I’ve just come back from shopping in my local Asda, and was walking down one of the isles with a set of parents, grandparents, and a little boy that looked to be about 4 years old. Now I didn’t catch much of the conversation, and I’m not going to make any presumptions here, but this little boy had hold of a pink handbag with a little fluffy toy dog in it. His mother and grandmother (I presume) we’re telling him that it was pink, it couldn’t be more pink and it was a girl’s toy. I felt like I wanted to say something like if he wants it then why shouldn’t he have it, but didn’t. The grandmother looked at me as I walked past giving me this look of “eeh, fancy him wanting a pink handbag of all things”, like I would nod in agreement or similar (don’t you just hate it when people do that to you, assuming you’re going to agree with them on something without them even knowing you?). Anyway, as I walked back a few minutes later, they we’re further down this aisle and the boy still had the pink bag in his hand. Now, I can understand the parents defaulting to thinking some things are for boys and some things are for girls however right or wrong that may be, but it occurs to me that if they didn’t want to get him it, they could have made up some other reason or excuse not to “we haven’t got much money at the money sweetheart, how about we come back later in the week to get it?”, chances are that at age, he’d have forgotten all about it later that day or week anyway, but why can’t we all be like 4 year olds sometimes? This kid has no concept of sexism and what is “meant” for girls and “meant” for boys, he’s just seen something he likes and had asked his family to buy it for him, they’re the ones with the issue / problem here, not the 4 year old.
So about 5 minutes later I’m in the newly opened Home Bargains store across the road and I’m not intending on buying anything, just having a look right now. I get to the exercise section and after seeing the colour coded wetsuits in pink and blue (which look so cute I want one in my size so I can go snorkeling), obviously the pink intended for girls and the blue intended for boys, and getting a little pist that they don’t have a couple of other bright colours that could be considered gender neutral like a green or something, no, we have to force boys and girls into nice, neat little boxes from the earliest possible opportunity (that’s sarcasm by the way, just in case you missed my subtle sense of humour). So, in the adults exercise section, again, they’ve colour coded the men’s and women’s exercise clothing in blue for boys and pink for girls. Now, I do like pink, I prefer purple, but, in things like this where men and women have different body shapes for the most part, colour coding can be handy, however it is always blue and pink! So they’ve got the blue running top, the blue running jacket to go on top, and the blue running shorts. In the pink corner, they have the pink running top, the pink jacket but, no pink running shorts! Images of women exercising around my town clothed on the top half but naked on their bottom half like Donald and Daisy Duck spring to mind, so I ask one of the workers about it, and he looks for the pinks shorts under the other clothes (which I have to admit now that I didn’t do myself before asking), and nothing there. He apologises and says they’re maybe more coming in tomorrow (they had just opened the day before so teething issues are not unexpected. However, there’s no space for them. The blue clothes cover 3 racks of tops, jackets and shorts in 3 sizes, small medium and large (shouldn’t exericse clothing, if any, go to bigger sizes? After all bigger people are always encouraged to lose weight anyway. Trying to exercise in sweat pants gets very awkward after a while), and the pink clothes are similarly racked but no more space for the shorts, so a whole section of items and racking would have to be rearranged to accomodate this (which I think should happen, I’m just thinking that with proper planning, this wouldn’t need to happen). I’ll check later in the week and at other Home Bargain stores, but these 2 instances reminded me of something from my childhood.
Imagine the scene, it’s the mid 80’s, and I’m around about ten years old at a radio show event in the newly refurbished local shopping centre in Sunderland. I’m there with my mam and nana (mother and grandmother) and a bunch of other people on a Saturday afternoon and the place is rammed. All about me I see these girls with these things on their heads that look like alien antena’s (alice bands with springy balls on the end, something like the Andorians from Star Trek). All I could think was how cool they we’re and I wanted some, but I was told they we’re for girls and I couldn’t. This really upset me, and I came up with all kinds of reasons why that couldn’t be the case, I didn’t know at the time what alice bands we’re and what they we’re for. This was a couple of years before I realised I was trans. I’d already wanted shoes like what the girls wore when I was 5, wanted to grow my hair long and as much as I didn’t want to get it cut, did enjoy my visits (when I was there) to get my hair cut, although the old man put the fear of God into me every time he asked me if I wanted to all shaved off (he was just being nice, he didn’t realise how much that scared me, and neither did I I think).
My overall point here is, let kids be kids. If they want to do something, it’s not going to harm them or anyone else, it’s not dangerous and all the other things, then just let them get on with it. We learn by doing for the first so many years of our lives, but intolerance and bigotry are learned behaviours that we should try to eliminate as soon as we possibly can.