So pink is for girls and blue is for boys… right?

This post was originally posted on Butwhymummywhy?‘s blog.

Recently I was reading a great blog post over at Lulastic check her out if you haven’t come across her before.
The subject was gender and brought up an issue that has played on my mind a lot while bringing up my 4 year old daughter Noo.

My mum raised me with the determination that there shouldn’t be a divide in toys or colours depending on gender, for example she made sure I had both a play kitchen and a garage. Further to that I was never allowed a Barbie as she felt it promoted a warped body image in girls and well basically didn’t like what they promoted – unrealistically super skinny, big boobed girls only concerned with pretty clothes and make-up. She would rather I had more ambitious role models! As a young adult I reflected on these decisions made by my mum and I was really proud of them as they had helped shaped the person I was becoming. I knew that I would want to do the same if ever I had a daughter of my own.

Fast forward to now and we have a very different situation to the one I had hoped for.
Noo loves pink, sparkles, princesses, dresses and well Barbies (*ahem*).

Here she is on her 3rd birthday

How on earth did that happen?

Here’s my thoughts on it. At the age of 13 months Noo started at nursery full time. I was training to be a social worker and needed to do a full time placement for 6 months. Although I missed her I was happy that I was setting a good example to my daughter by having an ambition and career. I shall come back to the working mum/stay at home mum issue another time!
However, it was during this time when the ‘pink is for girls an blue is for boys’ began. No matter how many times I questioned her on this or corrected her she would not budge. She’d even laugh at me for being ‘a silly mummy’. When she was 2 she refused to wear trousers as they were for boys, apparently. Now I am always in jeans and rarely wear skirts or dresses, but this was not enough to convince her that girls could wear trousers.

This attitude has continued, she is now 4 and a half and I can count on one hand the number of times she has worn trousers over the past couple of years. She even used to think we were punishing her if we made her wear them. I have even tried bright pink skinny jeans, but no, nothing. Baffling.

She loves Barbies. Again this has started through nursery and friends houses. I fought giving in to it for a while but in the end I let her have one (or more..). It raised a lot of questions in me though, if I was to deny these things to her wouldn’t it just make her resentful of me, isn’t it just a phase or even part of the person that she is? Some girls just love pink, it doesn’t mean she won’t follow her dreams, be ‘successful’ or achieve great things.

I’m gutted that she has conformed to a gender stereotype but I’m not going to manipulate her to change what she likes. I know that inspite of the ongoing pink obsession she is strong and independent and confident. This are characteristics that make her hard work sometimes but I am also fiercely proud of them and hope to continue to nurture them. Hopefully with a bit of humility thrown in there aswell though!!

So all in all things haven’t quite gone the way I expected them to. I am very interested to see how her little sister will turn out.. oh and of course she got a toy garage for her 1st birthday! 😉

Any thoughts?

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6 Responses to So pink is for girls and blue is for boys… right?

  1. Really interesting post and food for thought. I am keen to raise my 21 month old girl playing with cars and tool sets as much as dolls and tea sets. She wears jeans and trousers more than skirts, but I do dress her in a lot of pink – I think this is a reflection on my love of the colour. Growing up, I was desperate for a pink bedroom and loved pink toys. I think it has something to do with pink being seen as a pretty colour.
    But I totally agree about Barbies and think there are plenty less ‘messed up’ dolls that girls can play with.
    I’m determined that if I ever have a boy, he will play with dolls and tea sets as well as cars and tool sets! Is it as easy that way round?! Watch this space….

  2. Karem says:

    It is as easy that way around – my boys love their play kitchen, and they dressed up (in high heels and pearls!) for a long time. At 3 and 4, they started doing more “boyish” stuff like crashing their cars and jumping off of …everything! – but they still love quiet play with their character dolls and snuggling their stuffed animals at night.

  3. Two days ago I met a small boy in the video shop renting his favorite movie, “Beauty and the Beast.” On the train home yesterday there was a small girl in a white sparkly dress and white sparkly shoes sitting across from me with her mum. The small girl was carrying a Pink Barbie cosmetic case and she was wearing lipgloss, blush and eyeshadow. At the next station another small girl and her dad got on and sat beside us. The 2nd small girl was wearing a blue Dublin (Ireland) team jersey, blue and pink striped leggings and pink Ugg boots. The girls struck up the most fantastic conversation. The girl in white loved the other girls sports jersey and explained she played football (soccer) in her dress everyday and plans to play football for the national team (currently all men) as soon as she’s grown up, “Maybe when I’m 6.” She also offered to show the cosmetic bag to her new friend and explained it was a gift from her teenage sister who works for Clinique, “because I keep trying her stuff.” The girl in the sports jersey said she was only allowed to wear lipgloss and pulled one out of her shoe. The second girl said she didn’t want people to think she liked pink but her daddy made her wear the leggings because they matched the Ugg boots he brought her from Australia, but it didn’t matter about the color because she loved her daddy more than the boots. The conversation went back and forth this way for about 20 minutes until we all arrived at the last station. I could have listened to them for hours, and I’m still smiling thinking about it 🙂 I’m so glad when kids are alowed to like everything!

  4. Amanda says:

    So many parents who work hard to avoid gender categories for their children find that all their work is undone when the kid goes to nursery. I’ve seen plenty of women shrugging and attributing their daughter’s sudden love of pink/princesses to ‘nature’, and capitulating to it, because it’s their daughter’s ‘choice’. They act if their toddler is exercising an informed judgment that should be respected. They don’t seem to recognise that their child has become the unwitting victim and mouthpiece of an incredibly successful corporate advertising and sales strategy – and that she has just had her capacity to exercise free choice stripped away from her. Worse, she has started on the path to thinking that she has to look pretty to be loved. As someone with all this still to come, the big question for me is how to avoid this scenario. Can the workers at the nursery be made more aware and themselves try counter the effects of gendering children? They could perhaps institute some kind of gender-neutral ‘uniform’ for the kids (as opposed to the pink ‘uniform’!). Or is the whole thing driven by those parents who haven’t understood market pressures for what they are or grasped the probable consequences of giving in to them? Is there anything positive that can be done to educate the other parents without creating difficult situations? I will find it very difficult to stomach the idea that parents who are uncritical consumers will be able to have a negative effect on my child through the values and gender stereotypes they’re allowing their own children to adopt and promote. I would like to hear what people think causes the nursery ‘pinkification’ and what can be done to prevent it.

  5. Funnily enough my 8yo and I are considering a blog on this very issue… at 2 she was the same and stayed very girly right through to last year. Pink, skirts, barbies and – even worse, Bratz – princesses followed by Hannah Montana and other Popettes. She still, tbh, loves a bit of sparkle, nags for make up and high heels and nail varnish and really cares about how she dresses but she is far more all encompassing. She enjoys playing with the boys, is developing a bit of a super hero thing, is finally spending time with lego (real lego not the rubbish pink beauty parlour) and just spent a week at a friends house playing cars and garages. On the long drive back when the emergency Burger-King-service-station-tea-server handed her a pink princess tiara with her kids meal she returned it with a request for a monster truck, please, So maybe if we just keep ffering alternatives they get there in the end!

  6. If it makes you feel any better, we went through the same thing, but before P. started nursery. It just kind of happened, even though I’m all casual, all black much of the time and my husband defies gender roles. I see it this way: Some people (girls, boys, whatever) are going to just happen to fall into the liking pink and dresses and sparkle wands camp. Just because they come with baggage doesn’t mean everyone has to hate them – or, like you say, that the people who like pink, etc., aren’t going to be perfectly awesome adults someday.

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