THE BLOG

Did Bruce Lee play Barbies?

09/04/2015 10:37 BST | Updated 08/06/2015 10:59 BST

Girls are being encouraged, cajoled and, in some quarters, forced to ditch their dollies for fear they will weigh them down when it comes to getting through that pesky glass ceiling.

It goes without saying that equality is the right of women whatever their age, whether it's about toys or careers, as long as the focus is firmly on choice. I just wonder, as the anti-pink debate rages, where's the anti-blue brigade?

In the three years since I had my son, I've found equality isn't always a two-way street. Whilst girls taking up traditionally 'male' hobbies, playthings and pass times is seen as distinctly positive, little boys who choose anything regarded as 'female' are viewed with suspicion. It's as if there's something effeminate about a boy who likes dolls houses or dancing. And yet Rambo himself, Sylvester Stallone, apparently learned tap as a child.

My son loves his dinosaurs and his train set. He also enjoys playing dress up and his teaset which, I've discovered, sits uncomfortably with some. There's the sense that opting for 'girls' toys makes him less male.

When he was one I bought my boy a doll, at his request, and yet the reaction from some was incredibly disappointing, raised eyebrows and even vocal opposition to my choice of toy.

Playing with baby dolls encourages skills like compassion and nurturing. Having spent much of my 20s bemoaning the emotionally crippled, domestically retarded men I was dating, I feel it's my job to ensure my son reaches adulthood with a capacity for caring and an ability to boil a kettle.

Manufacturers don't help with their pink and blue signage sending boys in the direction of Lego and superheroes and girls to aisles of dolls and unicorns. Campaign groups like Let Toys be Toys have made great strides in tackling this gender division by manufacturers but the people peddling toys are only part of the problem, the people buying them need to catch on to the idea of gender equality too.

All children should be given the freedom and choice to experiment and explore without judgement.

Toys are a means of entertaining our children but also educating them, helping them master a multitude of skills from co-ordination to socialisation, and generally helping to equip them with the capacity to tackle life. Why shouldn't girls climb trees which can promote courage and the ability to take risks? But, equally, why shouldn't little boys play games that bring to the fore no-less important qualities such as empathy and kindness?

By redirecting little boys away from such play, indeed from anything regarded as feminine - from career choice to favourite colour - are we not telling them that such things are of little or no value?

Isn't the end game for all parents to send out into the world happy, fully-functioning, productive members of society? Until that level of equality, that level of choice is available to every youngster without disapproval or distain then we are failing.

The last time we went to buy shoes the only pair in the style I wanted and in his size were gold. He loved them. They also happened to be in the sale, half the price of the reds, blues and greens. Happy days, I thought, but the fact that the inner-sole was pink, that they were clearly 'girl's' shoes, gave me pause for thought. Sad that it even crossed my mind.

I'm pleased to say I didn't yield. Even more pleased that on our first outing in the golden boots we met up with a friend and her son who was sporting his sister's old Kickers...in silver. Society may still be more judgemental and inflexible than we'd like when it comes to gender but it makes me smile every time I think of those two little guys tackling such prejudice feet first!