Feminism

Of course that glue stick isn’t just for girls! Oh, wait. Sorry, it seems it is….

4 April, 2014

There is a creative fella out there who has designed some wonderful posters using sentences that he has found himself saying to his children.

I love them. My favourite is “Stop riding that penguin, we’re leaving!”

At least once a day I finish a sentence and find my eyebrows furrowing in wonderment at what I just uttered.

“Oh! You did a poo in daddy’s shoe?!”

“You are really worried that the evil witch that lives in the drawer might lick you, huh?”

And lately, far, far too many sentences along these lines “Ah, see, I am not sure that that fork/ clothes peg / dog IS just for girls/ boys. I like to think ANYONE could use it?!”

If I wasn’t bothered by it it would be funny. Ramona is forming strict ideas about what is for boys and what is for girls along quite arbitrary lines and without being wholly sure about different genders to begin with. Ramona was wearing her daddy’s hiking boots and when Juno tried to grab the laces Ramona announced that she mustn’t because “You are a boy! And these boots are for girls!” (Juno isn’t and they aren’t.)

These conversations are okay, of course. Ramona is simply processing the idea of gender its meaning and the language we use around it all. I don’t have (many) worries about her forever believing that forks are only ever to be used by womankind.

However, I can’t say I don’t care. My response to her when she says these things doesn’t reflect my normal response when she says something that isn’t factually correct – normally I just repeat what she has said back to her “Ah, you think x x x x?” because I think constantly correcting children must be a pain in the ass for them. But I can’t help myself when it comes to this boy/ girl stuff… I tend to say something like “Ah, you feel these are just for boys, eh? I wonder if it could be for everyone?”

And when she came to me with a Marvel comic and told me it was just for boys I had a CONNIPTION. She loves Spiderman and it pained me that somehow she had decided it wasn’t for her. I went through the comic and showed her every female superhero in there. (There were none. I had to pick them out as arbitrarily as Ramona decides who is a boy or girl.)Gender ISSUESIs it a boy or a girl? *sigh*

I shouldn’t worry. I am fairly certain that Ramona is going to grow up eventually knowing that colours belong to all people and that no one product/ idea/ career belongs to one gender.

I don’t really know many adults that hold fast to the idea that pink is just for girls and that if you like pink you must be a bit girly.

But there must be some.

Because apparently the new pink Pritt Stick is “just for girls.”  Clearly the people sitting around the board room believe that not all children are allowed to love all colours and that there are some products that 50% of children can’t have.

Or that they can have but only after admitting that there is something wrong or weird about it.

And this is what winds me up. I mean *really* winds me up.

By scrawling “Just for girls” on anything pink/ to do with baking/ to do with dolls / certain items of clothing companies are saying that the boys that like pink/ baking/ dolls/ skirts are strange. This is CRUEL. It gives pre-schoolers the impression that they don’t fit. It makes the playground a bully arena. It gives other kids ammo to start firing at anyone who is a little different. It sets them up for life to repress their real desires in order to suit society’s idea of them.

Pink Pritt Stick?The non-discriminating kind of stick

Pritt Stick don’t actually believe that pink is just for girls. I don’t imagine the Pritt Stick boardroom to be  filled with women in pink tutus on one side and men in blue suits on the other side gleefully discussing the merits of a “Just for Girls” glue to help girls feel so much more in touch with their feminine side.

Oh no. I am pretty confident that they are all too aware that this is a false distinction (and it is false – the majority of boys and girls under two choose colours with pinker tones as their favourite colour – then they get older and half of them realise they aren’t allowed) but these marketing folk are pushing it out as a way of further commercialising childhood.

Because if they can convince parents and children that boys and girls can’t share products than we will have to keep buying more, a pink glue stick for the daughters and a blue for the sons. Each new child will need a whole new set of clothes, a whole new set of toys and, clearly, a whole new set of craft supplies.

(Craft supplies, for goodness sake!)

And it is just another deadlock on the door that traps us into consumerism and another bar in the cage of society’s oppressive gender limitations.

Pink Pritt Stick? *harumph* We are not buying it!

PS- I sent them an email about their stupid glue and you can too, if you like, using this contact form.

