Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Are we stereotyping our grandchildren?

There's a cute video working it's way around twitter and facebook, it's called, Disrupting the Pink Aisle. It's premise is about stereotyping little girls and how this will have a knock on effect on their future careers.
It got me thinking, do I stereotype my tiny granddaughter? She's nearly two so she's not made up her mind fully to what she likes yet,she plays with what she is given,or does she?
Cleaning doors in a tutu.
I love children's toys, especially, dolls, dollhouses, teddies,tea sets. I was never interested in my brother's toys as a child apart from his James Bond car where a tiny man jumped out the top of the car through an ejector seat,I loved that.
 I am a girlie girl who is so delighted to be able to buy frilly tutus (didn't have them in my day, you had to go to ballet) and all things pink, but am I doing the right thing for my tiny girl's future? The tutu dress on the right is about the third one I've bought for her, it's for her birthday party and she was trying it on when she decided to clean doors. She's usually in trousers.

I look after my friend's son who twitter and my blog know as toddler boy, he's a year older than tiny girl being nearly three. He doesn't like pink, he says it's for girls, he's a dinosaur boy. We have lots of dinosaurs and dragons and cars. We also have dolls, a pink buggy, a pink motor home tent, a kitchen etc..
We made a volcano for the dinosaurs
Hiding, tea party, and pink toys.

I have at times seen toddler boy playing with the buggy and the dolls but probably only to undress them (boys!). On the other hand tiny girl just loves dinosaurs and cars, she plays on her own with them for far longer than she'll play with dolls. They both love shape sorters, books, sand, playdough, all very unisex, so maybe I'm not doing as bad as I thought I was.
A few months ago when toddler boy was only about two and a half we went for a walk to our nearest large shop which sells everything from paint to perfume with the promise that the walk and being good in the shop may result in a new dinosaur. When said dinosaur was chosen. I said, "Let's buy something for tiny girl as a surprise." He immediately ran to the next aisle where everything was pink and said, "Buy it here she likes pink."
How did he know? Tiny girl was only saying a few words then and she has never shown a preference to pink.
Toddler boy must have received that information from somewhere. How does he know the difference between girl's toys and boy's toys? Is it in his DNA ?
I asked him how he knew and maybe we could get her a car or a dinosaur, but he didn't quite have the vocabulary to explain so he just said that she likes pink. I asked him if he wanted something from this pink aisle and he laughed and said I was a silly Nana Anne.

Baking, painting and play dough.
Boots department stores have had to remove their signage after complaints from customers. They had a sign saying "Boy's Toys" above Science Museum toys and another saying "Girls Toys" above all the pink tea sets and girlie stuff. They have apologised but reading between the lines they don't really seem to understand what all the fuss was about, they thought they were helping their customers.

photo tweeted by @SeanEGray
When my children were young there wasn't as many pink toys about. My daughter, like me  has a brother so she had the choice of what toy to play with but I can't remember her being very interested in boy's toys. Today  you will have a hard time finding a "girl's" toy without it being pink. I wanted to buy a toy teaset,something both children could have picnics and tea parties with.I didn't want it to be pink,or Peppa pig or Hello Kitty, I searched everywhere eventually finding a plain red one (Tesco)  that toddler boy could play with too without complaining it was pink and he loves it.
There are too many pink toys around,what's wrong with the primary colours for girl's too, or a nice bright orange, I'm sure girls would still find the toys attractive and it would make them more unisex.

Tiny girl's favourite things to play with at the moment are stones. She loves going for a walk and collecting them, bringing them back home and putting them in various dishes around the house, toddler boy is right there with her, he's a stone collector too.

I've came to the conclusion that I'm not a bad gran or Nana Anne, I am giving them a rounded experience,we paint, glue, make things, play with sand, playdough,water, read books, all of which are not stereotyping either of them. After writing this I do intend to be more aware for the future, and when tiny girl is older and decides she loves pink I want it to be her decision and not what the advertisers want her to like. I don't like to think of either of them being brainwashed.

Children don't just play with toys. They're always busy.
My two toddlers are having birthdays soon which means presents. Toddler boy will be getting a talking, screeching pterodactyl while, and I'm now scared to say this, I have bought  pink pony that walks and neighs for tiny girl,well she loves ponies. There is also a completely unisex Noah's Ark I have my eye on, it  is bright red, yellow and green, makes engine and animal noises, and has lots of animals. Hopefully it will make up for the pink fluffy pony.

Disrupting The Pink Aisle.


  1. What truly delightful pictures, Anne!!! Lovely to see the little ones. As a future gran, I hope I will pursue the same policy I had with DD - all colours all flavours and her choice. I still have the navy and rich green velvet dungarees I made for her, and the numerous patchwork jackets, which will be passed to the grandchild. It is interesting the way the little ones do gravitate towards gendered colours - not sure whether that is genetic, TV marketing or just how they are!!!

  2. My mom so wanted a girly girl she could dress up and share girly thing with. Instead she got a little girl whose fave colour was bright red (I picked red shag carpet for my room) that preferred to play with a cap gun and cowboy hat, fought every effort to get me in a dress and treated my dolls like crap. lol

  3. Thanks Carol. It will be fun finding out what she really does like. Her mum dresses her quite funky,I'm more traditional.

  4. This is a tough one. I definitely think toy shops have a lot to answer for - defining girls' toys and boys' toys so rigidly, and all that girlie pink and glitter!

    But, with grandchildren of both gender, I can see differences in what they choose to play with, and their general physicality. In my opinion, what can help more than anything is helping children to see that whatever toys children choose is fine. So dolls are neither better nor worse than trains, they are simply different. Difference is fine - disparaging it is not.

  5. I have a son and a daughter and from the very start they wanted gender-specific toys. I was helpless to stop it. In fact, I feel quite jealous if the pink fluffy aisles in the shops today. I wish those things had been around when I was a kid. I would have loved it, especially the pink glittery clothes. It's so not fair!

  6. You sound like a great all-round gran, Anne! So lovely that they like to collect things. I don't have grandchildren, and sadly, I am not likely to, but I think if I did, I would firstly let them play with whatever they felt inclined to as long as it's not physically harmful in any way, and secondly, I love strong colours, so I wouldn't really be tempted to do the gender thing with clothes. I have two daughters. When they were small, they preferred building things, (e.g. twig houses, cardboard cities, wigwams etc to bought toys) but then they would populate them with teddies and dolls, so they had both sides :-) I suspect that growing up in a country where they could play outside all the time also influenced their tastes.

  7. Adorable pictures and interesting questions raised. One thing I know for sure is that when I was a kid this would never have come up. And somehow we turned out to be what we were meant to be. At least I did.

  8. Yes Jo I agree with you, after all nothing wrong with boys pushing a pram as one day they might be a father and have to push one for real.

  9. I know! I would have loved a tutu,my daughter had to have ballet lessons to wear one and now my granddaughter wears one nearly all the time.

  10. Thanks Val,I try. My granddaughter loves cars and dinosaurs but that could be because she wants to be the same as toddler boy as he's older than her. She's not that into dolls at the moment.

  11. Maybe you're right Inger and we all turn out as we're supposed too.


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