trimmings. I went on a full fledged campaign to find pink crossfit trainers in my size last year, just so that I could ‘look pretty’ while doing routine cleans, dead lifts and weighted back squats.

I have always wanted to be a wife, a writer, and the owner of my own home industry because I want to be a stay-at-home mother.

I don’t feel like a lesser human being because of this. I don’t feel that I should be taken less seriously or that it’s OK for other women to look down on me for spending any effort in pursuit of my life goals. And I think it’s ridiculous that some people find it offensive that I have a pink, crystal-decorated pen. Or at least, they find the fact that some manufacturer produced this pen with a specific target market in mind – me. (Seriously people? It writes in the same ink as boring coloured pens do…what’s the big deal?)

I am also a fly-fisherman. When I go fly fishing, a sport mostly dominated by men, I wear pink. I have a pink fly rod and some gorgeous pink fishing boots. My wader fins even have pink laces to cut through the masculine monotony that is essentially a pair of green or brown rubber onsies (try finding pink waders. It’s impossible!)

But here’s the thing. Wearing pink gear doesn’t make me any less of a fly fisherman. My skill and technique isn’t diminished in anyway by wearing a ‘ladies’ hat, and the pink fly rod is as functional and smooth a cast as any other coloured rod in it’s range. While I am by no means the best fly fisherman out there, I’m better than quite a few men out there, and wearing pink doesn’t do anything to damper that fact.

So should I be ashamed of my femininity? Should I apologize for applying lipstick in the morning while getting ready for work or for owning a pair of bedazzled jean shorts? Should I beat myself up for being a ‘frivolous human’ any time I find a functional product in hot pink, clearly put together for a girly girl such as I?

Should I allow society, and a very strong group of mostly female accusers, diminish me to a walking, airheaded plastic doll based solely on my outward appearances and choice of iPhone cover?

I thought Feminism was better than that.

Here’s to being a girly girl, and proud of it!

Pami-sign


IMAGES: 1. Via THE INDEPENDENT / 2. Via FB COVER STREET / 3. Via PREVENTION MAGAZINE /