There’s a great story rocketing around the interwebs. A little boy broke his wrist, and the doctor pointed to various kids’ casts. What color did the little boy want?
“Pink,” he said.
The doctor laughed. “Boys don’t wear pink!” he explained.
The boy looked him in the eye. “There’s no boy colors or girl colors!” he said. “I want pink. It’s for breast cancer awareness!”
I thought of that story Friday, when I was in Learning Express. I’d just bought a gift (teething giraffe, indeterminate color) for Ned Batlin’s 3-week-old son Teddy.
An older man — I assume the owner — was waiting on a little boy in front of me. He asked what color something the boy wanted. “Pink?” the man chuckled. “Or maybe blue?”
The boy chose green. I chose to shut my mouth.
But I was upset, and a couple of hours later I went back. I quietly said to the man, “I heard something today you might not even be aware of. I’m telling you because it’s about your business.”
I explained what I’d heard. “It was a joke,” the owner replied.
“What’s the joke?” I asked. “That boys can never like pink?”
He could not explain the hilarity. But he was pretty serious about not wanting to hear what I said.
I told him the “pink cast” story. He said it had nothing to do with him.
I said that I help run a youth group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. One topic that comes up often is gender stereotyping. From a very early age, kids feel pressured to conform to “social norms.” Pink-for-girls-and-blue-for-boys is only one of many.
Things are changing, of course. Male sports teams at all levels — from pros and college down through Staples — proudly wear pink. The reason is to raise awareness (and funds) for breast cancer awareness, but a side effect is demolishing the notion that “pink is for girls” (or, in jock-talk, “sissies”).
Fortunately these days, most adults realize the dangers of stereotyping children — whether by colors, toys, activities or anything else.
The Learning Express man is not one of them. In fact, he was adamant. “I’m not going to stop making jokes just because of what you say,” he declared.
That’s his right.
Just as it’s my right to buy my toys somewhere else. Someplace that exhibits not only toys on a shelf, but also awareness of the importance of helping children feel comfortably un-stereotyped in a big, wide, wonderful world.