How attractive is the prospect of deliberately pissing on one of the electrified rails of modern left wing thought?
Not very at all, since the best case scenario is a series of angry rebukes. Still, this is one of those days where I feel like I have to post something, just to get it off my chest. Such days don't usually end well, for me at least.
So, here goes - I'm not convinced that an upsurge in genderised toys for kids is a major problem or even a minor one and even if it is, I'm pretty much dead against the people who have identified it being involved in attempts to fix it.
Now, straight off, I've already been asked whether I hold this opinion on gender and toys because I have a dick, and am thus blind to the problem. I think this is probably true to a large extent, and if anything it doesn't take into account the raging egomania it takes to write screeds like this in the first place.
Nonetheless, let's start with Culture war isn't much fun when it's the right wing Christians doing it.
The idea that cultural artifacts including movies, TV shows and, yes, kids toys amount to a form of malign indoctrination is rife in the US and certain parts of UK politics. This belief is completely impervious to countervailing facts, such as - all of these things are money-making enterprises, intentionally targetted at the widest-possible section of the populace to make the largest-possible profit, rather than the dastardly tools of Machiavellian political puppet-masters.
The same applies to kids' toys here and, while I'm hardly blind to the effects of marketing and advertising - an industry that wouldn't exist if it weren't effective - I'm going to suggest that the demand for little pink bicycles pretty much bubbles up from the cash-possessing populace i.e. parents. As I say, I'm unconvinced of the supposedly vast harm this corporate horror is wreaking upon the nation, but let's grant it for argument.
There are people in the UK who are well capable of explaining why e.g. thrusting pinkness on little girls from birth is a bad idea. These people seem to be badly outnumbered by hyperbolic howlers of the gender apartheid genus, and I have to tell you - most of the people I know really, really hate the Waggy Finger of Tut-Tut .
Parenting is as personal an issue as it gets and if political activists want to expend a lot of energy pushing the ungendered toys argument, they can feel free and good luck to them. I think it's going to be very, very difficult to do without sounding patrician, condescending and highly judgemental, but knock yourselves out.
Because we should also note that there's a substantial Class issue here. There's a reason why this kind of thing is a hot topic at the Guardian and invisible in the red-tops, and it's not just because the red-tops are reactionary and idiotic - if there was an appetite for this kind of thing, the Sun would be pumping ungendered playtime like a jackhammer.
Issues like ungendered toys are mainly a middle-class, metropolitan issue for people from a particular and very small political milieu. The Mums outside the schoolyards in the areas where the broadsheets don't sell so well are going to be at best indifferent, and at worst openly hostile .
As evidence, let me offer a similar toy-related campaign against Hamleys, once regarded as a smashing success. I have no problem with well-to-do Londoners crusading against their own toystores so that little Jemima doesn't have to climb a flight of stairs to buy a chemistry set, but I suggest that this incident didn't have much effect on the 99% of the UK population who will never walk through the door.
Bluntly, I've wasted an embarrassing amount of time telling people that left wing politics isn't the sole preserve of a bunch of middle class Londoners with grand ideas about personal behaviour to impose on the plebs; I've wasted more hours than I care to say explaining that the PC Brigade is largely a figment of the tabloid imagination and frankly, a Guardian jihad on Argos isn't exactly my idea of a helpful contribution.
Elsewhere, I'm very much in favour of the government redistributing the public's cash to the general good but strongly opposed to it rooting through the population's cupboards for saturated fats or launching pant-sniffing moral crusades into its bedrooms... And if there's one thing that you can guarantee, it's that the same people who are annoyed by girly toys are very, very fond of wielding The Ban-Hammer of No-No to knock some sense into the nation for our own good.
Let's not quibble over the relative merits of our various public health initiatives or proscribed magazines or internet filters, or any of that. If, like me, you think that it's not the government's business to tell the people what they should and shouldn't do, outside of crimes, then campaigns like this should raise your suspicions.
And you might object and say well, there's no suggestion of public education campaigns or cudgelling toystores. To which the answer is, not yet, but there always is sooner or later, usually at about the time somebody invents a terrifying phenomenon like Seagulling to panic about.
What else? Well, this is the one that's really going to get me zapped, quite possibly justifiably, because as best I can tell much of the nation's "discourse on gender" appears to hail directly from The World of Woocraft.
(Some disclosure, first - much of my cynicism on this score hails from a course I once took on gender in literary theory, the only one in which I was ever actively encouraged to wholly forget what an author was actually trying to say and to instead dash off up my own anus in pursuit of whatever daftness I thought was more important and politically relevant. This is quite obviously a daft prejudice on my part, but it's one that I can't shake off and it's been strongly reinforced by further life experience, rather than diminished).
I confess to vast, depthless ignorance here, but it's very noticeable to me that current UK thinking on gender issues seem to hail not from scientific study, or even the kind-of-a-science realm of psychology, but from the utterly Woo-riddled world of political philosophy and literary theory. Most of the (perfunctory) research I've done on this leads not to the tried-and-tested graft of biology or psychoanalysis, but straight up into the soaring formless ether of ethics and politics.
And to go one further, casual observation suggests that at present, the entire analysis exists less to describe existing phenomena, so much as to facilitate really horrible people being very horrible indeed to each other. Almost every time I encounter arguments based on concepts of gender, it's deployed in service of a screaming match between gangs of people who hate each others' guts for political reasons and are largely employing the issue to flay strips off each other.
Now, maybe this is irrelevant, and the humanities are the perfect place for such considerations. Nonetheless, the Woo-factor and the internet combat just reinforce my belief that this is going to be a hard, hard sell to the populace at large.
And you know, maybe it's not important whether the public like the message. The public rarely like new or unusual ideas and as has been pointed out to me already, the public were once perfectly fine with, for example, slavery.
Whether we want to rhetorically escalate a spat over My Little Pony to the level of Rosa Lee Parks being forced to the back of the bus is your call, not mine. Like I say, these are your kids and your opinions; these are your choices. If you're keen on the idea and want to pursue it, well, Go tell it on the mountain, Sister or Brother!
I think that what we have here is a category error, replacing former mild anxieties about children and adult sexuality that have fallen away over time with more up-to-date concerns about gender identity, leavened with a depressingly common belief that the modern world is out to snatch our children from us.
I think it's all fine for you and yours, but pretty unappealing to everyone else. I find it finger-waggy, off-putting; I think that a serious time-investment in it is counterproductive and I think it's manna from Heaven for the right-wing press, but it's your business.
After all, I have an English degree, so I'd know. But then, I also have a dick, so I probably wouldn't.
 Ask a hundred religious parents how they responded to Dawkins telling them they were child abusers, and I'll be stunned if you got two who said Well, it really made me fundamentally reconsider the issue rather than I thought Dawkins was a twat.
 Anyone who's ever laid eyes on a nice school in a middle class area after experiencing even a mildly rough-around-the-edges educational establishment themselves would identify, here. It shouldn't be necessary to remind middle-class people that, if they
had to send their kids to some of the country's rougher schools, they'd
be better keeping them at home and flushing their heads down the toilet with kindness themselves, but plainly it often is.