We’re making boys blue

The Northern Echo: ADVENTUROUS: Blue Peter Helen Skelton during her South Pole quest ADVENTUROUS: Blue Peter Helen Skelton during her South Pole quest

Girls will be in the pink thanks to their new Lego. Now it’s time to give the lads some backing.

LET’S hear it for the boys.

Let’s hear it for their noisy, energetic messiness. Let’s hear it for their directness, their daring, their daftness, their single-mindedness, their simplicity and their physical courage.

All the things, in fact, for which boys and men are so often criticised.

Little girls are getting pinker and pinker. They’re even getting pink Lego. Maybe yellow and red aren’t girly enough.

They might no longer get so many toy cookers and nurses’ uniforms, but maybe pink princess outfits aren’t much better. Might as well give them one of those awful “WAG in waiting” T-shirts and be done.

Boys’ clothes, meanwhile, seem overwhelmingly to come in various shades of sludge, like a mini camouflage kit. Yet they are no longer encouraged to play at soldiers or fighting or any of the “Bang-bang, you’re dead” games that were traditionally theirs.

We don’t let them roam the countryside, building dens, damming streams, annoying authority. They’re not encouraged to climb trees, play soldiers, or have sharp knives. No wonder they’re hunched over screens wiping out entire enemy armies.

Not only do they miss out on physical exercise, they also don’t get a chance for all the team-building, delegating, risk-assessing and dealing with danger that such activities teach in passing.

Boys (most boys – yours, I admit, may be different) are physical creatures.

They like to run, jump, climb and make a lot of noise. Old-fashioned schools used to have separate playgrounds for boys and girls, so that boys could rampage freely and not send skipping, gossiping girls flying.

Those separate school yards have gone and often football and British Bulldog with them. Exams have been feminised. Primary school teachers are nearly all women.

School is an increasingly female world into which boys don’t often fit easily.

Yet, at the same time, we still need our bold, brave men – the lifeboatmen, soldiers, firefighters, people who are prepared to cope in a world of muck and bullets and danger, who have physical strength and courage and a pragmatic approach to decision-making.

These people tend, usually, to be men. A few are women, who may even have gone through a pink princess phase. But it is less likely and they generally bring other skills.

Many single mothers deliberately raising children on their own are doing a great job, but if they’re showing their sons that fathers are redundant, that women can manage without them, then what message does that send to a growing lad?

As for “gender neutral” children, surely this was another way of telling boys that from the very beginning they’re just not good enough because of their basic boy-ness.

True, many boys need a lot more effort to make them scrub up, shape up and be acceptable in polite society.

But we shouldn’t try and totally re-programme millennia of genes and conditioning. There are many very good reasons why they are the way they are.

We need boys and men with their masculine qualities. It’s time we learned again to cherish them.

Gender confusion

MEANWHILE, in recent TV dramas actor such as Eddie Redmayne in Birdsong and Douglas Booth in Great Expectations are proving to be prettier than the heroines. That really is gender confusion...

Digital memory

DO you remember? No, you probably don’t. These days we don’t bother learning things.

Instead, according to US research, we just look it up on Google.

The internet has become our brain’s extra hard drive, our external memory or everything we once just used to keep in our heads.

I love it. What a brilliant excuse.

Phone numbers, addresses, postcodes, key quotes, vital facts and emails from friends are all decluttered from our increasingly empty brains.

Now when I’m floundering for a word or a name – such as this week when I couldn’t remember a friend’s son, who I’ve known since he was a mere ultrasound blur – I can just laugh and say happily “Ah I’ll just consult my external memory.” And reach for my phone and the access to everything.

As long as I can remember where I put my phone.

University

MORE students than ever are leaving university with top-rated degrees. There have never been so many firsts, traditionally a mark of outstanding excellence. Yet, one in three top companies can’t fill graduate vacancies because graduates just aren’t up to standard.

And you don’t need a degree to work out that, whatever the reason, something has gone seriously haywire with our education system.

Drinking on the job

TO get through the sex scenes while filming A Dangerous Method, Keira Knightley apparently downed vodka shots beforehand and champagne afterwards, which is one way of coping with work you don’t fancy.

But probably not recommended to get you through the filing. Or if you’re a bus driver.

A remarkable girl

MANY congratulations to Laura Dekker, the 16-year-old Dutch girl who has become the youngest person to sail around the world after months of heavy seas, danger and loneliness.

Congratulations too, to the Guinness Book of Records, which refuses to make it an official record because it doesn’t want to encourage everyounger children to try.

Above all, congratulations to the Dutch child welfare authorities, who prevented her from starting on her voyage when she was only 14, insisted she use a bigger boat, continue her studies and learn to suture her own wounds. Ouch. It might be thanks to their concerns that Laura completed her voyage safely.

She is certainly a remarkable girl. On the other hand, when talking of her battle to get under sail, she complained that the conditions imposed by the Dutch authorities had been “not fair”.

A remarkable girl, but still a typical teenager.

Girls just want to have fun

Adventurous Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton spent 18 days in temperatures as low as -48C, getting to the South Pole on foot, on skis and, incredibly, on her bike. Beats messing about with sticky-backed plastic. Give that girl a Blue Peter badge.

Fifties for 40

ACTRESS Katy Cavanagh, who plays dozy Julie in Coronation Street, has become a sex symbol for older men.

“Blokes over 40 like a woman who makes a bit of an effort and keeps her man happy,” she says.

So that’s why she always dresses like someone straight from the Fifties.

Backchat

Dear Sharon,
When my children were babies they sat in prams and pushchairs facing me so they could see me all the time and I talked to them as I pushed them along and they certainly learned to talk.

Now babies are all in buggies that face away from their mothers, so there’s no opportunity for mothers to talk and point things out to them.

You also see mothers busy on their phones or plugged into headphones, so they probably wouldn’t talk to their babies anyway.

They are also more likely to put toddlers down in front of the television than to read them a story.

Janice Devlin (by email)

Dear Sharon,
Princess Anne is well known for her frugal ways. However, the biggest saving she has made is by having the same hairstyle for the last 40 years. This must have saved the Exchequer a fortune.

Martin Birtle

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