On the Bonfire


A mid-week blogday bonus! I wrote this for the fabulous Good Morning, Good Morning. Go check out their blog!

The brief was “get it off your chest” so I thought I’d tell everyone about my BONFIRE. What would you put on the pink & blue bonfire?

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Theme: Get it off your chest.

Written by Emmeline May*, Brilliant Guest Blogger


Lately I’ve been building a bonfire in my head. It’s a pretty big bonfire. I’ve stopped expressing myself in actual words and have found myself merely screaming “F**K THIS SHIT. PUT IT ON THE BONFIRE!” at the computer screen. Or the TV screen. Or, on one occasion, at my friend across the table at lunch, which surprised her so much she dropped her fork.

The bonfire is made, largely, of pink and blue boxes. Pink boxes contain all the things which tell women how and what they are meant to be and like. Blue boxes contain everything men are meant to do and be and want.

For example, why, in 20sodding15, are we separating EVERYTHING into pink for girls and blue for boys?

Sure, as a grown-up, rational thinking woman, I could choose the blue object, safe in the knowledge that if I see the colour blue it won’t actually cause my fallopian tubes to leap up through my body and strangle my brain in self-defence, but it’s a bit harder for a grown-up, rational thinking man to chose pink – it’s considerably more of a political statement. It’s near impossible for children to choose outside of their boxes, as children are surprisingly self-policing. My friend’s three year old daughter was told by another three year old girl at her nursery that her t-shirt with monsters on it was, “for BOYS. Why are you wearing a shirt for BOYS?” Another friend’s son loves pink, but only in the comfort of his own home because, as he said to his mother (who admitted her heart broke a little when he said this), “I’m not supposed to like pink, am I mummy. Will I grow out of it?”

The overwhelming message that gendered products send, particularly gendered toys, is that boys and girls are different, and must like different things; and that if you like something that “belongs” to the other side, there’s something wrong with you. This is infuriating enough as an adult; but to a child it is setting up some really damaging ideas.

F**K this shit. ON THE BONFIRE.

Another thing that needs to BURN FOREVER is this idea that men are emotionless, straight thinking and stone of heart, and women are emotion-ridden, unstable, crazy bitches.

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Seriously, does this picture genuinely reflect the men in your life? It certainly doesn’t mine. The men in my life are just as capable of running the emotional gauntlet on a daily basis pictured in the second row. The only person of my acquaintance who does fit the top row is genuinely a sociopath. He has a note from the doctor to prove it. This idea that men are “Normal/Rational/Emotionless” and women are “Abnormal/Irrational/Emotional” is incredibly harmful to everyone. When women are sad, happy, angry, or anxious, people roll their eyes and go, “Tsk. Women, eh?” or even worse, “You’re emotional today. Are you on your period?” When men are emotional they’re told, “Stop being such a girl” or “Man up”. This policing of emotions means that women’s emotional states are medicalised and men get the distinct impression that their emotional states make them wrong, or abnormal, or weird.

At least women are encouraged to talk about their emotions. From a young age we get the message that it’s ok to “have a good cry” or “talk it out, you’ll feel better”. At least emotions are seen as normal for us, while men are told on a daily basis that they shouldn’t cry, they shouldn’t “show weakness” and that if they aren’t super calm and contained all the time then there’s something wrong with them. We’re raising generation after generation of young men who are being told that if they are emotional, they are a failure. Is it any wonder that mental health conditions therefore go undetected or untreated in men? Or that men commit suicide in disproportionately larger numbers than women?

Where does this insistence that being emotional is a sign of weakness (and therefore “feminine”) and being emotionless is a sign of strength (and therefore “masculine”) come from? It’s hugely damaging to everyone.

F**K this shit. ON THE BONFIRE.

purplecircle copyThe constant separation of Feminine and Masculine into different boxes ignores the fact that, actually, the vast majority of us don’t fit into either of those at all. Even if we sit quite comfortably with the sex and gender the doctor decided we were at birth, we don’t necessarily fit easily into those boxes. I was assigned female at birth, and identify as female. I love pink and purple and glitter, and unicorns, and fairies. But I can’t stand high heels, the idea of a “spa day” is total anathema to me, I love rugby and comics and my skincare routine is pretty much non-existent. No one has ever accused me of being ‘gay’ for my “blue box” likes although I have been told often, “You’re cool. Not like other girls” which, let me tell you this right now, is NOT A COMPLIMENT AT ALL. I am just like other “girls”. (Or “women”, as I like to call them as I am in my thirties.) I am just like them in that I have varied tastes and opinions and desires which have nothing to do with my opting in or opting out of “girl stuff”. A cis-male BFF of mine has a great skincare routine, hates football and cars and ‘bants’, and loves pink and purple and glitter and dancing. He’s never told that he’s, “Cool, not like other guys”. He’s asked, “Are you gay? No? Really? Are you sure?” For most of his life his sexuality has been questioned because he likes things outside that blue box. Trans friends of mine of all genders have experienced similar challenges. A Trans man is suddenly under huge pressure to like and do “Blue Box Things”, in order to be accepted as “male” when in fact, that man might be just as into purple and glitter and unicorns as my cis male friend. Trans women have to work even harder to fit into that pink box just to be accepted as women even if they don’t really like anything in the pink box at all.

The pressure to confirm to your box, whether you were given it at birth or picked it up later in life is immense. The boxes have become signifiers of what “man” and what “woman” means when what is in those boxes is arbitrary, meaningless and genuinely damaging.

These pink and blue boxes are harmful to all of us. Put them on the bonfire. Burn them forever.

F**K this shit.



  1. I love this so much! Now when I see gender stereotypes that infuriate me, I’m pitching them on my own bonfire. Thanks for the visual.

  2. Love this! I’m 19 weeks pregnant (baby’s gender currently unknown) and I’m already worrying about the world at large pushing my child to conform to gender stereotypes without me even realising. I’m determined to avoid all the stereotypical “girls must wear pink/boys must wear blue” bullshit, if it’s a girl it can play with trains, and if it’s a boy it can play with dolls – IF HE/SHE WANTS TO – but it’s the other, more subtle gender stereotypes ingrained in the world around us that worry me. I myself have been guilty of telling my male friends to “man up” or that they “throw like a girl” without even thinking about it!

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