Keeping Mum

Dita De Boni looks at the trials and tribulations of being a parent.

Pink stink

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There comes a time in the life of every mother of a daughter when she must decide whether or not to submit to the dark forces of the Disney Corporation.

Although my daughter is barely four months old, I found myself with this very predicament the other day.

Let me outline it for you.

As anyone with more than one child will tell you, your firstborn often gets showered with gifts, sleeps in a perfectly kitted-out bedroom, has oodles of age-appropriate art on the wall, and generally lives the life of Riley while they remain the only dauphin or duchess of the house.

The second is lucky if he or she gets a heater for his or her bare-walled bunker in the little alcove alotted to the poor mite.

And so it was in our house. Firstborn, our son, has wall hangings, photos and even some suitably unimpressive home-made art adorning his pad.

Second born daughter has a cracked-glassed, framed version of Rudyard Kipling's famous If poem on hers - an afterthought she won't be able to appreciate for at least another ten years.

I was of a mind to fix this inequity and went to the mall to find my daughter a poster for her room - something that, in the first instance, would be colourful and cheerful, and in the second, would still suit her when she's grown a few years.

And it was here that my problem began.

Where there were posters - and they seem to now be a rather outdated form of wall decoration judging by how few are on sale - they were uniformly inappropriate and ghastly. Especially for girls.

The bulk were Disney Princesses; a further large minority were of Disney protege Hannah Montana, her huge shiny pink lips featuring prominently.

Then there were a smattering of pastel coloured ponies with ribbons in their hair, and finally, a large black poster with the Playboy bunny insignia. Gack!

It's all a bit tragic really, and I genuinely don't remember it being this way when I was a girl.

Yes, there was Barbie, and yes, we all wanted one.

There was Sweet Valley High which we all dreamed of going to, and contraband pink lip gloss that we loved applying. But - and it's a pretty big but - in the 80s, Barbie was not just a princess - she was a doctor, a firefighter and a corporate high flier (she probably isn't now!)

Smurfs and E.T appealed across the board - but even if they didn't, mass merchandising didn't seem as pervasive. Makeup was largely unheard of by those under 13.

One of my favourite characters as a girl was - inexplicably - English import Milly Molly Mandy, which seems positively Victorian by today's standards.

Now there seem to be just two words to cover what's on offer for young females: Pink and Princess.

Everything for girls - absolutely everything - is multiple shades of pink; including makeup for those well under 10 years old.

And if you're looking for non-pink clothing for little girls, forget it! I sometimes dress my daughter in her brother's old clothes and she is always mistaken for a boy - hardly an insult to her, but it's the only respite from pink she has.

There is a scientific basis for girls liking pink apparently - our female ancestors needed to distinguish fruit and berries on their foraging expeditions, and so scientists presume there's a strong biological basis for women tending to prefer red and pink colours.

Fair enough. But today's pink onslaught feels like something equally pre-historic - a manevolent marketing plan dressed up as a return to a little girl's genuine desires. Which is a shame, because in moderation, fairy princesses can be something to dream about and enjoy. But not if they're a stereotype that every little girl in the country feels she's got to adopt to win her handsome prince.

And for my four-month-old to look at? A poster of Spongebob Squarepants and his Bikini Bottom pals.

Yes, they're a mass market phenomenon, but at least none of them try surviving modern life in tutus or tiaras!

On the web

- Boys like blue, girls like pink - it's in our genes

- Books for children and teenagers

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