Pink for a girl?

I’m allergic to pink – from the marrow in my bones to the tips of my un-painted fingernails, even though it suits me (so I’m told), I can’t abide pink.

Pink fairy - Microsoft ClipartA child of the early waves of feminism and equal opportunity, it makes me cringe to see little girls being defined by this one colour, in every shade from powder pink to lurid fuchsia.  If you’re a young girl, it seems you have to be fluffied into pink and preferably adorned with butterflies, fairy wings or glitter.   You only have to wander into any children’s section in any department store anywhere in the country to be greeted by a tidal wave of pink, sparkles and tulle.  I see it and I weep, because of what it represents, and because of the mindset it seems to endorse.

I’m not the only one. Today in the Telegraph, Jenny Willott, the Consumer Affairs minister, bemoans gender stereotyping, which begins, she says, with the way girls and boys are directed towards certain toys, often through none-too-subtle colour coding – pink for a girl, blue for a boy.   I would add, not just toys, but clothes; clothes and princesses and fairies and fluffy-wuffies.  I couldn’t be more against this gender-divisive stereotyping.

Undeniably controversial in some of her comments (just read the article), Jenny Willott says girls are being dissuaded from certain roles and professions through gender stereotyping which begins in their childhood.  She highlights the worlds of science, technology, engineering and maths where she says businesses – and the economy – are missing out on their talent.  Despite the vitriol being poured on her through the comments on this article, I can’t help thinking, she has a point.

Think of the 60’s and 70’s, and back to the Suffragettes and beyond and you will find numerous examples of women stepping away from traditional gender-defined roles and stereotype and pressing for equality and opportunity – and winning it for their own and future generations.  Yet here we are today, so keen to stereotype girls into pink princesses and fairies where the only thing that’s valued across those formative years, is how pretty and sparkly they are.

One of a few ‘golden rules’ I try to follow both as a writer and a woman, is to avoid cliché and stay away from stereotype. So it saddens me to see the work done by many brave and dauntless women of modern history, undermined by today’s predilection for pink, and all it represents in terms of gender stereotyping.

19 thoughts on “Pink for a girl?

  1. I don’t know if you saw this:

    Dear Lego company:
    “My name is Charlotte. I am 7 years old and I love legos but I don’t like that there are more Lego boy people and barely any Lego girls.
    Today I went to a store and saw legos in two sections the girls pink and the boys blue. All the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and they had no jobs but the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs, even swam with sharks.
    I want you to make more Lego girl people and let them go on adventures and have fun ok!?!
    Thank you.
    From Charlotte.”

  2. Actually, I also think it sucks for the color pink. It got stereotyped as a girl’s color. I myself love the color pink. It’s one of the best colors on me, but for a long time I felt embarrassed to like it because I thought people would say I’m too girly. Over the past couple of years, I’ve just said, “Screw it. I love it and I’m not apologizing for it. I’m just gonna embrace it.”

    1. That’s a good point too – colo(u)rs get stereotyped as well. You’re right – wear what you wear because you like it and if people think that says something about you, that’s their issue, not yours!

  3. It never used to be this way. In victorian times boys were dressed in pink because it was seen as a manly colour, mimicking ruddy cheeks.
    As the father of two boys I obviously knew that gender stereotyping existed but I didn’t have any idea just how endemic it was. It was only after looking for a birthday present for a friend’s little girl and being exposed to the “pink’ aisle in Toys R Us that I saw for most girls there is no escape. There was for our friend’s little girl, though, as we bought her cars and modelling clay.

    1. Good for you! I love that 🙂 The ‘pink’ thing in shops is truly terrifying and feels so wrong in these modern times. Sadly, it’s big-business and the manufacturers who define and brand young girls into this disempowering stereotype.

  4. I like bright colours and will always choose a coloured item over a black one – but I’m frustrated that this means I often end up with pink things because the choice is pink for girls or black for boys! I was looking for folders at the start of the academic year and ended up with a bright pink one because there was no other choice than black. I also found myself frothing at the mouth when shopping for colouring books, and finding the Big Book of Colouring For Boys (lots of different colours on the cover, all kinds of exciting shapes and patterns) and the Big Book of Colouring For Girls (pink. Entirely pink. Flowers and butterflies and pink). Argh!

