Think before you pink

Bubby, Little G and I were off getting an ice-cream after a morning’s play in the local park. Little G who was experienced in ice-cream selection quickly chose the flavour ‘Rainbow’ for himself and then announced that Bubby, who was not yet experienced in ice-cream selection would like the ‘Pink’ one. “Because she’s a girl”, he added. Ever looking up to her older cousin Bubby quickly parroted Little G’s choice of ice-cream for her as her own and they happily devoured their treats on the bench outside until they were covered in a lovely sticky mess.

Pink (aka strawberry) ice cream is a must.
Pink (aka strawberry) ice cream is a must.

Bubby had never expressed a preference for pink before this. She was quite happy with all colours equally, however from then on, pink was the go-to choice when given one. For her birthday I asked her what kind of cake she would like. “A pink one” she replied. She then told her Papa she was to have a pink birthday party. I needn’t tell her answer to what type of present she thought she might like… That’s right, a pink one.

And a pink cake it is!
And a pink cake it is! Photo credit Kat Barrington Photography

I’ve previously written about my position on pigeon holing girls into ‘girl’ colours and have ensured a range of boy, girl and unisex toys has been at her disposal since birth.  Bubby used to love to wear anything that been part of Little G’s wardrobe despite the ‘boy’ colours, but now she is irresistibly drawn to pink and anything that resembles a tutu (but that’s another tale to tell).  I realised that even through a simple ice-cream suggestion of ‘pink’ instead of ‘strawberry’ my daughter’s belief that girls should like pink had begun. Not just that they might like it, but that it was the colour for girls.

This desire for pink did not come from either of our houses – nor had Little G’s opinion about girls wanting pink ice-cream. So where had it come from? Maybe she does really genuinely like the colour now, or is she in autopilot thinking she’s supposed to like what all the other little girls at care were wearing? Was I concerned because I wanted my girls to explore outside the box? Or did it really only irk me because this monochrome loving mama would like her daughter to have more appreciation for the rarely-pink-but-still-ever-so-stylish clothing and play-things that I’ve carefully selected for her, rather than the garish and glittery mass-produced pink plastic stuff she is drawn to?

Pink. Pink. Pink.
Pink. Pink. Pink.

But no, it’s not just me trying to be a trendy, new-age mum (at which I fail repeatedly). There is some serious campaigning going on around this topic. One such campaign Let Toys be Toys, has recognised how the gender stereotyping for girls and boys has regressed over the years. Instead of liberating our children to be who they want to be, this relatively recent marketing for toys and clothing by colour-coding them into extreme ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ colours is hindering their choices by stereotyping the available selections.

Toys and play are essential to our kids learning development. By marketing toys with gender colours it limits the appeal to not just either sex, but the many parents and relatives whom are reluctant to by buy a gendered toy for the opporsite sex. Melissa Hine, a Professor of Psychology at Cambridge University, outlines in her article ‘There’s no good reason to push pink toys on girls’, that by limiting their choices, we’re impacting the development of social, verbal, writing and spacial skills  for both girls and boys. Hine firmly agrees that “Parents are right to be worried about the obsession with pink for girls”. So the next time I have my internal struggle about which colours to buy, I’ll know its not just about my own personal taste (ha) as I reach for the trendy, unconventional option and Bubby can just thank me later.

For the record, Little G’s favourite colour is Black.

If you're going to go plastic..
If you’re going to go plastic..

More on Pink at the Two Houses…

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2 thoughts on “Think before you pink

  1. Much of the problem is now influenced by consumerism and commercial sales pressures. In the children’s toy market many manufacturers and retailers rely on volume and consistency in sales – particularly in this poor economic climate. Give a manufacturer a colour choice in his production run and they’ll choose pink as an instant choice as it’s considered a safe bet. Burnt sienna or Sage are risky for shareholders. Sales history will show them that ‘you can’t go wrong with pink’ and the blame for any commercial failure is likely to point to areas other than the choice of pink as a colour way. There are many talented toy designers who see past stereotypical colour palettes but on the whole the big players dealing with mass market forecasts will not be the ones to buck the trend. They are more likely to feed the trend.

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