We were making our way into the Metro Centre from the Debenhams end when we saw a very young boy getting into one of the fun buggies that can be hired from the customer service desk. The buggies are shaped like cars and can be pushed around while the child sits inside and pretends to drive. They are pretty cool and come in a variety of colours and have the look of high end cars that drive up and down our motorways. I would have loved them when I was young.
The boy was getting into a bright pink car and the man that was with him, we assumed that it was his father, asked him if he would rather get into the black Porsche-like one that was next to his original choice. We both looked at each and took it that he had tried to steer the lad into a more masculine coloured car. We wondered if this was something he had done consciously or if he was not aware of what he was saying. Of course he may have thought that the black car was better than the pink but we didn’t stop to find out.
It left us wondering how much of what we do to reinforce stereotypes, gender in this case, we do without thinking but rather through subtle and not so subtle nuance and action. Was the man trying to protect the boy’s future by steering him down a particular colour choice or was he protecting his own image in that he would rather not have been seen pushing a lad in a pink car. It is certainly a complex issue.
Ironically, blue has only relatively recently become the choice of colour for boys. Pastel colours for babies were introduced in the mid 19th century. The Ladies Home Journal in 1918 said ‘The general rule is pink for the boys and blue for the girls.’ How times have changed.
When we got back to the Customer Service Desk on our way out, the pink car had gone and the black one was still there.