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Byron Shire
January 31, 2023

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Blue or pink, what do you think?

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‘The segregation of toys by a social construct of what is appropriate for which gender is the antithesis of modern thinking’. Thank you.

Have you ever wandered down the girl’s toy aisle? It’s pink suffocation. The toys in the ‘girl’s aisle’ tell us everything a little girl needs to know about complying with the gender code. It tells her that beautiful girls tend to be blonde. And they wear tiny sheer fairy dresses. They have big pointy boobs and cinched in waists and most of the Barbies still stand on their toes – like cis gendered dominant culture aspirants. Even they look like they are reaching for something unobtainable. How must a small brown girl feel? 

How must a boy feel who wants a doll, but the pink aisle tells him it’s just for children with vulvas. It’s hard to cuddle a truck. He must go to the aisle for children with penises, where someone in a corporate marketing agency has decided he loves toys with big wheels, things that are noisy and go fast or dig hard. Things he can’t nurture his softness with.

From before children are even born we start coding them with a prescribed gender. The ‘baby reveal’ is a whole new phenomena where a child’s gender is revealed with a balloon pop, where guests are invited ‘wear blue or pink, what do you think?’. It suggests, before the baby enters the world, that there are only two choices. It isn’t cognisant that some children are born intersex, that some are born with male genitals and identify as female, and that others are born female and they identify as female but they fucking hate pink. 

This ‘blue and pink’ code is the seed of a toxic gender culture that attempts to bind our children to a heteronormative world. Where girls are beautiful and magical and they nurture babies and do pretend washing and cook plastic sausages and boys love Hotwheels and dragons and stuff you can smash. We limit these small limitless beings into complying with binary projections of what our society expects gender to be. And how society expects these two to behave. 

In California they have introduced a law that will force retailers to have a ‘gender neutral’ toy section. It all happened because a 10-year-old girl asked her mother why some toys were off limits to her as a girl, but would be okay to play with if she was a boy? She was the daughter of a California lawmaker who used this question as inspiration for a bill that doesn’t prohibit a boys and girls section but requires toy stores to have a reasonable selection of toys in a gender neutral section.

‘The segregation of toys by a social construct of what is appropriate for which gender is the antithesis of modern thinking’. Thank you. 

Some might think this is paternalistic. Trivial. But I believe it’s much more potent. There is something sinister in pink for girls, blue for boys. Having your gender prescribed by your parents, by your community, and by corporations before you know who you are is toxic. It hurts kids. 

When we stop modelling hyper-feminine and hyper-masculine role models to children through the clothing we make them wear and the toys we allow them to choose from, we can give them the space to discover who they are, what they love, how they interact and learn about the world. Imagine who they could become; boys who love babies, girls who love building, children who love the freedom of free play.

We need to go back to the beginning and break the binary gender  code. This is how we stop domestic violence.


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8 COMMENTS

  1. Ha!
    Mandy: I had a doll in the very early ’50s, but Mater insisted that it was a *boy* doll (the ’50s equivalent of a Ken doll, I suppose). Perhaps had it been a girl doll I mightn’t have turned out queer!
    Mater also dressed me in all blue, painted my room and all its furniture blue, bought me a blue bicycle, a blue school port … I lived in a very blue world. Perhaps Mater was trying to convince me – and herself – that I was a boy, but all she managed was to instil in me a lifelong loathing for blue.

    • GBH. Sunday after church, Lester wears my wedding dress and I his Fireman’s helmet. We have Devonshire tea and intimate congress.
      We are queer also, isn’t it wonderful ?

      • Molly and Lester: The only part of that I find queer is the church attendance in this supposedly rational century. 🙂

  2. Dear Mandy,
    Girl you can go anywhere, but please, please, don’t go away, You are mainly the sane voice in a wilderness of, tripe/ trite, commentary.. GO GIRL, GIVE IT TO THEM. Sel

  3. I agree. When I worked at Vinnies women would come in and buy “boy” toys for their little girls. The girls were really happy to know that the car and trucks they were to have. On one instance this guy came in to buy dollies for his son. He brought his son with him so can chose his dollies. Both left happy. This maybe off-track but when I was little i was made to believe that Jesus was white skinned, blonde haired, blue eyes and where he lived it snowed. Go figure.

  4. Raising two boys some forty years ago I was acutely aware of these issues and I’m sure most of this generation is as well but more so. The irony is that the gender delineation in marketing just seems to get more extreme by the year. When my kids were at school they came home with details for the fete, including an announcement of a lego competition for the boys and a best doll competition. My son took his doll and won! (I think the judges must have been on side ). Now Lego has seen the benefits of marketing to girls but they have developed special legos for girls!!! Needless to say it involves a preponderance of pink, fairies and domestic scenes!

    It’s not just toys but clothing. I recall in the 80’s successfully pushing for more unisex alternatives for uniforms so that girls could hang from the monkey bars without being deterred by having their knickers on display. I don’t know when this trend reversed but I hear this old debate raised again and I’m incredulous. Looking in shops now I don’t recall a previous era where we felt the need to dress all little girls in pink meringue and fairy wings. One step forward two steps back. But I’m sure it’s all about marketing and driving spending.

    My parents very quickly gave up giving me dolls because I used to immediately take their removable bits off – head, limbs. I think they worried about murderous tendencies but I reckon it was because just looking at a static toy was way boring. Now I’m blessed with two grandsons. I know they are well provided by their parents with soft toys to cuddle and domestic oriented stuff so I can choose the ones that seem to be more about skill development and just more exciting. The ones I didn’t get as a child. Who wants to be confined by the confines of the domestic walls when there’s an exciting world out there of cars, trains, machinery and an outer world of space travel etc etc. “Girls’ toys” seem just so passive and boring! What are we doing to girls if we allow ourselves to be influenced by this marketing?

  5. I have never been into a shop where it is against the law or the shop’s policy for my son not to look/buy in the pink aisle. And he certainly has done so.
    Most boys like pink, to one degree or another.
    Making laws for such things is enacting dictatorship – a far worse position than market driven pinking.

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