In our column documenting the ups and downs of family life, local mum Harassed Harriet discusses gender stereotypes
We are decorating my youngest daughter's room and my husband is trying to persuade her to choose an alternative colour to pink. "Why have you made our children so girly?" he moans.
But I genuinely believe that it is just the way they are. I dress in grey or black yet my three daughters are obsessed with pink. My face is devoid of make-up but they are fascinated by garish lipstick and nail polish. I rarely glance in the mirror yet my eldest spends hours gazing at her reflection, and refuses to leave the house until her ponytail is perfect.
When dressing up, the girls reach for fairy wings and princess dresses, leaving the super hero outfits untouched. It is the same with the toys - Barbie is always number one, while Thomas the Tank Engine remains at the bottom of the toy box.
Whether we like it or not, our children certainly appear to be conforming to gender stereotype. The two eldest are wide-eyed with disbelief when I recall a group of girls at my single sex secondary school whom we used to call 'the boys'. While the rest of us were tossing our long hair, shortening our skirts and trying to get away with wearing stilettos, these three had short, spiky hair and spent lunchtimes kicking a football in their chunky lace-ups. The leader of the pack was an avid West Ham supporter and although her name was Rachel, she preferred to be called Rob.
Twenty-five years later, my friend Sarah and I attend a school reunion. On the way, Sarah tells me about a teenage girl in her daughter's class who, with the full support of her all girls' grammar school, has re-invented herself as a boy. She now wears trousers and goes by the name of Ben. Our thoughts immediately turn to 'the boys' and whether they will be at the reunion. Sure enough, I spot the trio standing rather awkwardly by themselves. When I go over to chat, I discover that two of the gang have become more feminine and are married with children. But the leader does not disappoint. She is dressed like a man and has an enormous bunch of keys hanging from a chain on her belt. Unsure whether to address her as Rachel or Rob, I ask what she is up to now. "I'm a roadie," she says, in a very deep voice.
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