Thursday, 25 October 2012

Of Pink and Blue and Books - A ReadItDaddy Editorial

I apologise in advance for this mini rant. I recently found myself in the unique position of being a bit miffed about something encountered on a (usually quite excellent) book blog and felt compelled to add my two penneth. My two penneth was subsequently deleted from the blog without explanation (actually no, it wasn't even published) so I thought I'd air it here. 

Our daughter (and the "boss" of this blog) Charlotte is a girl. Charlotte loves pink. Not exclusively, but she definitely loves pink. 

When we first knew we were having a child, we wanted the surprise of not knowing the gender before the birth. Naturally this meant that before she was born and we went clothes / toy shopping, we opted for those drab beige and neutral colours that you can get most baby clothes in. We opted for a 'safe' coloured baby carrier and pram and picking our way through the minefield of what is now termed 'gender specific colours' wasn't a massive problem. 

Now of course, it's a huge bone of contention for a lot of parents who feel that marketing is dictating to them what their girls and boys should like and should be into. As you can see from the attached pic, this goes beyond the mere 'gender specific colour differentiation' thing - it suggests that while boys love fast cars, dinosaurs, footballs and robots - girls prefer skipping ropes, princesses, bags and crowns. 

(There's a clue in the word 'Marketing' by the way. Anyone in the business of making money from selling products wants to do a lot of it so that they can make more products, make more money - and so on, and so forth. That said, I have never met anyone involved in marketing that put me in a hurt hold, marched me down to a store and made me buy something while I screamed in protest). 

When it comes to books, our choices are simple. We buy the books Charlotte wants to read. We show her books we think she'd like to read but not because these are books we'd rather she read in preference to others, even at 4 she's perfectly capable of making up her own mind (and don't we know it!)

We had a recent experience where Charlotte chose a pink covered book (Emma Dodd's "Cinderelephant" - which is a regularly demanded bedtime read, by the way. She loves it!) mostly because it was a huge pink book about Cinderella (as an elephant). We didn't think much to the book but we relented. Now, to our knowledge, Charlotte hasn't been brainwashed at preschool or school into liking pink or princesses, she just does. But Charlotte also likes robots, witches, dinosaurs (oh boy, does she ever love dinosaurs), monsters and a whole ton of other things that cross and re-cross the supposedly rigid 'forced on us' gender boundaries. 

So what are we to make of the constant coverage in the book press, from publishers and from bloggers that suggest that huge sweeping changes need to be made in the industry to prevent the nefarious spread of gender stereotyping, particularly when the colour pink is involved? 

Simple answer really. Stop pushing your own agendas, ideas and hangups on your children and let them choose what they read by introducing them to as broad a range and as many books as possible, whatever colour the covers are. No marketer alive can stop you doing that.