Battling Gender Bias

We're going to a fourth birthday party on Saturday. It's a ?Princess or Superhero? theme party. Last weekend, it was Pirates and Princesses, with miniature Jack Sparrows waving tinfoil hooks at small girls in obligatory Disney tulle. If past form is anything to go by, we'll get the dressing-up box out and I'll persuade Girl to step away from the pink frills for a moment and humour me with at least trying on Spiderman. Boy, not much of a dresser-upper, will end up as the Caped Crusader. Again.

Not to worry - she's mad about football and he's fond of making nests for his animals - oh, and she gets a fair shot at being the doctor when we're playing Doctors and Nurses. We read bedtime stories where the mums (there might even be two mums) go to work just like the dads. We're also boycotting the toyshop that is annoyingly split down the middle into boys and girls.

And yet, despite all this, their latest pretend is You Be A Silly Princess and I'll Rescue You. She sits on the top bunk squeaking for help and he dashes about murdering unseen dragons. And no, they don't swap roles. At dinnertime, she has to have the pink knife and fork and he has the manly blue ones. She's developed a line in 'cutesy' looks, whilst he likes to impress by demonstrating his knowledge of number plates. I'm reluctant to de-pink her wardrobe or surgically remove the Flower Fairy that goes everywhere with her. And it would have been plain mean to vet her birthday presents for too much candy-coloured nonsense, right?

So what's the right balance for modern parents? Policing every toy for gender subtexts, vetting every garment for 50 Shades of Pink?? Impossible. Continuing to shoehorn gender equality into every make-believe game? A bit humourless. Plus, I was kind of hoping that like everything else about having kids, It's Just A Stage They're Going Through. So I'll probably do a bit of tub-thumping and then let them at it.


That is, until the next time Rihanna makes a near-naked appearance on morning TV and Boy, all innocence, asks: ?But why does that lady need to take her clothes off to do singing?? There's just no good answer to that, except to put them both in brown corduroy and haul them off to man a barricade with me.


Jenny Coyle @missmitford is a London-based writer. She makes up stuff in her head and turns it into books, tweets pedantically about misappropriated commas and knows a lot of David Bowie lyrics. She helps companies sound more human when they write to their customers and blogs about wordy things at

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