Pink fills the girl-aisles of toy stores, because everyone knows what little girls want, what little boys want.
Isn't that so? We know the categories from which to choose – boys have go-get-'em toys like trucks, things you can build, models of muscle-bound heroes or villains. Girls have domestic toys – the tiny ironing board, the dolls, the little toast rack. They have dolls to dress in swanky clothes; they have dolls' houses
So that's clear. Isn't it?
Many of us don't thinks so. In fact, there is at last a resurgence – in response to the wash of pink aisles that assume so much about girls – of those who object to the gendered way toy marketing is being done. There is even a YouTube video of little girls being vocal about their frustration – little girls, dammit, are demanding engineering toys!
Way, way back when I was a new mother, we visited a family with two young boys. He-Man, Skeletor and various of their entourage lay about the floor in wait for the unwary, knobby hard plastic ready to inflict pain underfoot.
The boys' mum turned to me, raised her eyebrows and said: 'I just don't know what they do with them for hours!'
I looked at those little plastic fugures scattered amongst the sandals and socks, and it came to me.
'Well, after all, what did we do with dolls?'
Years later, when my own two boys had their own He-Man and Skeletor, and collected other over-muscled, snarly, diminutive blokettes, I tried an experiment. We had any number of large cardboard boxes around at the time, for some reason (perhaps because my then partner would buy large things and then couldn't bring himself to throw away the boxes because we might need them. Whatever.)
So I made my boys a dolls' house, and a splendid one it was too. It had two storeys, with a connecting ladder made from take-away shaslik-sticks tied with cross-pieces and thread. I made some beds, with sheets made from tissues; there were silver-foil mirrors. It's possible I still had some dolls' furniture left over from my own childhood – in any case, the tiny kitchen was well supplied with itty-bitty table and chairs. It's even possible I might have gone all wistful and bought some new.
Then I sat back and watched as He-Man and Skeletor viewed their mini TV at night, climbed the ladder to bed and got up in the morning for breakfast in the kitchen.
From this I concluded that gendered roles are largely to do with gendered language. In fact, I put it to you that it turned out He-Man, Skeletor et al were just dolls after all.
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