Tag Archives: gender

A Christmas Tragedy

Its Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid. A classic line sung first by Paul Young and then latterly on the much ignored Band Aid II by Kylie Minogue. However judging by my trip into town yesterday I would disagree and say there is much to be scared of, and not just the fact I seem to have been forced to listen to that song every time I’ve set foot inside a shop since mid September.

Never mind the fact that at this time of the year the world goes mad and suddenly everyone is buying up brandy snaps as though their life depended on it. There is another recently discovered scary issue around. Namely the tragedy that is the complete destruction of the humble colouring book. I braced the mad rush of final shoppers yesterday to try and find two colouring books for presents. A simple task you might think? Well you’d be wrong.

Firstly all I wanted was a normal standard picture book for young children to colour in. Just the normal colouring books I had as a child with pictures of dogs and cats and houses. I didn’t want stickers or activities or doodles (that must be the cleverest money making idea since the shampoo companies started putting the words rince and repeat on the bottles, just put some blank paper together, call it a doodle book on the cover and charge twenty times the cost of the paper)

Secondly and most scary of all, when did colouring become a gender specific activity? Everywhere I looked the only colouring books I could find were labelled either girls colouring books and were full of pictures of princesses and castles, or boys colouring books full of cars and tractors. Talk about pushing gender stereotyping. Why do simple activities such as colouring need to be ruined? I realise it is a money making scam and people will unconsciously fall for it. I also know that in the scheme of things it’s quite a minor issue but it really bugged me. It is as stupid as the pink lego thing (read about them here) Well it didn’t work on me, and I walked away without purchasing any of them.

I realise that people have to try and reinvent the wheel. Essentially that’s what crime writers do all the time. There are a finite number of ways to kill someone and also motives for doing so, yet writers are able to take this idea and revamp it thousands and thousands of times. That’s a good thing for someone like me, who wants to read this revamped idea over and over again. Yet surely this revamping wasn’t needed for colouring books, to a six year old a picture to colour is about the actual act of colouring rather than the picture itself. I don’t think they really care how it is packaged. I bought a gift for a friend’s daughter this weekend and she was more interested in playing with the wrapping paper than the actual gift. (It was very nice wrapping paper though) There is certainly no need to give children different pictures to colour depending on whether they are a boy or girl.

Anyway despite my mini strop with the woman in Waterstones who asked if I’d found everything I wanted. All is not lost and the receivers of the colouring books are not to miss out. Luckily the sister works for a large retail brand (in the interest of not advertising let’s just say, think of a posh pound shop where you can buy a full size dancing Father Christmas and you’ll know where I mean) and she saved the day with some nice general colouring books with no stickers or activities in sight. She can therefore now be known as the Sister who saved Christmas. Of course is she could also work out a way of banning shops from playing Christmas music before the 23rd December then she really would be a superhero.

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Filed under Feminist, Holiday

The Children of Men

Apparently only one in eight men are the main reader to their children according to a survey by Booktrust (a great organisation dedicated to getting people to read) so they have started a campaign to try and get men reading to their children more.

I think that the ability to read for enjoyment is one of the most important life skills that can be passed on, and anything that encourages this is a great initiative. However I think that making it a gender issue is not necessarily the right way to go about it and takes the focus off the real problem which is that some parents don’t read with children full stop.

Apparently people site a lack of time as a key reason people don’t read but I bet all those parents find time to check their emails every five minutes and update their social media status. My Mum would have been the one to read to us, mainly because as soon as we moved on from Jack and Jill frankly Dad would just have been slowing us down. We were lucky, Mum read with us, Dad built rabbit hutches and took us swimming and every night at 5.10 on the dot we all sat down for tea and pretended to have a conversation whilst secretly just trying to watch Grange Hill.

When me and my sister were young, computers were not common place and we had to make our own entertainment. We only had tv in very short bursts (as according to my mother the tv would blow up if it was left on for longer than 30 minutes) and shock horror there was only 4 channels. Kids nowadays have more distractions than ever and the idea of sitting down and reading is an alien concept. Equally if they don’t see their parents sit down and read for enjoyment, they will sadly never do it themselves. The problem with making it a gender issue is that Dad’s will feel forced to do something that they might not actually enjoy, and therefore that pressure is going to be passed onto the children. Who remembers the BT commercial with the Dad who passed the phone straight to the Mum when the kid rang? That commercial is solely responsible for hundreds of hours of conversations about the weather and latest council tax bills as Dads are forced into keeping children talking until a suitable length of time has passed (as dictated by Maureen Lipman) and they can pass the phone on.

The same thing will happen with reading, Men will force themselves to read two pages of Harry Potter and kids will grow up believing that reading is a chore rather than a pleasure. I was in a primary school yesterday listening to kids read and was amazed not only by the range of abilities but also by the enthusiasm they all had for reading to me. Reading is one of the best, cheapest and fun hobbies there is, and we should all be encouraging children to enjoy it, not just men!

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Filed under Reading