There is nothing nicer than getting a creative gift, especially when it is something you have always wanted. But what if you were only encouraged to pursue a certain creative pursuit because of your gender? I recently saw a Christmas gift catalogue from a well-known supermarket chain that did exactly that. It advertised a ukulele under the heading “gifts for him”. Was this saying that only males have the will or the time to play the ukulele, while females are engrossed in using some kitchen appliance or other “suitable” item chosen from the same catalogue?
Being a ukulele player, it got me really steamed, as there are just as many female players as male ones. In this day and age playing a musical instrument and doing other creative activities should be gender neutral. Ukuleles are relatively cheap compared with many musical instruments and make great Christmas presents for every age group. They bring happiness and no one should be denied the pleasure of playing a uke just because of their gender.
Why won’t the type of stupid thinking seen in that catalogue just die a natural death? It’s an annoying hangover from the bad old days when women were allowed a creative hobby whereas men could have a career in the arts. In western society, up until the last century girls were discouraged from many creative fields, unless these were small-scale, fairly passive and genteel, like sketching with watercolours and needlepoint work. Large-scale oil painting and sculpture was considered beyond the capability of the fairer sex, unless you had very enlightened parents or grew up in the family of an artist. Those women who bravely defied convention made it possible for later generations of girls to follow their dreams and we should make sure this type of discrimination remains in the past where it belongs.
As children Ellie and I were always allowed to follow whatever creative path we chose and were able to try out many art forms. For Christmas we were often given various types of paints and other materials, as well as craft kits, so that we could experiment and find our creative passion. Any gifts of money were used to save up for something that we really wanted, like my first guitar. No one ever told me that this was a boy’s toy (I have also seen guitars advertised under “gifts for boys”). It works the other way as well because I know men who love needlepoint and have no qualms about doing what was once considered women’s work.
Creativity knows no boundaries and if someone expresses an interest in any type of artistic area it is good to encourage them by giving a relevant gift. It does not matter whether they take this up as their life’s work or go on to do something else. It just helps that someone thought it was possible for the recipient to undertake a particular creative activity.
Everyone should be allowed to try out any creative endeavor without being subjected to gender stereotyping. The advertising world may be stuck in the past but the rest of us have moved on.
On the subject of ukulele players, here’s a video of the very talented Taimane Gardner playing a Surf Medley with guitarist Jazzy Jazz and Cajon drummer Jonathan Heraux.