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Columnists

In the pink

Jude Simpson

SimpsonIt started as a simple dilemma. The cold weather meant we needed a warm sleepsuit to see the Beloved Child through his first winter. Cue a trip to Mothercare. There's not a lot of choice, we discover, in the warm sleepsuit range, once you eliminate polyester and Santa / Rudolph / generic Festive Dwarf outfits. Just two, in fact, split - of course - by gender.
The 'boys' sleepsuit is dull beige with a small brown lion and dark brown lining. The 'girls' sleepsuit is purple and white striped with turquoise poppers, multi-coloured stripey sleeves, a purple elephant patch, and candy pink lining. Which one would you have bought for your son?

We bought the purple one. We prefer babies to be dressed in cheerful, childish clothes rather than scaled-down urban-skater grunge. We also refuse to let gender-specific social stereotypes be inflicted on our infant (although I, at least, am hypocritical in this, since I put my foot down when the Hubster tried to take him out in the summer dressed solely in a vest with pink hearts all over it).

When the child is barely nine months old, and only wearing the offending item at night, bending gender rules isn't too serious. But in time there will come a crossover between refusing to conform our child to social stereotypes and sending him into the playground like a candy-pink, cross-dressing Christian to the five-year-old lions...

Then, as any parent of a little girl knows, the job becomes much harder. Trying to teach your child about conformity, individuality and the undesirability of scratchy, Barbie-based costumes with sparkly wings and a borderline seductive slogan across the front is quite a mission.

Even the hardest-headed, equality-embracing, feminist mother will find it nigh on impossible to avoid dressing her daughter in pink once the daughter has any say in the matter. Unless she decamps to bring her up among yaks in Outer Mongolia, that is, where I believe all bright colours are de rigeur regardless of gender, but she will have to eat mutton fat.

I've never liked seeing children holding placards in political protests either. A two-year-old sitting in a buggy with a sign saying, 'Help the Miners,' 'Stop the War' or even 'Jesus is Lord' seems wrong, since the words are very obviously placed in their innocent, oblivious mouths. But a manchild wearing a sleepsuit designed for girls? Is this also inflicting my political views on my child?

Surely buying the boys sleepsuit would have been worse, as I would then have been inflicting society's political views on my child. And as we all know, I am infinitely wiser and better informed than society...

In the end, the advantage of the beige sleepsuit is that it wouldn't have turned three work shirts, a surfing top and a pair of Superman underpants pink on its first wash. But since the Hubster helped make the original decision, he can't complain now. And his colleagues seem to like the look. 

Jude Simpson