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35 Comments

  • Reply Jo 4 April, 2014 at 7:53 am

    Hey! This sort of thing makes me so cross too and I don’t even have children!
    Have you seen the pink and blue kinder eggs?? Grrr!!! I always thought they used to be fairly good at the whole mix and match, have fun with whatever you get you thing!
    Wonderful blog by the way :-) love it!
    Jo :-)

    • Reply Katie 4 April, 2014 at 8:11 am

      Yeah, I agree with this. Why do only girls like Disney princesses and boys superheroes (the current toys)? Can only boys aspire to be heroic, super and active and girls aspire to be pretty, and sing and dance and sometimes be creative. Can’t they both be both. Although with regards to being pretty I don’t think so much emphasis should be put on looks.

  • Reply Anna 4 April, 2014 at 8:35 am

    YES YES YES YES YES YES YES and thrice more YES YES YES!!!

    What I don’t get is when people get all weird on MY ass for pointing stuff like this out. Really. Like, people who I am shocked don’t share my feelings about it already… “Oh, it doesn’t really matter, though does it?” Yes it flipping does. Wise up, fools.

    So, basically, I concur. Strongly.
    Anna recently posted…Living Arrows 13/52My Profile

  • Reply Victoria Granger 4 April, 2014 at 8:48 am

    Lucy, my son has always loved yellow…. and I mean LOVED! If there was a colour option on anything (even shoes!) Always yellow! Following a weekend contact with his biological father he came home and announced that “he could no longer like yellow because daddy told me boys only like blue”!!! No word of a lie! One very confused little person and one heartbroken mummy :( …..lot’s of months work and his love affair with yellow is back on…..but not if his biological father asks!

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 4 April, 2014 at 9:18 am

      Oh noooo. So sad!

  • Reply Becky 4 April, 2014 at 9:04 am

    My son ae three built a pink unicorn at build a bear with grandma I was surprised he had chosen this (no idea why-social conditioning I suppose-) and my mum said to me Becky its time you grew up pink is just a colour and she tutted. Then she turned to F and says and it shows you a real man doesn’t it that you can like pink. What rubbish messages we were both giving him!!!!
    Becky recently posted…10 Thrifty Tips from my KidsMy Profile

  • Reply Alex 4 April, 2014 at 9:40 am

    I spent ages writing a reply and then lost it. Simply:

    Marketeers are targeting social norms and customers who like pink. This is generally girls. This is not a bad marketing ploy. Is there an ethical element to this choice? Not sure, I don’t think so.

    As stated, we want our children to challenge social norms but it’s their decision whether they do, not ours. I wrote much more on this earlier… I’m currently content that my daughters will be encouraged to make their own decisions. I hope they grow to be happy, confident individuals with a strong faith. Ahhh, my own social norm coming in there!

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 4 April, 2014 at 10:20 am

      You say this so confidently! What about Gillette manufacturing the idea of sexy, smooth legs in order to have a female market for their razors?

      • Reply Alex Gaze 4 April, 2014 at 11:12 am

        Probably received an award for marketing… Sorry.

        That is fairly contemptible. It’s a strange one though, should we, as a society, accept the marketeers version of what is normal. Or should we challenge everything within our own circles and those we mix with.

        Outcomes outcomes outcomes, all comms people are driving towards change in behaviour. I plan and deliver comms at the moment to support policy change, some of it I even agree with. My ideal result would be to change the way people are thinking and their actions, as your blog would set out to do. So are we saying the business objective of pritt stick or Gillette to sell more is wrong? No. Do I think it’s ethically wrong to create a market to sell in? No, I don’t think I do. So we have to agree with Gillette or Pritt Stick on their version of what is the norm? No. Will Gwen like a pink pritt stick? Probably, but that’s her choice.

    • Reply Katherine Hajer 4 April, 2014 at 11:04 am

      Pink wasn’t for girls until after World War II. There are senior citizens alive today who remember when pink was for boys. There is nothing natural about it.
      Katherine Hajer recently posted…six yearsMy Profile

  • Reply Lorna 4 April, 2014 at 9:48 am

    Currently watching a programme about supermarkets ( which is slightly annoying but the other half is interested!) Where they talked about ‘all the little girls’ loving the new white and pink choc owls for easter. Made me so annoyed!! My husband’s fave colour is pink, mine is blue, one girl loves pink and the other loves Green! The whole colour thing drives me mad… You like what you like regardless of your sex!

