Until I had two boys I was very much of the nurture camp in the nurture versus nature gender argument - I had the opinion that boys and girls were genderised by society rather than innate differences. My train, car and digger loving, non sleeping, rock climbing first son has slightly changed my mind, but I still believe that while there are some differences between the average boy and the average girl, gender is on a spectrum and is pretty much influenced by society. (To that end I will be intrigued to follow the experiences of Pop, the non-gendered Swedish child.)
I haven't gone that far but I have tried to ensure that despite the number of trains and cars he owns HackneyChild also has a doll, a tea set, and so on. I have painted his nails and let him rummage through my jewellery, I read him Milly Molly Mandy as well as Thomas the Tank Engine. But my principles were faced with a big test this week in the confines of Clarks on Mare Street, and I am sorry to say they crumbled.
Charged with choosing new shoes, HackneyChild headed straight for the sparkly pink ones. "Look!" he said excitedly. "This one has a birthday cake on it!" I am ashamed to say I went: "Uh...oh look! This one has dinosaurs on it!" I just couldn't buy him the pink shoes. They were so very pink. I really wish I could.
But I don't think its just my social cowardice. I am saddened by the pinkification of girls and ASBO-ification of boys, as evidenced in the inescapable "sparkly princess"/"here comes trouble"-type slogans on clothing. It was so obvious which shoes were girly and which were for boys in that shop. I may be dreaming but I am sure when I was a little girl things were not so gendered - I remember having the same dungarees as my friend's little brother.
They didn't have the dinosaur ones in HackneyChild's size. He now has shoes with diggers on them.