Originally written in September 2011 on impeus.com
The Telegraph recently published an article about girls preferring pink from age two, which my twitter feed buzzed briefly about. This is the kind of thing I’m interested in, trying to bring my daughter up to be a well-rounded human being. Luckily for me a big chunk of my twitter feed is made up of people who are bothered by the gender delusion and pinkification too.
Part one, in which I witter on about pink things and shopping and Polly
Pink and blue as gender signifiers are enforced by society. I’ve lost count of the number of times strangers have commented on what a happy chappy my little boy is. Even wearing a yellow dress with flowers on, she’s clearly a male child – where’s the pink? The article says it’s usually possible to infer the sex of a child by looking in their nursery at the colour of decorations, toys, clothes, accessories. Well, duh. Almost every parent I know drowns their poor daughters in pink everything. Pink car seat, pink vest, pink clothes, pink toys, pink hairband on her hairless head. As it happens, Polly’s room has wallpaper with pink flowers on. Of course, if we’d ended up with a boy child instead, the same wallpaper would be on his wall too.
I think it’s different now than it was when I grew up. I had some pink clothes – I can see them in photographs. But I had plenty of other clothes too, they were mostly NOT pink, and mostly NOT dresses. Walking into Mothercare or similar baby/child stores these days you are confronted with a shop of two halves. One half of the store is pink, the other blue. There are some bits of red and green and brown dotting the blue half. Perhaps a couple of pastel hues amongst the pink. Looking for socks, for example, you have to walk across the whole store to peruse both the female socks and the male socks in the hope of finding some turquoise or green ones. Of course, they aren’t there.
It’s possible to buy fun coloured clothes though. I like Love It Love It Love It for fun colours and prints. I also don’t want to ban pink. It’s just a colour after all, I don’t want to respect the all-powerful girl-aura it’s been imbued with by a gender obsessed society and a trend compounding retail environment. Having banned friends and family from buying any of “that girly pink crap,” we’re then accused of hypocrisy when Polly turns up in a pink t-shirt, or, worse, a dress with pink flowers. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of pink while it’s under our control.
It’s toy selections that upset us as parents the most though. Everything appears to be divided into two again – the kids’ toys, and the girls’ toys. It’s heartbreaking. A world in which the Early Learning Centre sells this pink globe with mermaids shown swimming in the Atlantic ocean is not a world I recognise from my own childhood. Why on earth does this product exist? What is wrong with a perfectly normal globe, where the sea is blue and the land in gradients of green and brown and no fantasy creatures clutter up its surface? On the subject of toy stores and their enforcement of what is “boy” and what is “girl”, there are two excellent blog posts which can bring more to the subject than I am going to: Want to kill your daughter’s self worth? on a trip to the girl’s floor of a toy store, and part two focusing on the boy’s floor.
Part two, in which I wonder what it all means
I’m never quite sure what to make of this. What message are we giving our children? Is it that girls are special, they can enjoy all the toys but have this special selection of pink musical instruments and dolls that they can choose from as well? Or is it that girls are inferior and the normal toys have to be modified in colour and message and glitter content to enable the girls to understand them?
Or is this a continuation of society’s message to boys – you are not emotional, you are not a girl, you do not care, you are NOT a girl, you can’t look after babies or dolls, you must wear these clothes in these colours, you are not a girl, you must fit in, wipe those tears away, you are not a girl, you must not turn out gay. Quiet Riot Girl has something to say on this, in her blog post The Pink Menace which you should definitely read.
Part three, in which I discuss how adults relate to each other
Another article which lit up my twitter feed briefly was A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not “Crazy” in which a man calls out other men for their belittling language used to dismiss women’s emotional responses as stupid, irrational and ridiculous. All very commendable, but my first thought was – why is this about men’s belittling of women in this way? I can think of so many examples where this occurs the other way around, though admittedly in similar proportions as the little boys I know of who wear pink, and the girls that don’t. Are such emotional outbursts beaten out of boys earlier in life, so they don’t get a chance to exhibit this behaviour as adults? Are they ridiculed and emasculated for it so much that they shy so far away from it that they later berate others (male or female) for their “indulgence” in such behaviours? Is all this misogyny (or misandry, whichever way you want to see the pink peril) a result of us forcing our children into the “boy” box when really the “child” box was perfectly adequate?
I’ve always thought of it as “children” and “girls” products. Perhaps it is “boys” and “not boys” instead. To highlight the “not boy”, girls have to be painted as girls in the extreme, hence the pink cribs and hair clips and shoes. Perhaps this explains the dismissiveness and amusement or ridicule we’ve experienced trying to bring our daughter up as a human child instead of some fluffy pink girl thing.