Let’s stop the pinkifying of our girls

Lego

This Lego ad from 1981 gave me pause for thought. She appears to be a girl…. but…. wait a minute… she’s wearing blue, and baggy jeans. And look – she’s playing with primary-coloured Lego (compare with the new Lego range, released last year. Can you guess the target market?)

How is it that, over 30 years later, we appear to have regressed? As the mother of two young daughters, I am sick of being assailed with pink, and purple, and frills, and glitter, every time I go shopping for their clothes. Just recently, I was searching for a new jacket for my youngest. I wanted something relatively lightweight but not as thin as a pac-a-mac, whilst still being at least showerproof. I found the perfect candidate in Next – perfect, that is, apart from the fact that it only comes in one colour: a vomit-inducing, lurid pink. No, I didn’t buy it. The search continues.

In 1981 I was probably a couple of years older than the girl in the Lego ad. Photos of me from the late 70s/early 80s depict a girl with wonderfully messy hair, usually in the garden, wearing mainly blues and greens, and jeans, and a pair of brown moccasins. Even in the photos of me as a baby, when I was clad mainly in clothing lovingly knitted by my nan, there is not even a sniff of pink.

Where has this pinkifying of our girls come from? It’s not just clothing – anyone who has been into a stationery shop recently will have undoubtedly been delighted to discover this (what’s wrong with the original white one? Is it not ‘girly’ enough?). Whilst shopping in Argos last summer I was baffled to find these (as compared with these). And anybody walking into any Smyths toy store can’t help but notice the aisles screaming PINK and displaying baby dolls, and dolls’ cots, and dolls’ prams, and toy kitchens, and toy irons, and toy vacuum cleaners, and toy washing machines. What the fuck? Are my daughters to be brought up being taught to care for ‘babies’ whilst they are still babies themselves? Are they to be brought up thinking it is their duty in life to carry out household chores, whilst over in the ‘boys’ aisle they get the scientist sets, and the dinosaurs, and the puzzles, and the microscopes, and the telescopes? We appear to be have gone back in time 30 years, not forward

When my eldest was born, an alarming number of well-meaning people bought her impractical, frilly dresses. Anyone who has had a baby girl will be familiar with these. They are puff-sleeved, multi-layered, tulle-underskirted monstrosities. I was going to take them to the charity shop, but I couldn’t bear the thought of some unfortunate child having to suffer the elasticated-sleeves and itchiness and general feeling of discomfort one must surely get from wearing such a thing. I binned them with pleasure. (Note to anyone buying clothing for a new baby, girl or boy: bibs, vests and babygros. You can never have too many of them. Preferably not in blue or pink, if you can find any.)

I feel obliged to disclose at this point that my eldest daughter likes pink. Despite my best intentions, she has fallen for the pink propaganda. Or has she? Perhaps she’d have just liked pink anyway? I’ll never know, but feel sure outside influences have played a part in it. It’s abating slightly as she gets older. We went to buy her a pair of pumps not long ago, and I waited with slightly bated breath as she chose the ones she wanted. Some were pink. Lots were glittery. She plumped for scarlet-red. They look great with her jeans. Would she be seen dead in a pair of brown moccasins? No chance. But I’m working on it.

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3 comments

  1. Great post. Have you read Peggy Oreinstein’s book on this? Here’s her reading an excerpt and discussing it: http://authorsontourlive.com/peggy-orenstein-podcasts-cinderella-ate-my-daughter/

    Of course a big reason why pinkification continues to grow is that it is profitable; if items (like lego) can be used, shared, and reused by both boys and girls, people will generally consume less. If parents have to buy the same items over again in pink after they’ve had a daughter (or blue if they’ve had a son), it means double profits for the company producing this stuff.

    They’re exploiting an already-sexist society by using gender as a marketing tool, but its in their interest that this continues lest their profits stop rising. Gendered marketing is poison.

    1. Thanks for your comment. No, I haven’t read that book, thanks for bringing it to my attention.

      Yes, it’s all about the profit – and if that means forcing children into gender boxes, so be it.

  2. When I went shopping for clothes for my newborn niece in 1981, the aisles were full of stretchy babygros in either pale lemon/blue/green or gorgeous primary colours. I was horrified when pregnant, just over 20 years later, this same store had been transformed into gender hell. One side was just a blur of pink with ridiculous garments that prepared the infant girl for the woman she is expected to become, decorative and inactive (er bikini for a baby?????). The other side was a fog of olive greens, greys & blues, mainly army fatigues, with hardly any colours at all. But practical and hard-wearing, ready for the active, inquisitive, rough-and-tumble boys who would wear them. I instructed family and friends that if I had a girl, I wanted nothing in pink. In fact, I had my lovely boy and bought him multi coloured stripes from European sites. He has never worn army fatigues.

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