The Blog

Little Boy Blue? Not on My Watch

Having had the annual winter - spring time head cold this week I have found myself subject to far more daytime television than normal. In between one American crime drama or another (my favourite guilty pleasure TV) I was faced with the latest 'Kinder Surprise' advert. I watched the advert. I then re-wound it and watched it again. And yes, it was exactly as I had perceived it the first time. Ferrero's latest advert for 'Kinder Surprise' portrays a blue 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle' range and a pink 'My Little Pony' range. Shocking.

Not only is this suggesting that girls should play with ponies and boys should fight the baddies but it is also labelling children with socially acceptable colour palettes. The comfort of putting people, children, into metaphorical boxes and labelling them boy - masculine and girl - feminine is still glaringly apparent in today's society. It's safe. It's easy to accept. But in my view it is outdated, stifling and unfair. Unfair on today's generation of children. We are not allowing them to make their own minds up, to decide what colours they like for themselves.

When we live in such a richly diverse society we should be supporting children's free thinking, equality and choice. How are such outdated stereotypical messages about gender helpful to them? Furthermore, children of households who do not possess the heterosexual mother and father may not be experiencing gender as society likes to unhelpfully pigeonhole it. So then, how do we support the richly diverse community of LGBT parents with gender messages like that of the aforementioned advert? Because that is my issue with today's society. Instead of supporting diversity, we tend to skim over it. We dabble with it publically, finding it far more comfortable to revert back to those 'good old faithful' stereotypes at almost every opportunity. Pop the token lesbian into a sitcom, insert a woman of colour into an advert or discuss disability on a daytime panel show. We have a go. These attempts are well meaning I am sure. As is the 'Kinder Surprise' advert; appeal to the traditional sort of family. But with that tradition also comes outdated views of women, of sexuality, racism and misogyny; all unacceptable. So we change. We have to change. Equality hurt nobody remember.

My wife would not fit into society's stereotypical view of what a woman should look like. She is androgynous. She is strong and confident and non-apologetic about it. I am more feminine in the traditional sense. I wear dresses. I paint my nails. But I also have days where I wear a hoodie, beany hat and baggy jeans and I am still the same woman. But I am not as visually appealing to society on those days, I am not what society expects of a woman. So, when assigning colours to our household what would 'Kinder Surprise' say? We are both women, so should we both be pink? But my wife does not like 'My Little Pony' and doesn't really like the colour pink so should I be pink and my wife blue? But then my wife is a woman. And the outdated version of society that expects so much from us dependant on our gender would not want her playing with 'boys toys' ... The questions go on.

I am not saying that children should avoid certain stereotypically gender biased colours. I am merely suggesting that children should have a choice. A choice that has not been influenced by adverts, magazines or adult's views about what is appropriate for them dependant on their gender. My ten year old niece, when asked what colour she wanted her bedroom decorated, chose cerise pink. The brightest shade of pink available. It now adorns all four walls of her bedroom and she loves it. The same niece also plays football on an all-boys team and spends most of her time, outside of school attire, in a football strip. My niece has had the choice. She has been able to decide what she wants for herself not based upon what a little girl should do or look like but based upon what she wants. Sure she looked gorgeous dressed up in her white flowery dress when she was a bridesmaid at our wedding, but she chose her dress. She looks equally gorgeous on a Sunday morning in a football kit, and she is equally as happy. And isn't that what's important? The happiness of today's generation of children, and not whether they fit into socially acceptable boxes? I think so.