I've been in a general state of confusion this week. (That's nothing new :0)
After Monday's indecision about dinner time discipline I've spent much of the week trying to get my head around the tricky subject of gender neutrality.
And I think I've come to some sort of conclusion.
Here's the thing.....
A few of my friends and acquaintances have become quite passionate about neutrality of the gender variety in recent months. They dress their girls in blue, their boys in pink and while the girls are encouraged to play with toy tractors, the boys are busy playing with their Princess figurines. And I get what they're doing, I really do. I am absolutely passionate about equality of the sexes and think that a man and woman should share tasks in the home and be paid equally. I also believe that boys and girls should play with any toys that they want to and should be encouraged to do so. My little nephew loves his barbie dolls and dressing up as a princess and we applaud it. Why shouldn't he?
I also worry that things have the potential to go a little too far the other way.
I recently bought Poppy a toy handbag because she's so obsessed with emptying mine. It's unashamedly pink, fluffy and traditionally girly. Pops loves it and so did I until one of my aforementioned friends came round and chastised me for buying it for her.
"Why did you buy her that?" she asked while rolling her eyes slightly. "You're sending out a really bad message to Poppy by buying her pink fluffy things... you're telling her that she has to conform to society's expectations of a woman".
Was my friend being serious? Did she even know what she was talking about or was she just jumping on a fashionable bandwagon? I kind of suspected the latter. She didn't acknowledge the fact that Pops also owns toy cars, tractors and all sorts of more 'gender neutral' toys but instead honed in on her one overtly girly toy. (I'm sure that we'll soon be adding to this and buying her Princess outfits and dolls with little prams).
I myself unashamedly love the feminine things in life. I adore dresses, pretty perfumes, getting all dolled up for a night out and there is a definite thrill in buying a new handbag (not that I've done it in ages). However, I also like to think of myself as a strong woman who is equal to men. My material choices have no bearing on my personality and beliefs. So why should Poppy's? I'm going to bring Poppy up to be whoever and whatever she would like to be. Lesbian? No problem! Career woman? It's up to her! Transgender? It's her choice. Housewife with five kids? If that's what she wants then I will support her every step of the way. But please don't tell me that if I dress my daughter in pink or buy her a fluffy handbag that it is going to make the darndest bit of difference to who she is deep down.
What I'm saying is that it's not what we buy our children that matters but instead how we interact with them. For example, if we have a boy then I think that it's really important to develop their emotional side and get them talking openly about things in a way that might be more traditionally reserved for girls. Equally, we should encourage our girls to be just as boisterous as their male counterparts. We should teach them that just because they're girls it doesn't mean that they can't climb trees and eat mud. But, if they want to do so in a pink tutu and a tiara then I don't see a problem with that.