    1. I’m so glad I’m not the only one! I don’t want to believe that manufacturers think they can only sell pink to girls. I’m sure if they provided a full colour spectrum of products, they’d be surprised at the take-up of colours other than pink. You’re right too – boys don’t get shoehorned into any kind of limited colour options – it seems they have whatever they want (er.. except pink!).

  5. I agree completely! I can’t abide the pink rows of play vacuums, cooking toys, and jewelry kits. I love to do all those things, but I also love microscopes, Lego castles, and baseball. And I’m 63!

    1. We’ve taken a backward step over recent decades where toys are concerned. I remember enjoying chemistry kits and Lego too, even Meccano on occasion!

        1. I write what I feel, and whilst I don’t exactly see myself as a feminist, I am, perhaps, an ‘equalist’. Pink-for-a-girl, and all it represents is distinctly ‘unequal’.

          1. Dear Jools,
            I think ‘equalists’ is an interesting word, but I don’t shy from feminist…neither did my dad or my grandpa…who was a feminist before women could vote! Thank you!

  6. I was lucky not to be stereotyped by my parents as a child. Being the eldest and a girl it meant I learned to play cricket and football as soon as I could stand as that was all my dad knew how to do. Later at secondary school I found myself being the first girl to be picked for my school cricket team, although I declined to play.

    I had dolls as a child to play with but also toy cars and guns. My mum tried her best to get me to wear pretty dresses but gave up as I was always the kid jumping in puddles and getting dirty and dresses didn’t have pockets for me to put my cars in.

    Even now dresses, skirts and heels are things I wear on special occasions because I’m far too comfortable in trousers and flat shoes. I associate pretty skirts and dresses with being girly and being girly is not me. I know I should be more feminine and sometimes I do try but it just doesn’t come easy to me.

    As for wearing pink, forget it. My wardrobe is mostly blue, in fact as blue is my favourite colour I would have everything blue if I could.

    1. It’s very tempting to dress girls in pink and sparkles because we’re conditioned into thinking how ‘pretty’ this is. I would much rather see a child not confined, or defined by the colour of their clothes, or the toys they like to play with. Thanks for joining the discussion. 🙂

  7. Never was a colour so loaded with baggage as pink. And stereotyping can be insidious but is inescapable in our culture, however hard we try to shield our children and let them be ‘themselves’. In the end, they are is inevitably shaped at least partially by the culture they grow up in – either by conforming to it or rebelling against it. As a child, I preferred cars and guns to dolls. I can remember my daughters’ (male) friends enjoying playing with ‘My Little Pony’ until they grew old enough to realise it was socially unacceptable. (This was in the days before ‘bronies’). Both my daughters hate pink. One wanted an Xbox for Christmas and the other an archery kit, (she’s now lusting after a pen-knife – the more blades the better). I like bright colours including bright pink, but detest pastel shades, especially pink, on me because I don’t suit them. But the association with pink and femininity is culturally and temporally specific. Maybe there should be a campaign to ‘free pink’ from its unfortunate heritage!

    1. I couldn’t agree more about the ‘free pink’ campaign! And I too remember preferring some traditionally ‘male’ toys, like Meccano, chemistry sets and the like. I’m not so sure about guns, though I do remember loving the smell of those noisy ‘caps’. And with your non-conformist streak, I can’t imagine either of your girls ever being persuaded towards feminine stereotype.

  8. Many moons ago I did a scuba diving course and had to buy fins and goggles. I read somewhere about a diver who can swim with sharks and leaves him alone because he was wearing red and white stripes, red being a warning colour in nature. Naturally in fear of sharks, particularly here in Australia, I tried to buy my gear in red. Alas, red being popular, was sold out, though I think I did get red goggles. Being the new age man that I am, rejecting genderising of colour, I bought pink fins and pink booties because it was the closest to red I could find and my fear of sharks overuled any other consideration. Needless to say I attracted different kind of sharks, that is colleagues who teased me no end, all in good fun though. But it was relentless. Did I care? Well I didn’t get eaten by a shark and all my limbs are intact.

    1. What a great story, and congratulations for being a man who dpesn’t let himself get defined by gender/colour stereotype. I hope you survived the alternative ‘shark attack’- and I hope you never have cause to put your pink fins and booties to the test in front of the real thing!

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