Not that long ago, whilst swimming, A shouted "Please can I have the ball!? PINK IS MY FAVOURTE COLOUR!"
Of course I don't really mind what her favourite colour is at all and she has already, like most toddlers, told me it is every shade of the rainbow in the space of just a few days, but I couldn't help being shocked.
I am sort of a believer in gender socialisation in so much as I believe the way we treat our children shapes their being and behaviour right down to their gender roles in some cases. If you only play with dolls with your daughter, clothe them in dresses and cuddle them when they hurt themselves yet play cars with your son, clothe them in 'boy clothes' and are more inclined to say "be a brave boy" when they hurt themselves surely they have more of chance of growing up and remaining in these roles? I am not suggesting this is a bad thing, just that I believe we do often aide our children's gender socialisation along with lots of other outside influences such as media and school etc. So when A said "Pink is my favourite colour!" I couldn't help but think "is this my doing?!"
Before A arrived in the world and I knew we were expecting a girl I insisted she would not be dressed in pink, have a pink nursery or play dolls and hairdressers all day. I was so indignant in my quest to not force her into a 'girly' character that when my mum offered to purchase her baby blanket for us I had the poor woman searching high and low for a mint green one. It turned out this was quite a hassle; pink, blue and yellow were readily available and easy to fall in love with but mint green (and I'm talking about the shade of mint chocolate chip ice cream) was not!
When she did finally arrive her first outfit was white and mint green topped with a little green hat. Her room was lovingly decorated green and yellow with matching sheets, blankets and neutral teddy bears on the wall. I was secretly pleased with myself for not overloading on the 'pink factor'. Yet despite knowing how heavily high street shops are colour coded into blue, pink and yellow sections for babies I really didn't think it would be quite so difficult to buy nice things in neutral colours or for there to be such little choice. More often than not I wouldn't purchase pink because I'm just not drawn to it not being vey girly myself but family and friends would buy it in the bucket load (after all there isn't much choice!). More often than not the pink outfits for baby girls are cuter than the other options available in the same shop and the more pink other people bought for Alexa, the more we bought too, without even realising!
Before long I realised that half her wardrobe has become pink, her bedspread is pink as are her curtains and she's claiming its her favourite colour! In addition to this I realised that although I always insisted she would have traditional 'boys toys' as well as 'girls toys' she hasn't. And I don't really even know why! She loves to play with trains and cars at playgroup but we have never purchased her any for Christmas or her birthday. To be honest we have never purchased her dolls or dressing up dresses either and although we have always opted for something 'fun' in a non-gender specific kind of way she still has more 'girl toys' than 'boy toys'.
I observe her twirling around the living room with fascination: I was quite a tomboy as a child in comparison and sometimes I can't fathom how I've produced someone who loves nothing more than pretending she is the hairdressers and draping scarves over herself to be a 'princess'. A part of me knows gender socialisation is almost impossible to avoid but I really hope when baby boy comes along we don't treat him differently. Not just in terms of toys and the colour of his clothes but in our attitudes too.
What do other people think about gender socialisation? Do boys and girls naturally assume their gender roles or do we help to shape their gender roles too? Check out this great post by Joanna Goddard over at A Cup Of Jo blog. I read it back in August and it really resonated with me. I'll also be checking out the book she recommends asap as I've only just noticed the link!