Saturday, 9 January 2010

Nature or Nurture – Barbie and Action Man

I was amused and a little exasperated to hear that a couple of Mums have formed a pressure group, called “Pinkstinks,” objecting to what they see as the stereotyping of young girls by toy manufacturers who colour their toys in shades of pink. I believe that many girls like pink of their own accord and it does not adversely affect them in any way.

My eldest daughter liked and still likes pink, has many pink accessories and will almost certainly dress her daughters accordingly. I accept that we bought her pink things, Barbie dolls and My Little Pony, but we also bought her matchbox cars and took her to watch rugby matches. She is now a primary school teacher, which might be taken as proof of the stereotype, but would be blatantly unfair to that profession. Moreover, she spends most of her free time rock climbing and leads international expeditions to remote mountain regions - hardly a helpless girl!

Stade Francais, five time winners of the French Rugby Union Championship are anything but effeminate, almost as well known for their racy calendars and they wear a very shocking pink!

My son did not have Barbie dolls, but did play with Action Man, as I did (still dolls, really) and he has always liked black much more than pink. He is sometimes reluctant to get out of bed, especially to go to school, and I have questioned his resolve, which has prompted him to say it is easy for me because I was a marine. I know I should not read too much into this, it is just Dad-Son banter. However, I have reflected on the fact that his protest is back to front. I was a Royal Marine, am proud of the fact and gained a huge amount of experience and self respect, but did the marines make me what I am or did being who I am help me through the Commando course? The truth is surely a little of both. The unfairness of the jibes at my son is regularly proven when he happily gets up very early to go beating for the local shoot or for a rugby match!

Being dressed in pink or being bored by stories of how hard life was for somebody else may influence our view of life, but it will only be as powerful as we allow it to be. Yes, parents need to be balanced in how they bring up their children; boys can benefit from knowing how to cook, iron and sew as much as girls. It is also useful if girls can wire a plug or change a tyre, but the colour of their toys will not decide which of these skills they most enjoy using.

This is a lesson not just for parents, but applies as much to teachers, coaches and especially managers. For the child, pupil or employee, don’t blame others for how you are or how you live your life, recognise that we are the sum of all our god given gifts and the experiences we have enjoyed or endured, it is then up to us how we interpret and use them – we all have choices every day. Making your own choice and accepting the consequences is the key to personal growth and success.

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