  • Reply Laurenne @ Simple Family Living 4 April, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Urgh…. how frustrating is that! Glue, really?!

    At 2 and a half my toddler hasn’t had any ‘this is for girls / boys moments’ yet but what she is doing at the moment is insisting she wears a dress most days even though she doesn’t have many, to be ‘like a fairy princess’.

    Eeeek it’s such a tough one because I’m all for her choosing what she wants to wear etc and I would normally be totally chilled about it, but I know KNOW its because people (family, friends, strangers on the street) give her more praise and attention for looking ‘pretty like a princess’ and that bothers the bejeezus out of me!!

    L x

  • Reply Lilybett 4 April, 2014 at 10:47 am

    I love that you assume the boardroom is half filled with women. I had a look at Henkel’s (Pritt’s overlords) management board and there’s 1 (out of 6). According to their own stats, women currently make up 18.6% of their top managerial employees. And (not so) hilariously, they have this to say about it:

    “The call for women in leadership positions is loud and sustained. The echo of political discussion with respect to a fixed or variable female quota in Germany and other countries of the EU has also reached Henkel’s ears. Our viewpoint is unequivocal: Henkel is against a fixed female quota. For us, the rule reads: Irrespective of gender, everyone is assessed and promoted based exclusively on their performance and their potential. Nevertheless, we do recognize the necessity of increasing the percentage of women in leadership positions.”
    Lilybett recently posted…Intentional Play: March (the wrap up)My Profile

  • Reply Katherine Hajer 4 April, 2014 at 11:02 am

    The pink Pritt stick sounds like another version of those Bic Cristal pens that were made in pastel colors and in a smaller diameter for “delicate” women’s hands. Because, you know, so many women have a hard time gripping a standard size biro.

    I agree with your point about how things are gendered to make us buy them twice, but I can’t help thinking that marketers are also losing out on sales. From shops being out of stock of the “right” gender to sales numbers getting skewed because girls buy boys’ things and vice versa, I’m not sure the companies are going to like the hole they’re digging themselves into once they reach bottom.

  • Reply Adele @Circus Queen 4 April, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    Talitha is in this phase too of deciding what’s for boys and what’s for girls. I was knocked for six the other day when she announced that her daddy goes to work because he’s a boy and we all stay home because we’re girls! We certainly chatted through that one and we visited his office partly so she could see that girls work there too.

    The pink thing is amazing though. We made an Easter bunny magnet the other day. She chose to make it pink then insisted it was a girl BECAUSE it was pink. I hadn’t known that little children tend to gravitate towards pink, though. That’s really interesting.

    I’m always amused by the pink/blue thing too because in years gone by pink was for little boys to represent their vitality and blue for girls as it was virginal!
    Adele @Circus Queen recently posted…Bravado Embrace review (and a BoobieMilk giveaway)My Profile

  • Reply Janine 4 April, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    Oh yes, this gets me riled up too. And adults (here anyway) DO care about this shit. Try posting about this on Facebook. I was surprised how many GROWN WOMEN claim to honestly believe that girls are just born loving pink. And by surprised I of course mean horrified. Not to mention all of the people – Sounds like you encounter this too? – who absolutely MUST CATEGORIZE my children by gender before they even say hello.

  • Reply ThaliaKR 4 April, 2014 at 11:37 pm

    Alex wrote a fab rant about this, inspired by boys/girls sets of magnetic words:

    “…The lists get worse, in sadly predictable ways. Girls are encouraged to learn the words:

    sugar
    princess
    sparkle
    perfume
    necklace
    lipstick
    make-up
    glitter
    fluff
    tiara

    While boys get:

    helicopter
    mud
    dirt
    spiders
    snails
    worms
    dinosaur
    dragon
    football
    treehouse”

    Ach!

    http://sacraparental.com/2013/11/23/when-words-fail-guest/
    ThaliaKR recently posted…Lent with Kids, Week 4: Jesus Gives Us a Fresh StartMy Profile

