I have a confession to make: my daughter has a little box of Megablox, all different colours, and my favourite ones are the pink sparkly ones.
Pink is in no way my favourite colour (it's green, on the off chance someone was curious). For a woman that, at nearly thirty, still cannot walk confidently in heels and cannot wear painted nails for five minutes without them chipping, I just really like glittery things.
Not to wear, necessarily. Or even to own myself. If my daughter has something sparkly I just like to look at it a bit. Like an easily mesmerized child.
I'm not sure what this says about me.
Anyway. So far, with my 2.7 year old, I've never had an issue with pink girly stuff. It just hasn't happened. Jellybean's favourite colour is red, apparently, but I strongly suspect that is because she is obsessed with Marshall from Paw Patrol. I've never really been bothered by the influx of pink products for girls, beyond them giving me a slight headache if I wander into the dolly aisle in Toys R Us.
So it was with a healthy dose of skepticism that I started looking into the branding of toys and products for children. If Jellybean suddenly falls in love with pink when she's older and insists that her bedroom looks like the inside of a giant marshmallow, fine. I can't see the harm.
I guess it annoys me a little bit that manufacturers and marketers insist that every product aimed at girls MUST be pink.
Did you know that pink used to be a boys colour? According to this article, pink was considered a better colour for boys as it was more of a strong colour, whereas blue was seen as more delicate.
Here is what happened when I typed 'toys for girls' into Google images:
My eyes! The goggles do nothing!
This is what you get for 'toys for boys':
Interestingly, it's not all blue: there's at least a tiny amount of colour variation.
For comparison, here is the result for just 'toys':
So far all this shows me is a total lack of imagination on toy manufacturers' part. In her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Peggy Orenstein visits the annual Toy Fair in New York. Overwhelmed by the thousands and thousands of pink products, she asks someone about it:
'Is all this pink really necessary?' I asked a bored-looking sales rep hawking something called Cast and Paint Princess Party.
'Only if you want to make money,' he said, chuckling. Then he shrugged. 'I guess girls are born loving pink.'
Orenstein explores this idea further (by the way: girls are not born loving pink) and comes to the conclusion that it is all just ... marketing. But really, when you think about it, pink-obsession is kind of limiting, right? Why can't little girls (and boys for that matter) enjoy whatever flipping colour they want to? Having worked with kids, I have seen the impact first-hand that pink obsession has on the things they feel able to do. Many times I have overheard a conversation along the lines of 'why is that boy wearing a pink top? That's for girls.' or 'Why is your hat not pink? Is it not a girls hat?'
Which sounds small. But it adds to layer upon layer of cultural expectation: this is how girls should be. This is how boys should be.
I wonder what impact this has upon girls in the long run. Not just the colour pink, but the excessive gender-stereotyping we put upon children from the off: from the kind of toys they have access to, to the things we allow them to wear, to the language we use about them.
Honestly, the language thing worries me a bit more. I totally believe there are inbuilt differences between boys and girls - but I believe more that there are inbuilt differences between every person. And so when we use words like 'strong' and 'tough' and 'powerful' to describe boys and 'delicate' and 'princess' and 'sweet' to describe girls, does that start to shape who they think they should be over time?
I want my daughter to grow up thinking she can be anything she wants to if she has the talent and if she works hard for it. I don't want her for a moment to think 'Oh, I can't do that - that's more of a man's job.' or 'It isn't a woman's place to do that, so I won't even try it'. This is a huge reason why I've started thinking these things through properly. Even though I'm still not entirely sure what I feel about all of it. I suppose that is what this post is about, really. Processing it.
While I don't think we should abolish pink altogether (far from it), I do feel concerned about the premature sexualisation of girls, which happens right from the kind of toys they play with ...
But this post is long enough as it is. More of that next time?
Let me know what you think about pink - and about gender-seperation of toys in general. Does it drive you crazy or are you a bit 'meh' about it? Let me know!