When my son crowned during labour (that stage when the head stops slipping back up the vaginal u-bend like an unflushable number two), the midwife proclaimed he had a great head of hair.
Minutes later, when he emerged looking like the result of an unholy alliance between Matt Lucas and a Smurf, we realised she’d been mistaken and he had in fact simply enjoyed a temporary comb-over courtesy of my muffro.
[Muffro: (n). a cross between a muff and an afro. Most often seen as a result of neglect / inability to see how bad things have become down there during pregnancy]
Neither at that stage, nor since (he has only recently started to show signs that his follicles are in working order) have I thought ‘what this boy needs is a wig.’ No. Because that would be RIDICULOUS, right?
Imagine my horror, therefore, when this month has seen the launch of ‘Baby Bangs’ – “hair pieces for the girl who has everything, except hair”.
And finally I realise that the end of mankind as we know it comes not with a devastating bang that sees us melting like that Nazi at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but with but a whimper that started the moment someone in the First World gave a fuck that baby girls look a bit too much like baby boys.
When did this slide towards insanity start? I’m pretty certain my own mom didn’t give a shit that I popped out looking like a miniature Peter Lorre and stayed that way for a fair few years.
I didn’t do princess dresses, I did dirt. I did karate kicks with socks full of talcum powder so that it looked like smoke was coming out of my bionic feet. At twelve years of age I went to a fancy dress party as George Michael, complete with biro’d-on chest hair, and sang a medley of his songs whilst my peers tried to get on with their fun games – like apple bobbing, postman’s knock and laughing and pointing at the kid with the biro’d-on chest hair.
Even during my teens I was a big-nosed-pool-playing-tomboy who confused the shit out of a lot of my mates at the local snooker club when I returned from my first term away at university with a pair of boobs (my own I hasten to add) and an unwittingly provocative cueing action.
But sometime between then and now the Western World has become SO obsessed with image that the downy strands adorning a baby’s head are no longer something to be stroked and nuzzled and inhaled, but instead must be styled, bejewelled and enhanced to ensure no baby girl need ever suffer the irretrievable injustice of being mistaken for a boy.
Just reading Baby Bang’s philosophy (less ‘ethical stand point’ and more ‘branding bullshit’) gives you a sense of how far we’ve fallen.
“At Baby Bangs! we believe in the beauty of childhood. Our unique designs are sprinkled with MAGIC! ~inspiring a world of whimsical wonder and mystical magical memorable moments for you and your baby girl to cherish Forever! For she is, and always will be, Your LiTTLe PRINCESS!
There should be at least three sics in the above statement, but I thought it was sic enough (ROFL at my own cleverness).
I don’t know what to be more upset about: the reductionist gender stereotyping, or the atrocious spelling and grammar?
For anyone reading this thinking ‘come on, lighten up, they’re just a bit of fun’, I would urge you to think on. This is just one more example in a long line of children’s toys and products that reinforce gender stereotypes, sexualise our babies and hamstring our children’s futures, regardless of gender.
Just take a walk down the toy aisles in any large supermarket (I recommend you do this WITHOUT children, unless you enjoy lengthy negotiations with a whingeing mini terrorist) and witness the pink / blue divide.
Trying to find ‘domestic’ toys – like prams and play ovens – in anything OTHER than pink (a colour to which girls are drawn like b-list celebs to a photo opportunity) is akin to trying to find your car keys in a ball pool.
By contrast boys are encouraged to play with science sets, trucks and action heroes and reject anything that doesn’t fall within the second half of the colour spectrum.
Imagine if Fisher Price bought out a knob-pump “for the baby boy who has everything, except a big cock and descended testicles”. Or SMA created a protein powder to help toddlers build bulk. We’d be up in arms (wouldn’t we?) about how we’re imposing adult values on minds innocent of such wonky esteem issues.
And yet take a look in the Argos catalogue and turn to the girl toys section (the bit that you imagine a unicorn’s vomit would look like after gorging itself on rainbows and stardust) and you’ll find countless ‘vanity tables’ and ‘beauty bars’ marketed at children as young as three.
There’s even a Cinderella carriage / mirror monstrosity that plays ‘inspirational phrases’ to your children – presumably ‘don’t worry, there’s always surgery’ and ‘you SHALL grow up to be insecure’.
And now we have Baby Bangs to add into the troublesome mix. ‘Recommended for infants 0-9 months’. And they’re selling.
And perhaps most surprisingly, they are not some cynical marketing effort by a faceless corporation (Disney) happy to prey on the insecurities of mothers. They are a creation by ‘three generations of women’ a mother, daughter and baby granddaughter, who I can’t help but feel should have known better.