Tag Archives: pink

Am I a failed feminist?

Girl picking flower

I think I’m a feminist. That’s not me pushing back my chair to stand up and make a guilty admission. What I mean is that I think I’m a feminist but probably don’t meet all the requirements, if such rigid requirements indeed exist. I’m interested in the issues and barriers affecting women and will gladly step up on a soapbox or two. Is it terrible then that this afternoon I helped my 5-year-old daughter get ‘dolled up’ for an evening out at the theatre?

This afternoon was special. It was the last afternoon we had alone together before the start of the new school term. With a trip to the theatre with her dad planned for the evening, I decided to treat her to an afternoon of pampering. Or, as it turned out, I gave her a bath and painted her fingernails whilst she watched back-to-back episodes of iCarly. We chose a dress (pink) and a cardigan (sparkly) for her to wear out, selected some of her less tacky jewellery and packed a little handbag (the one that was “more like a grown-up’s”) with a purse, tissues and plasters (of course). Finally, I helped her apply a little bit of eyeshadow and some lip gloss. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, or, in this case, freebie make-up sets from a well-known brand of kids’ shoes are.

Did I do wrong? No. Am I betraying my feminist tendencies? Possibly. I think it’s highly unlikely that our afternoon will send her in the direction of wanting to be a glamour model rather than a rocket scientist. Equally, I doubt that she will be left thinking looks are more important than anything else. What we did this afternoon was for her. She’s not interested in what other people think when they look at her. (And I hope that will long continue.) She’s interested in how things make her feel inside. Doing what she sees Mummy doing made her feel more grown-up and thus independent, things most children hanker after whether or not we agree with or support it. It wasn’t about feeling more like a ‘woman’ (with the negative connotation that women are defined by make-up and fashion), it was simply about being on level pegging with an adult. If taking a razor to an imaginary beard could have had the same effect, she probably would have done it.

I’m very much against thrusting toys at girls that could narrow their aspirations. We fought the tide of pink in our household and were eventually overwhelmed. But rather than call wildly for help from a sea of sparkly plastic, I’ve hoisted myself on a boogie board and ridden the wave. Pink paraphernalia, make-up and glitter aren’t going to put my daughter in a pigeon hole from where she can’t see the stars. There are things in our world far more powerful and pervasive that will try to inflict such damage. What matters is her having confidence – the ability to define who she is by herself, rather than be defined. If the biggest enemies to achieving this were the colour pink and a bit of nail polish then the need for feminism would have ceased to exist a long time ago.

Tiny waists and rubber dresses

I think I may be turning into a boring old fart, tutting at the length of skirts and preparing to lock up my daughter. What made the polyester in my cardigan crackle this week was (yet again) the Disney idea of the female form. Yawn! Yawn! It’s all fantasy, get over it, I hear some cry, but my 3-year-old revels in the princess fantasy and I don’t want her to grow up thinking that this is normal or indeed desirable:

They made me feel quite ill (although not as ill as they look). As the words “what kind of role model are they?” fell out of my mouth my husband looked at me like I’d whipped off my bra,  strung it up and was holding a match to it. According to him the dolls are built like Twiglets for a practical reason – they are dressing up dolls and thus it needs to be easy for grubby fingers to get their rubber dresses on and off. Re-read that last sentence and yes it does sound like Snow White and Cinderella are putting food on the table by working the gentlemen’s clubs.

But now I’m sullying these perfectly innocent toys which were, I admit, brought into the house by mummy and daddy (well, daddy) as a birthday gift from our 6-month-old son to his big sister. My daughter loves playing with them and I’m sure they are having no immediate impact on her psyche. She equally enjoys playing with the Playmobil fire engine we bought her and I’ve not been fretting about the absence of a firewoman in the playset (tut, tut).

What worries me is the cumulative effect of all the tiny-waisted princesses my daughter will grow up with, whether they be Sleeping Beauty or Cheryl Cole. I’ve never wanted her to be enchanted by everything pink and glittery but that’s what has happened as more and more things spread around the house like a sparkly fungus. It’s the fascinating debate about whether it’s nature or nurture – do girls naturally gravitate towards ‘girlie’ things whilst their brothers pick up a spanner and stride towards the Meccano? Is there anything parents can do to prevent the mighty advance of nature?

I’m still ‘in the right mind’ to write to Disney and wage a one-woman campaign to get a couple of stone added to their cast of skinny minnies. (If they were really that skinny would they have boobs THAT BIG?) Oh god, maybe I’m just a jealous hag and if I can’t have a figure like that then I’ll be damned if Tinkerbell can. “Mirror, mirror, on the wall – who is the fairest of them all?” “Well, my lady – with your thirty-something’s wrinkles, cake addiction and baby belly – they are.”