Pink for girls and blue for boys. That’s the standard marketing trope that separates children’s toys, clothes and even school stationery. And apparently it can now even apply to… playgrounds. A blogger and opposition councillor discovered a local French playground was divided into pink slides and blue slides – and his blog post about it has provoked an online outcry.
In Puteaux, a town in an area to the west of Paris that includes the capital’s major business district La Défense, local authorities created a municipal garden with a play area for children that opened at the end of April. The playground has been divided into two areas, with a path running through the middle – on the left, the slides and other games have been decorated blue, with a knights theme, clearly destined for boys. On the right-hand side, a slide and a spring toy are coloured brightly pink, while the mural on the wall depicts a crown embellished with a heart and flanked by two sparkling magic wands.
The garden was discovered by local independent councillor, journalist and blogger Christophe Grébert, who wrote a scathing blog post about it on his blog ‘Mon Puteaux’ (‘My Puteaux’). “Fortunately, children are more intelligent than the people who designed this sexist garden,” he wrote, “They’ll just play indifferently in both areas”.
Grébert is known for bumping heads with Puteaux’s right-wing politicians. He previously ran on a liberal, leftist ticket, as part of a coalition that included MoDem (Democratic Movement), the Socialist Party and the Green party, before deciding to run as an independent after a disagreement with other socialist parties last year.
He’s had a number of legal clashes with Puteaux mayor Joëlle Ceccaldi-Raynaud over many years, from being sued for libel by the Puteaux town hall in 2004, to being sued in 2011 for revealing that well-paid, right-wing politicians lived in social housing. Ceccaldi-Raynaud was also forced to pay him thousands of euros in damages for a homophobic slur made against him in 2006.
Grébert ends his blog post asking for municipal authorities to actually consult residents before proposing plans for a new park. “They will undoubtedly have better ideas,” he says.
Update: The mayor responded to the furore via a press release published on Thursday, May 3. In the release, she says, "Nothing says that boys have to go in the 'knight' area, just as nothing says that girls have to go in the 'fairy' area." The press release also attacks Grébert personally, saying, "This person is trying to make us seem like awful, backwards people promoting segregation. Fortunately, our children are more intelligent than these pseudo-progressives and will play in whichever part of the park they like."
“Welcome to the Middle Ages”
Since Grébert’s blog was published on April 26, his revelation provoked scandalised reactions online.
“Welcome to the Middle Ag- sorry, to Puteaux, Hauts-de-Seine: a garden for girls, and another for boys.”
“Puteaux. Hauts-de-Seine. France. 2018. I am so disgusted by this initiative that has been paid for with public money that I don’t even know what to say. Fortunately children are more intelligent than local politicians who decided on this segregation!”
This person rhetorically asks the mayor of Puteaux, Joëlle Ceccaldi-Raynaud, if it’s a joke. “This pointless segregation just reinforces gender stereotypes”, they add.
Gender stereotypes galore
And it’s not the first time that Puteaux authorities have come under fire for playing up to gender stereotypes. In 2014, the town hall put on their annual back-to-school party, giving out free school stationery and book bags to local children. Of course, the book bags for girls were a lurid shade of pink, while the boys’ bags were blue. They also came with gifts: a make-your-own-jewellery set for the girls, and a build-your-own-robot set for the boys. Joëlle Ceccaldi-Raynaud was also mayor at the time. The initiative was widely criticised – and even more so for its enormous cost, which came at the expense of the local schools’ budgets.
Ceccaldi-Raynaud responded to the furore, saying that she stuck by her choice, didn’t see what the problem was, and thought it sad that people were getting so worked up about the colour of the book bags. “There’s nothing to stop a little boy asking for a pink bag, or a girl asking for a blue one,” she said.