  • Reply Frazzled Mum 5 April, 2014 at 2:50 am

    I’ll probably be struck down for this but generally I think people seem to make far too much fuss about pink for girls, blue for boys. I have five boys and none of them seem to have grown up believing that pink is girly. As the lone female in the house I often purchased pink staplers, pens, notebooks, Swiss army knives, hammers etc in the hope that they would leave them where they were; this was my cunning plan to ensure that I always knew where my things were. Unfortunately it didn’t work; in fact the opposite as the pink seemed to have magnetic qualities. I remember one time buying a magazine specifically because it came with a free beach kaftan in shocking pink. Unfortunately my then ten year old took a fancy to it and wore it in bed until it disintegrated. None of his brothers made fun of him nor did his friends. Another son’s favourite toy was a pink cow which he carried everywhere with him. It provided a lovely contrast to the army trousers he liked wearing.
    My youngest son tells me that most of the boys in his year at school (year six) use pink Pritt sticks because they prefer the colour. The girls tend to go for the multi coloured packs because they like to choose different colours depending on what they’re sticking.
    Growing up, my boys would be both male and female characters in their games and generally found the female ones more interesting and fun. Perhaps having only one gender in the family meant that it was never an issue- they had to differentiate themselves from their siblings in ways other than gender. The Pritt stick slogan is a take on the old Yorkie bar one (just for boys) isn’t it?
    That always made me laugh as I snatched the chocolate out of my boys’ hands and popped in to my own mouth. Maybe I was just lucky or maybe there were some other factors at play but none of my children or their peers seem to have been affected by gender stereotyping in any way.

  • Reply Pinkoddy 5 April, 2014 at 5:07 am

    What makes me cross about this is surely they are also pushing the idea that crafting is just for girls too. My boys love using glue sticks and crafting.
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    • Reply Patch 5 April, 2014 at 9:40 am

      Yes, they are already doing this. There are many craft kits out there which could potentially be for boys or girls but are being marketed at girls. I have two boys and one in particular loves art and craft activities but is put off by the girly marketing. Makes me sooooo cross. In a lot of ways I am glad I have boys because the constant pink which is pushed at girls drives me mad. Things are marketed in a similar way towards boys but it seems less in your face…. Or is that because I see it from a female point of view???

  • Reply Becky 5 April, 2014 at 7:23 am

    My 3 yr old daughter has been saying she’s a boy on and off for about 18 months. She won’t do dresses or frills but doesn’t have an issue with the colour pink – she’d happily wear pink trousers but wouldn’t be seen dead in a navy skirt! It’s interesting how they discover their world and seem to create their own social constructs! The other day we were talking about the fact that the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles were on telly when I was little. She asked if I liked it. I said ‘yes’ to which she replied ‘were you a boy when you were little?’. :)

  • Reply Hurrah For Gin 5 April, 2014 at 10:30 am

    I hate the ‘just 4 girls’ slogan they use. But ultimately i think we as the consumer need to take some responsibility for this too.
    Companies and brands are not interested in ethics, just making money. People need to stop buying this and make a stand. That’s all that will make them take notice.
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  • Reply Debra 6 April, 2014 at 2:16 am

    I’d love to add more to this post in the comments but you have already summed up my exact feelings on this topic perfectly. What I would like to know is how the whole pink for girls and blue for boys thing got started in the first place? Would be interesting to find out.
    Debra recently posted…loved it, pinned it, did itMy Profile

    • Reply Lisa 4 July, 2014 at 3:23 pm

      I think there was no gender specific colouring until the 19th century – it was all white.

      Then pastels came in gradually really just as a fashion thing but they were still gender neutral and were chosen because based on whether they suited the baby.

      It wasn’t until the early 20th century that people starting consistently dressing babies in one colour because of gender. But boys had pink and girls had blue. Ahem. But it was because pink was a stronger colour and derived from the ‘manly’ red whereas blue was calming. haha!

      After WWII (in the 40s) the baby boomer boys were in blue and girls were in pink because that’s what manufacturers decided people liked.

      It went neutral again but the colour specificity returned thanks really to manufacturers in the 80s wanting to make extra dosh.

