Why can’t girls be vampires too?
On a recent trip to an indoor play area with my little one, I overheard a conversation between a group of 4 year olds. The three boys were playing a game of vampires, and two of the girls wanted to join in.
“No!” Said one of the boys. “Girls can’t be vampires. You have to stay at home and look after the babies. Or you can be a princess.”
One of the little girls crossed her arms and replied: “But I don’t want to do that. Why can’t girls be vampires too?”
The boys didn’t know what to make of this so they ran off to their vampire lair, leaving me slightly bewildered. What, I wondered, made the boys think that the girls weren’t on the same level as them? Did they think this was the normal thing for all females to be doing? What made them think their gender made them entirely different?
I began to look at my own son (coincidentally dressed in a striped blue pirate top that day) and at the girls, who were wearing pretty pink summer dresses and pink shoes. In 2016, in a country where women can run multi-national companies, swap their maternity leave over to their partner and pretty much do whatever it is they want to do – is it right that we still stereotype boys and girls?
According to an online survey by YouGov, the majority of people taking part in the poll still said they would choose the colour pink for painting a baby girl’s room, and blue for baby boys. If a lives in a bedroom where their gender is reflected on the very walls between which they grow up, what hope do they have of challenging this notion?
A quick trip to any children’s clothes shop, and being hit by a wall of pink, will instantly announce the fact that you’re in the girls’ section. I am yet to go into a shop where they have a gender neutral section beyond the age of about 1 month old, or even a retailer which doesn’t split the genders. (Sorry, John Lewis, but rumour has it some girls now like to wear combat trousers, which are usually only available in the boys’ section. This may need addressing at some point.)
I’m certainly not against girls wearing pink. Nor boys wearing blue. I personally love the colour pink, and I would as happily dress my boy in pink as I would blue. Colour, to me, is purely co-incidental. I know many of my friends feel the same, yet they feel pushed into their choices by the Buyers and Marketing teams of big brands.
For most young adults in 2016, gender itself is seen very differently than older generations generally perceive it. A recent survey into gender attitudes across the world named today’s youngsters as the ‘gender fluid generation’. I applaud our young people for their acceptance and open-mindedness of others, and I hope that my generation can learn from them. But if today’s parents still insist on putting tomorrow’s citizens in ‘pink for girls’, it’s like trying to fit a square peg into a blue hole. It’s not necessary, it’s not particularly helpful and hopefully the next generation will refuse to follow suit. Young people in modern society have enough to contend with, without being brought up to think that their particular gender may either benefit them or hold them back. Well, I’ve got news for you. Girls - you can be whatever you want to be – even vampires. And you can do it wearing pink, or any other colour you choose.
What do you think? Are we over-stereotyping the next generation? Should boys be encouraged to wear pink? Or are girls more suited to playing princesses? Does gender even matter? We’d love to hear your views. Join the discussion on our Facebook page, and don’t forget to have your say in paid surveys at Opinion Outpost UK.