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Pink is for girls - is this attitude a precursor to domestic abuse?

View profile for Laura Parke
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As somebody who both works in Family Law, and is a mother of two boys, I am acutely aware of the importance of educating children on consent and not prescribing to the societal norm of ‘what a man should be like’. My youngest son’s favourite colour is pink and at the age of 6 he (or I) have received countless comments about it being ‘girlie’. If boys show emotion it is viewed as a sign of weakness and according to the The Pixel Project’s article from MenChallenging, the only emotion they are expected by many to express is anger. This pressure to conform to a gender stereotype is heaped on children from a very young age.

Women’s Aid and Bristol University conducted research in 2021 confirming that gender stereotypes play a huge part in domestic violence and form the basis of abusive and controlling behaviours. These were found to be things which may appear to be light hearted such as women being over-emotional. We’ve all heard jokes about it being a woman’s ‘time of the month’ if she displays an assertive view on something. This idea can lead to women being rationalised or not believed when they make claims of abuse, especially when the abuse is not something that can be seen overtly such as physical violence. The vast majority of our enquiries from victims of domestic abuse are from women who have experienced coercive control which relies far more on the parties’ accounts than hard evidence. Of course men can be victims too but evidence shows that men are significantly more likely to be the perpetrators of domestic abuse so we have to question why this imbalance exists. And if indeed gender stereotypes have a role in this, at what point can we challenge them.

According to research by Birmingham City University gender stereotypes begin to form at around 2 years old, and are fully formed by the age of 7. This means that we need to start young if we’re going to challenge this. And from my experience this is not just something which happens at home, the education system also enforces this. For example certain schools still won’t allow girls to wear trousers and still teach different sports based on gender. We need to completely challenge our views on boys and girls playing with different toys, what they wear, and what they are allowed to do with their lives. Undoubtedly some children will naturally prescribe to the stereotype of their gender, but the point is that this needs to be their choice, not as a result of society’s idea of what a boy or girl should like, wear and do. Perhaps in challenging these concepts which have been constructed by society we can start to break some of the domestic abuse cycles where men have to express their emotions through anger and women’s accounts are doubted if they show emotion.

If you have been a victim of domestic abuse and need help with a protective injunction, or with associated children matters then please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Family Law team who will be happy to assist. Crombie Wilkinson has a wealth of experience in understanding the issues involved and can offer detailed advice and legal representation.