It was a shock to the senses, when I looked for a ‘Baby Shower’ gift recently, and found that the world had suddenly become divided into pale pink and powder blue – gender stereotyping clearly begins at birth. Clothes, toys and accessories were all sorted by colour into male and female, thus moulding genders into traditional roles, and limiting choices. The dolls houses were pink and the tractors were blue because girls are little home-making princesses and boys are action heroes.
Imagine my shock when I went to buy a new trowel from my local garden Centre and found virtually the same situation. Seemingly overnight, a tide of pastels had appeared, where before there had been earthy, gender – neutral colours. There were whole stands of pale pink, blue and mauve essentials like trowels and secateurs, as well as things I have never, ever needed, such as gardening aprons, bags and kneelers. All feminised just for me, made chintzy, fluffy and soft, just how the Marketing Managers imagine I want them.
Surprisingly, I have managed to dig the garden passably well for many years, without reaching for a sugar pink spade. I have used secateurs successfully, even when they only came in red. My feeling is that these new pastel products trivialise me as a gardener, and somehow imply that I garden in a lesser way than a man. Now, gardening is what I am passionate about and I go out there and shake it by the throat. I don’t go all frilly and floral. It’s hard, muddy work, best done in jeans with holes in, wellies and thorn-proof gloves. I go out there and I chop and I dig and I sweat. A pink axe ? I don’t think so. A mauve mattock ? Never. Because only men use those tools, right ? Those sugar pink tools imply that I do little but prettify the odd planter now and then, nothing more serious than that.
So, sisters, let’s boycott the pink and floral ! Let’s chant “Real tools for real women” as we picket the sliding glass doors of the local garden centre. Here’s what we do instead … we go down to our local garage sale and rummage in the baskets and boxes. I promise you that hidden in there will be glorious garden tools, with wooden handles polished by blood, sweat and tears. The patina upon that wood is made from pure toil. Those old, well-used tools have a proud gender-free history, and we can only imagine what it may be. They may have been used for decades by the same gardener, lovingly tending the same plot, and you can link hands with that person, male or female, across the divide of the generations. These beautiful tools will cost a fraction of the price of the pink monstrosities in the garden centre and though they may need oiling or sharpening, you will know that you hold an eloquent piece of equality in your hands.