      On another note, all kids were in dresses until they got older and replicated what ma and pa wore so that’s a recent-ish change too.
      Lisa recently posted…Mixed bag: Crying over spilt cereal, girls, shy boys and moreMy Profile

  • Reply Tina Summers 7 April, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Hi Lucy,

    Great post:) I have to say in response to a comment above. I have three girls and all are very different in terms of personality but in my eyes have been brought up exactly the same way. I want all of my children to be comfortable in their own skin. I am the least naturally feminine person! I forget to pluck my eyebrows, am useless at applying make up and more often then not will lounge around in an un co ordinated outfit! If people wish to judge me, then so be it! BUT.. E and S are very girly. They like to have their nails painted, their favorite colour is Pink and they love tottering about with handbags! It seems so natural to them and they don’t get it from me. L on the other hand is just like me! I hate that she is referred to as a tomboy but she just does whatever she feels comfortable with and I love that! sorry to be so off point!

  • Reply Tasha Batsford 7 April, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    I’m almost certain you will know about these groups but Princess Free Zone and Pink Stinks are brilliant places to let off steam on the topic of gender profiling.

    It’s nice to have them because I sometimes feel like I’m the freak when I constantly get wound up by girls being force fed a saccharine world view. I look around me expecting outrage and get shrugs and eye rolls.

    Does. Not. Compute.

    I hope that it helps our children to see us living unconventional gender roles (I work full time, Keith is a stay at home dad) but in reality I know we’re struggling against a behemoth.
    Tasha Batsford recently posted…Am I Raising The Next Tina Fey?My Profile

  • Reply Kay 7 April, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Oh my gosh! I absolutely hate gender divisions, especially when they are so utterly outrageous, as in the case of a glue stick! Or a pink shirt, or a blue car, or a pink polka dot elephant!

    I have spent the last, almost, six years raising my kids to think colors belong to all human beings and I did a good job, I think. My two year old son still picks pink as his favorite color and owns more pink pajamas than his transgender sister. His transgender sister is totally cool with his choices.

    But now she has identified as a male to female transgender girl, it seems all of my efforts are losing some of their strength. Because the only way my girl can really show the world who she is, at this point, is by looking like a girly-girl as much as is possible at this phase in her transition. So while she will absolutely not get a specialty made “girl glue stick” or only pink sparkly backpacks, it does mean I spend a lot more time being surrounded by a child who purposely seeks the “girl” clothes and “girl” stickers now. And I get it, she has to, but I kind of hate that our world requires her to do so.

    (I literally just wrote a disclaimer about boy/girl labeling on my blog post tonight! And then I read your awesome article!)

  • Reply Sarah 7 April, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    I’ve just found your blog – I love the way you write. And you are SO right. It’s not just glue. Or sticks. It’s the fact that our children are being influenced before they are even verbal along false stereotypes that trap them rather than empower them. My daughter liked green until she went to pre-school. My little free thinker got censored, of course she did. Even when our parenting is clear, society projects something so powerful and subtle most people don’t know it’s there. Will go and do some more reading, thank you.
    Sarah recently posted…Shape shiftingMy Profile

  • Reply Thea Hughes 9 April, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with your frustrations about needless gendered marketing of kids products.

    I became so frustrated at the impact on my son who loves pink and was constantly being told ‘it’s a girls colour’ that I started an organisation called Play Unlimited. We campaign against gendered marketing of toys in Australia.

    We are currently running a petition asking Toys R Us to stop this practice and this week we will launch a petition widening this request to all toy retailers in Australia.

    There’s also an organisation called ‘Let Toys Be Toys’ working on a similar campaign in the UK.

    Take a look at our website and theirs, & add your voice to our petitions!

    Thanks for a great piece about this issue.

    Thea Hughes
    Founder
    Play Unlimited

  • Reply Lluisa 10 April, 2014 at 9:31 am

    Oh yes!! very well said!!
    That is what they want, labels and making us believe that what we feel if is different is wrong. And buy, buy and buy CONSUMERISM!!

    Yes, very well said!

    Lluisa xx
    Lluisa recently posted…THE LAST WEEK OF MARCHMy Profile

  • Reply Mary Firth 13 April, 2014 at 7:46 am

    My daughter is the same age as Ramona and she’s just started doing this too. It drives me mad!! The problem is her dad is one of those men (one of three boys, alpha male dad etc) who is paranoid about wearing even a scrap of pink so it’s an uphill struggle. It’s just so sad that she’s cutting out a whole load of stuff she could do, because it’s “for boys”

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