I'm not that old - really I'm not. I might have hit the big 4-0 this year but my childhood (despite assertions to the contrary from my seven year old twins) was not in the "Olden Days". We had TV, most mod cons and even (*gasp*) computers and computer games before I was out of my teens. Yet why does my childhood seem so very, very long ago - especially when I consider my daughter's experiences?
I don't think my childhood was anything unusual and we were not unique. My experiences did not differ greatly from my peers so I believe it's fair to generalise a little. My brother and I spent most of every fine day (and much of the damp and wet ones too) outside - building dens, climbing trees, riding bikes. Playing inside was a last resort and this was true for many children in the 1970s. Boys and girls did not dress particularly differently, certainly younger children wore unisex clothes and parents would pass clothes down to the next child irrespective of gender. So *how* in 30+ years have we reached a point where an engineering toy targeted at girls is seen as unusual and different?
Lego used to be the go-to unisex construction toy but in recent years all sets have been taken over by character branding removing its generic integrity. I'm also curious to know at what point someone decided to rebrand Lego and make it pink, remove most of the fundamental constructive element and dumb it down for girls? In this post modern era how can women find that acceptable - and even desirable? I climbed trees BETTER than my brother, (you know I did bro') owned my own penknife and rode my bike as far and fast as any boy I knew. I would have been horrified if someone had suggested I should have been playing princesses or stuck inside with pink and fluffy alternatives!!
My favourite memory from my childhood (one of many favourites!) is a response I gave my mum when she was making clothes for me. (Remember Clothkits anyone?! They still exist!) I very firmly informed her that I would not be happy with anything "unless I can climb trees in it". And I meant it. Forget Mini Boden, I mean real tree climbing, den building, outdoor engineering clothes. So she bought me a boiler suit, the same as my brother. Perfect!
I'm happy to say my own daughter shares my love of climbing - although sadly she doesn't have the same opportunities!
So I am delighted that Goldieblox are highlighting the extremely anomalous fact that only ONE in TEN engineers are women. Because we are absolutely not the inferior sex and should never, ever consider ourselves as such.
I've never actually considered myself a feminist - because we are led to believe that feminism has won its cause in the West in so many ways. But when I look at my daughter and the advertising targeted at her peers I think the battle has only just begun. If we want our daughters to have real opportunities, then they need real expectations. We need to stop assessing girls in a visual way, admiring their looks, their figure, their poise and admire their achievements, raise our expectations and adjust their horizons. Because tomorrow's world can only offer equality of opportunity if we have equality of expectations. And actually, that works both ways.
I'll sign off with this photo of my youngest son at the "Lego Friends" relaunch party (April 2013) at the Legoland Hotel, Windsor, proving that gender branding is inappropriate!