Faith and Feminism Part Four - Everything in the world is pink

Friday, 20 May 2016

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':

That's better.

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?

Don't get me wrong: it's not a huge issue. But it's an issue just the same - this deep divide between genders seems to be happening right from the moment we are born. Leaving behind a lifetime's worth of conditioning that you cannot be gentle if you are a boy, and you cannot be powerful if you are a girl, is difficult to do. I mean, how much of the difference between boys and girls is inbuilt, and how much of it is to do with social conditioning?

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!

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Pick N Mix Fridays


  1. Nature or nurture ...

    One thing for sure Megan, I wish we had more males teaching in primary school. A balance of energies is always good (I'm not saying we can't discipline etc). Have you seen the Changing Minds website? I think you might enjoy it.

    Archetypes are said to be primal and unconscious behaviour which you may already know.

    I'm glad you have your laptop back :) Missed your posts. x

    1. Oooh. Bookmarked that to read later, thank you.

      Totally agree with you. We definitely need more of a balance of teachers in primary schools. I think its helpful to have role models for young boys too, especially those whose fathers might not be around (obviously boys can have women as role models but you know what I mean!)

      Thanks Shaz :) thanks for always reading, it means a lot! x

  2. I hate the separation of toys by gender - I think it's divisive and an awful way to stereotype from a young age. It also limits choice and the freedom to choose. I have three boys and have always tried to encourage them to choose whatever they want to play with, be it dolls, pink houses or cars. I find it's other people - adults - mainly who make them feel bad about their choices. Suddenly they see 'girls' things as weaker, less good and less attractive. Which is an awful thing to put on a girl. So now I spend my life defending 'girl' stuff and trying to get them to see it as equal and just as good, just a different choice.

    1. I think its harder for a boy to like 'girls' things than a girl to like 'boys' things. Seems to be more socially acceptable for a girl to like cars than a boy to like ballet! Which is a bit of a shame in 2016. Yes, totally get what you mean - it's an awful thing to say that stuff for girls is inherently less exciting than typical 'boys' stuff. x

  3. I know that so many hate toys being separated by gender, but for me it makes shopping so much easier. I have 2 boys who have always been in to what would traditionally be called 'boy's toys' by choice and it saves digging through. I have family members who are girls that liked the same sort of toys, so I just bought from the 'boy' section for them. I don;t see it as an issue as such for me, unless someone is saying you can't play with that as you're a girl or boy. I was a very 'girly' girl and loved pink lol. Thanks for linking up to #PicknMix

    Stevie x

    1. Hehe, I bet that does make things easier. I just wish there was more colour choice in each section ;) I'm looking for a dinosaur t-shirt for my daughter at the mo and I think I'm going to have to get one from the boys section ... she's also quite into robots!

      The thing is, sometimes it can swing the other way with this whole 'pink stinks' thing and people start writing off traditionally girly stuff as being naff, which isn't helpful either! x

  4. I think it's unnecessary. I have to say that I think there does appear to be a tendency for girls to be drawn to certain types of toys and games. Though I have not encouraged the princess, pink, sparkly, girly thing, my eldest daughter has very much gone that way. As did I as a child, though my mother discouraged it. Of course, you could argue about whether subliminal marketing causes that. But I do think that maybe the stereotypes actually have a root in some truth about the types of toys and games girls and boys in general are drawn to. However, I don't think it's true for all girls and boys. & I know from my kids & myself that, even with that, they will still also enjoy other toys and games, the ones deemed 'not for girls'. So, while I actually am no longer as convinced as I once was that children are drawn towards gender segregated toys only by marketing, I also don't see any reason to market and limit things that way. Why not market everything gender neutrally. Maybe the girls will still tend to pick certain things, and the boys others. Fine. But at least no one was implying they SHOULD do so. #picknmix

    1. Yeah, I totally agree! The marketing is all wrong really. Like you say, if it was gender neutral then it children could pick whatever they wanted without the social pressure x


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