“She’s not much into dolls yet, but she’s been asking for a tool set.”
My brother and I are discussing what to buy my 2-year-old niece for Christmas. Up until this point, we’ve showered her with pink clothes and toys; and made her quite a stylish little thing in the process (it’s no secret that I live vicariously through her awesome wardrobe, sending her care packages of clothes each month, mostly selected because I want an adult version of the thing). But as she approaches her 3rd birthday, she’s developing a personality with likes and dislikes of her own. And I’m happy, nay, overjoyed to buy her a tool set.
The item in question is super-cool, made from recycled plastic with each tool labelled with what it is (pliers, wrench) right down to the screwdrivers which specify a Phillips and flat head. The box is pink, with the tools in shades of pink, mauve and green. But as I peruse the Amazon website, I discover the “blue” version of the same set. Same contents, same price, but the colours are darker (blue, red, bright green).
And so I’m torn. I will buy her one or the other, but I’m currently leaning towards the blue version. Mostly because I don’t want to contribute to my beautiful niece growing up with the attitude that girls need special versions of everyday item such as tools, simply because they’re, well, girls.
Let me be clear – I am really very bad at being a “girl”. While I like fashion and tend to the more feminine interests (cooking, crafts, etc.), I’ve never been good at hanging out with women, doing women things. Unless those women things are drinking strong stouts and loudly debating politics or rock music (with plenty of cursing).
The very thought of a ladies’ night, a baby shower, or a bachelorette party make me cringe. I was once invited to an event that was intended for Toronto’s “influential Divas” and had to write a polite letter of regret that I could not attend, all the while bitching to my husband that the very idea made my skin crawl. (Sweet merciful crap, women, please STOP referring to yourselves as “Divas” – it’s not a positive thing!)
So when the Internet exploded yesterday with news of a “ladies night” event where women could meet Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, I joined in the fray in terms of voicing my concern.
Event organizers went on the defensive, claiming the event was BY women, FOR women. Somehow that made things even worse. Women should know better than to pander to and patronize other women – it’s a fight we all continue to face every day. I believe that most women just want to be spoken to as PEOPLE. Sure, being female means that we may have different interests from men (child care, rape laws) but having an event marketed in that way – in the same manner that assumes that women want pink beer or will only buy wine with a dress or a cute critter on the label… or will only use a tool set if it’s pink) is what is actually offensive.
We don’t need things to be pink or covered in glitter or have a picture of a cupcake or a pair of shoes on it to pay attention to it. We don’t need to be pandered to – at the lowest common level – as a special interest group in order to be engaged in politics (at all levels). What we need is to be taken seriously.
Ever the gentleman, Trudeau stated on Twitter that he would not reply to the “sarcastic” comments that the #AskJustin campaign elicited. And while I give him points for standing behind the people who created this bone-headed campaign for him and not throwing them to the lions, the statement from that camp that it was a partisan attack from Conservative MPs was also a really bad idea, which puts the politician in a position of alienating the left-leaning base he needs to attract if he wants to ever become Prime Minister. Because most of the sarcastic comments I saw were from left-leaning women who were aghast at the inherent sexism in the marketing of this event. Women who, like me, are offended by being offered a pink beer, or a “ladies” version of anything when the regular version will do just fine.
Alright, perhaps I shouldn’t speak for all women… I’m loathe to admit it, but obviously there are women out there who enjoy the pandering, who are delighted by the pink beer, the “Diva” events. Maybe it makes them feel special in some way… more feminine? More powerful because there are no men to judge them or compete with?
Heck, that’s probably the saddest part of this whole fiasco – that there ARE still women out there who need this kind of reinforcement of their identity and their gender. That there are women who can only find an interest in regular everyday things such as politics or fixing something around the house if there’s some kind of gender specificity to it.
Yes, the pink tool set does exactly what the blue tool set does. So why not buy the pink set if it’s cute? Because I run the risk of helping to turn my niece into a person who only becomes interested in or involved in things if they make her feel special for being girly. But that also puts her in the position of potentially making her feel inferior to someone else because she’s a girl. Girls around the world face enough challenges in their lives, just to get an education, or have the right to vote, or drive a car… why on earth would we put more roadblocks in their way by segregating them when we don’t have to?
Why, as grown up, adult women with careers and education and equal rights, would we ever, ever be interested in an event that wants to segregate us? Or that plays to us – even on a marketing level – as vapid and pretentious and unable to hold our own in a similar event with men present?
i don’t want to be a woman – and I certainly don’t want my niece to become a woman – who is only interested in acquiring real-life skills and interests because her tools were pink.
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