To readers who have missed my posts – or is it just the one? – I have been a little under the weather. Now I’m back, and I’m getting on my soapbox in response to an ugly but useful coinage: pinkification.
WAGs, as I wrote here, are terrible role models for girls. WAGs stands for Wives And Girlfriends, decorative appendages of famous – usually rich – men, who apply such brains as they have to manipulating their meal ticket and dressing up. WAG-in-Chief is brash mediocrity, Michelle Obama, grievance-toting product of “affirmative action” turned clothes-horse for the twitterati. Margaret Thatcher, the best Prime Minister after Churchill, came to power thirty years ago. Who could have imagined that the WAG, that most old-fashioned of creatures, would still be around, let alone held up as a role model? How does it happen? Well, the training starts early. Antonia Senior in The Times on the pernicious pinkification of little girls:
Where have all the pirate queens gone? Where are the cowgirls and the Supergirls? Today's fancy dress parties divide strictly on gender lines. The boys' side holds a handful of Batmans, a sprinkling of Spider-Mans, some soldiers and the odd cowboy. And on the girls' side, ten identikit princesses, swathed in pink, encrusted with fake crystals.
Is this, then, the summit of their ambition, the ultimate fantasy wish of modern girlhood - to be a princess? A role that can be inherited along with genetic mutations from generations of inbreeding. You can work for the role, it is true. Be pretty enough, my darling girl child, and mute enough, and bland enough, and you too could marry a prince. Because every girl's dream should be to lead a life of buffed and pedicured leisure, courtesy of a balding, chinless aristocrat, Whisper it, but the frog, as long as he's funny and kind, would have been the better bet.
There is an alternative to being a princess, a second costume beloved of today's girls. They shun the Ice Queens and the Elven warriors, ignore Artemis, the huntress, and Athena, the wise. Instead they celebrate the Fairy; three inches of cute, winged blondeness, dressed, inevitably, in pink.
This creeping pinkification of girlhood is ubiquitous. Toys and clothes have split down gender lines. It is impossible to buy a gender- neutral bike any more. Bikes come in blue, or in pink; as do baby walkers, and mini-keyboards, and any other toy that might once have been - imagine it! - purple or green.
These girls will one day grow up. Even though the number of women at university is increasing rapidly, they are not narrowing the gap in science, maths and computer science. As graduates then, they leave the lucrative jobs in the City, in laboratories and in computers to the boys. Armed with liberal arts degrees - a useful accoutrement in the marriage market, like a little French and dancing once were - they may marry their prince after a few years pretending to have a career at an auction house. But happy ever after is a lie. Divorce statistics suggest he is likely to leave for a pinker, younger version.
The modern, Western world has emancipated women and made breadwinners out of them. Yet we are imprisoning our little girls in pink straitjackets, and then acting surprised later when their academic ambitions fail to outshine their accessories.
If peer pressure is one driver of demand, the other must come from the parents. Perhaps this is a backlash against the Seventies, when boys called Orlando were forced to play with dolls, and girls wore trousers. Feminist theory has developed since then, recognising that there are differences between the sexes. But this seems to have mutated into an insistence that we emphasise the differences. If a girl old enough to choose begs to dress as a princess, it would be dogmatic to refuse. But why encourage this inanity in babies and toddlers too young to care?
My childhood was devoid of pink, not because of political correctness, but because there wasn’t the money to spend on pointless pink things. I wonder, too, if popular music plays a role. Punk is not pink, even if the hair is. Compare the Barbie-doll girl bands of today. Pinkification carries through to adulthood. Where did that huggy thing come from – not the affectionate hug, but the hug gaggles of girlies get into where they squeal and run up and down on the spot?
Perhaps, on reflection, pinkification has its uses. Try getting the pinked-up princesses to wear a niqab, and they’ll scratch your eyes out with their gold-lacquered nails. And better Sweet Valley than Swat Valley, any day.