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gender divide starts with colour rules

When a close friend was pregnant she swore that if it were a girl she'd insist no one bought pink gifts for the child. It's not that she's neurotic, or has a traumatic past with the colour, it's just that she hated the thought of stereotyping her child.

We've no such problem in my house where my three-year-old son's favourite colour is pink. He insisted on having a pink birthday cake recently, which scuppered my plans to ice his cake in my signature chocolate icing. I broke into a cold sweat the day before his party when I realised Tesco didn't stock any red food colouring.

In a blind panic I grabbed tubs of pink stars, sprinkles and edible 'polka dots' as a back-up plan for the doomed gateau. Unsure my son would consider cream icing with pink decorations a genuine pink cake, we made a last-minute visit to our local shop.

My husband emerged triumphantly clutching a little glass bottle of red liquid, thus averting a catastrophe for Ely's big day. (We're still trying to work out how much demand a local store actually has for red food dye?)

When everyone arrived the next day all his aunties and uncles were surprised to see a pretty pink confection with Ely's name written across the top in Smarties. I explained that he's obsessed with the colour, wants a pink coat (difficult to get for boys, I explained), pink underpants (difficult to get for boys, I explained again) and pink backpack (easier to acquire, but may have flowers/butterfly embellishments).

He loves his sister's pink dress and insists he'll get one just like it when he's a mummy.

"You won't be a mummy when you grow up Ely. You'll be a daddy," we repeat gently, but he doesn't want to know. "I don't want to be a daddy," he retorts grumpily each time. "I want to be a mummy!"

Naturally, I take this as a compliment, and haven't let the pink obsession worry me, unlike one dad who refuses to let his six-year-old son get red shoes, as he considers them too effeminate. Does he really think a young boy's masculinity will be compromised by a pair of red shoes? I certainly don't care that my son's favourite dress-up costume in creche is the princess outfit ...


But some people are awfully silly about pink, like the rugby fans who guffawed in 2005 when Stade Francais changed their away strip to a vibrant shade of pink, complete with the club's emblem of lightning bolts. In the early days it garnered much commentary from insecure rugby fans who found the strip alarmingly 'gay'; later versions with leopard print and flamboyant lilies did nothing to deter the 'camp' insults.

I, too, am guilty of having strong feelings towards pink, but only when it comes to my daughter. Like my aforementioned friend, I strive to dress my daughter in as many pink-free outfits as possible.

I don't dislike the colour; I just find it nauseating that every second item in the girls' section is some shade of pink. Little girls look pretty in blue, green, orange, red, yellow, and navy too, but it can be difficult to find basics in these vibrant shades.

When my daughter was mistaken for a boy recently the shoe-shop assistant apologised, saying she thought her blue and red socks were boy's socks. The funny thing is my daughter was actually wearing boy's trousers at the time. After racks of pink, purple and floral trousers I'd spotted the gorgeous soft blue needle cords in the boy's section. Is anyone worried that I'm turning Ivy into a tomboy?