Earlier this year Brook set out our belief that we will not reach our targets to reduce teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, or improve the quality of young people’s relationships unless we address gender in policy and practice. Through the contact we have with approximately 1600 young people every day at Brook, we recognise that how boys learn to boys, and girls learn to be girls has a huge and often negative impact on their relationships and sexual choices.
And an ex colleague of mine, Emma Moore clearly thinks the same. She and her sister, Abi have developed a campaign www.pinkstinks.co.uk
There is an article about the campaign in today’s Guardian called The Power of Pink. The campaign set out to offer girls positive alternative role models and ‘trying to stop the seemingly unstoppable tide of pink was simply another way they felt, of challenging what was rampaging and unacceptable stereotyping, from earliest childhood.’
The article describes some of the challenges the sisters have received which demonstrate how deeply gender is embedded in our society – from claims the sisters are lesbians (how original – nobody who has dared to challenged stereotypes has had that allegation thrown before!) to questions of their sanity.
But much more moving and important are the emails from little girls along the lines of ‘carry on and make it easier for girls like me to try different things without feeling like an outsider’ and ‘girls like me shouldn’t be forced to like pink. Can you think of a good name for girls who don’t want to be girly girls but aren’t tomboys?
So does pink matter – yes, not because it isn’t a nice colour, not because nobody should like it, but because when there is only one game in town it narrows perspectives, slims down the possibilities and restricts people’s ability to be themselves. So I go back to my original assertion that it is time to turn the gender air conditioning off, and notice how tightly we define the possibilities for boys and girls. It starts early, it’s pernicious and its important that we challenge it.
I don’t want to return to the past where girls were made of all things nice and boys were made of slug tails. We cannot allow the power of marketing to turn the tide on social change and progress it isnt fair on boys or girls.
To find out more about Brook’s conference on March 4th 2010 visit http://www.brook.org.uk/