Let toys be toys
I'm definitely on a spectrum... but it's not what you might think! I was 6 years old and I wanted to be these kids. To fly over the hills with the jumps and then through the air with E.T. I was utterly obsessed with this movie and I didn't care what gender or sex the kids were, I just wanted to be them...especially the one with the headphones.
My friends and family considered me to be a tomboy (whatever that meant). I liked BMX bikes, Deloreans and skateboards. I grew up with a brother and two older male cousins and I loved nothing more than an afternoon of the lengthy 80’s fantasy board game, Talisman followed by Lego car 'smash and crash' and a wrestling match (which I tended to win). I also liked dolls and I mean 'girlie' pink, glittery dolls. My Little Pony featured massively in my childhood as did Cabbage Patch Kids and Barbie followed closely by He-Man and Hotwheels (I had my own garage). I loved nothing more than a session of Crossbows and Catapults and Manic Minor on the Spectrum ZX. My point is...they weren't boy's or girl's activities, they were my activities, my brother's and my cousin's activities, my friends' and family's activities. I wanted to play and experiment and these were just the tools to facilitate my very active imagination. So why am I having to explain to my 8 year old, in 2020, that it’s OK for girls to be into Star Wars and Pokemon? And why do my godsons have to come to my house to play with glitter and LOL dolls? And why is it weird for a boy to experiment with trying on a pretty dress but it's OK for a girl to wear pretty much whatever they like? The fact that a brand as significant as GAP was printing t-shirts with ‘Young Einstein’ on for boys and ‘Social Butterfly’ for girls is terrifying in this day and age, and certainly isn't helping parents to steer their children away from these limiting stereotypes.
Campaigns such as http://www.pinkstinks.co.uk and http://lettoysbetoys.org.uk are addressing the media, products and marketing head on regarding these matters, and they have their work cut out for them even in 2020. Even today I struggle to get away from the fact that I am a bit 'boy'. I love nothing more than getting muddy on my bike or my board and taking risks. I am a video gamer, always have been, and can beat most people at a driving, fighting or platform contest. My point is: who cares? It seems to me that this is way more of an obstacle for macho men that like Barbie than a woman playing Grand Theft Auto but the fact is, maybe we are all on a male - female spectrum and often I feel I am actually closer to the 'm'.
One of my favourite moments as a teacher has to be when one of the alpha boys in my class got out the ‘Girl’s World' doll head to play with during wet play. He wanted to 'do hair' and he was high enough in the class pecking order that no-one was going to challenge him. I taught him how to do a french plait and revelled in the fact that he could be his authentic self at such a young age. He was already free of the social chains that limit so many others and I dream and hope that he is still that way today. I should also add that, as a heterosexual woman, I find a man that leans towards his ‘f' side to be really attractive. Physically, I think guy (eye) liner and men wearing nail varnish or hairbands is hugely sexy and a man that cries or wears his emotions on his sleeve is a game changer in a good way. Men or women that are kind to children and animals, love Frozen as well as Transformers and bother to learn how to do plaits are also very alluring, so why try to hide this? I have always said to my daughters that they should look for a partner who will make a good parent and friend, and I am so happy to have found a partner myself that is kind and involved with my children's interests, whatever they are. Ironically, our two daughters tend to be interested in his passions of Star Wars, country music and skateboarding which has made this all the more fun for everyone. I hope they will let me take them on the odd spa day too and that, by then, my godsons will be able to join us on those trips without having to hide them from their mates.
Holly Francis retrained as a teacher following a career spanning two decades in events and marketing working for some of the top brands including Apple. She now works as a private tutor in film and television and will soon be launching her own product to finally eliminate smartphone damage, loss and theft.