A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (1983, Chester Odeon to be precise) my Mum took me to see Return of the Jedi and a life long love affair was born. It captured my imagination in a way that nothing previously had, and paved the way for a childhood spent bombing around our house, garden and farm with my prized toy Millennium Falcon pretending to be Han Solo.
So imagine my delight when my 6 year old Daughter Gwen arrived home from school one memorable day a few months back and asked me the question that every nerdy Dad wants to hear – ‘Daddy, what’s StarWars?’
Yes, suddenly, completely out of the blue, Frozen is yesterday’s news. StarWars is well and truly where it’s at now. And despite my long held love for the original trilogy, I haven’t pushed her into it at all, she’s discovered it for herself. According to Gwen, her ‘boyfriends’ (She has 6 of them, and yes you’re bloody right I worry) are crazy about it and talk of little else in the playground, and especially the new film, The Force Awakens.
In the latest incarnation of the movies, the lead role is a teenage girl – Rey, and it’s her who Gwen wants to be. So much so that she excitedly asked for a Rey outfit and a toy blue lightsaber for her birthday. So far, so completely 6 year old normal.
And then, the almost inevitable happened. She was told by someone at school that ‘STARWARS IS FOR BOYS.’ (Coincidently now she only has 5 boyfriends. HA!) But where does this come from? Parents? Grandparents? Retailers? The ridiculously outdated pink for girls/ blue for boys indoctrination that we’ve all been subjected to from birth?
A quick look at major toy store websites shows that they generally no longer separate toys by gender, so attitudes are beginning to change, if painfully slowly. Though on a recent, once in a blue moon visit to a local supermarket, I found myself having to shield my eyes from the wall of garish, bright pink crap at one end of the toy aisle, whilst at the opposite end all the cool action, adventure and building toys abided. The obvious message there being that little girls should be demure and pretty princesses, whilst little boys should be boisterous go-getters.
And it isn’t just toys either. I trawled for hours online in vain to find a t-shirt with Rey on it for Gwen’s birthday. There were thousands of cool ones available with male StarWars characters on, but the only ones I could find of Rey were pink (and cut for Girls; but that’s a whole other blog post). I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t recall seeing Rey wearing pink when she was fighting against Kylo Ren and the galactic empire in The Force Awakens.
What does it matter what a child plays with or wears? Why have we brought gender into children’s play for so long? One of my 5 year old Godson’s favourite things is his toy kitchen, but he’s also an absolute whizz at building technic Lego. Gwen’s 4 year old Sister Ffion is rarely seen without her tiara in her hair and fairy wand in her hand (even if she’s climbing a tree, or helping to feed a baby calf at the time). As long as their imaginations are fired, and they’re learning that’s ALL that matters.
Gwen and I have a Daddy/ Daughter dinner and movie date planned in December to see the new StarWars movie – Rogue One. Another female lead, and a new hero. And I can’t wait.
In her 6 years on this planet my funny, caring and kickass daughter has wanted at various times to be a doctor, farmer, vet, taxi driver, and firefighter. And now? Now she wants to be a Jedi. And you know what, that’s absolutely fine with me.
Because I’ll tell you what, the force is strong in my baby Girl.