What on earth is all this about???
Have you ever seen a pink zebra? Why is there any need for a pink version of a perfectly good black and white “bounce and spin”? Yes it’s a lovely, happy girl in a green t-shirt that’s riding it, but honestly, who came up with this – “y’know, we’re selling loads of the bouce and spin zebra, so I don’t know, let’s make it appeal more to girls. What about making a pink one?”
Let me calm down for a moment. And visit Pink Stinks as an antidote.
Natasha Walter’s book “Living Dolls” is getting a lot of coverage at the moment. The criticisms of this book seems to be that, in getting older, Walter has lost a sense of perspective, that feminism that has got us to where we are has given women “free choice” and that if they choose to strip off as “empowerment”, fetishize pink, be judged on their looks etc. etc. then that’s their choice. She’s even been accused of not having a sense of humour.
But she has a point. Several in fact.
She points out that Marks and Spencer markets toy irons as “Mummy and me” – and they do. My son loves the realistic toy iron at nursery and shows off to us how he can use it. But I am finding it hard to buy him one for playing at home that isn’t pink.
Toy kitchens seem to have pink plastic all over them – yet my son loves Cbeebies’ “I Can Cook” and carries around a measuring cup and wooden spoon shouting “yum! Taste!” when he’s watching it. Sure I can buy him the pink kitchen, but why on earth is it pink? Our kitchen is black, white and charcoal with flashes of lime green in the accessories – my son wouldn’t associate pink with kitchens.
I love buying him clothes, but it doesn’t matter where I go, I’m lucky if the section I get to choose from is even half the size of the girls clothes section. He has school shoes, wellies and a pair of crocs for the beach, but again the choice is much more limited for boys. Do baby girls have more feet(!)?
But we’re teaching our kids that girls have to have more choice (or more clothes). And when that includes croptops for tweenagers, push-up bras for nine year olds and sexually provocative slogan t-shirts, as opposed to combats, cheeky monkey-bad boy t-shirts for boys we have to wonder what we’re playing at.
This isn’t something new for me to worry about. When I was at university I had a column in the university newspaper “Bare Facts”.
It came about because I had been submitting sports reports on a regular basis (at the time I was dating the American Football team captain, which apparently made me the First Lady and gave me a responsibility to do things to promote the team), and because a friend and I had written in to the letters page about the clothes being worn in the Union.
As we were writing we had a bit of a problem. We were feminist not prudish, felt that women should have more self-respect than to dress as they were rather than because it was something from which men should be shielded for fear of their actions being uncontrollable, and while we were grateful that the women had the choice to dress that way if they wished we had to wonder what led them to choose to do so. This was the mid-nineties and we were observing a trend that Natasha Walter has now written about…
I’ve never been silph-like, but I was a happy 12-14 and I think made the best of my particular best assets. I didn’t object to the bratops being worn with microshorts that seemed to be increasingly popular because I couldn’t wear them, but because these were women studying for degrees, and as Dara O’Briain puts it in “Tickling the English” surely getting a degree means not having to expose your body to get anywhere in life.
My worry is that in accepting “glamour modelling”, lap dancing and pole dancing as empowerment, sacking of older women from anchor roles for wrinkles on TV but accepting older men as having “gravitas”, focusing on women as individuals rather than on society and family (hence the debate in the press on whether maternity leave has damaged women in the workplace rather than whether by concentrating just on women rather than parental leave it has damaged a family’s free choice to arrange childcare between the parents),by businesses not considering how culture in workplaces including presenteeism damage the chances of women who do not act like the men do getting to the top means the problem perpetuates despite starting off with loads of very bright women lower down in the workforce, that some how we’ve missed the point of feminism.
It wasn’t supposed to be about us getting the right to sleep around, dress provocatively and behave as badly as the men in the name of free choice was it? I really hope not. I hope that if anyone tries to write a book on the new feminism now, they realise its ok to say that it’s still a work in progress…