It’s official. The anti-pink movement has taken off.
Concerned mums and dads, in their quest to steer their daughters’ pliable young minds away from the ever-expanding quagmire of Bratz, pole-dancing dolls and other questionable residents of the “pink aisle” at toy stores today, are increasingly opting for toys that are pink-free, glitter-free or traditionally marketed at boys.
Parents’ groups across the world including PinkStinks have spearheaded this anti-pink campaign, with former head of the National Consumer Council in the UK even calling the division of girls’ and boys’ toys in shops “gender apartheid”.
Most recently, we’ve seen the emergence of “empowering,” non-pink girls’ toys like Goldieblox, whose founder – Debbie Stirling, a former engineer – was motivated by what she saw as a need for “more choices than the pink aisle has to offer”. In the widely-publicised viral video campaign for the brand, three young girls go about destroying a collection of pink toys with their supercool, defiantly non-pink construction toys. The idea is that little girls are sick of all the over-the-top pink being shoved down their throats and need more stimulating options.
Now I get the point of all this anti-pink sentiment, I truly do.
We can all agree that the pink aisle offers options to girls that are both limited and damaging. Raising your daughter on a playtime diet of sparkling tiaras, infant bikinis and mini ironing sets? No, thanks.
I’d like my future daughters to have access to a wider range of make-believe playtime options than princess, pageant queen and domestic goddess.
But how does this all translate in the real world, where your daughter’s probably already been exposed to a bunch of pink toys and, God forbid, might actually like a lot of them?
What if your daughter, when asked to get dressed for school, innocently chooses a pink hoodie over blue? Or a frilly dress over pants?
What if she chooses Dora the Explorer – who wears pink and sometimes princess dresses, and is explicitly marketed at girls – over the more ‘boyish’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?
Should we step in and demand that she step away from these items, simply because they’re products of the pink aisle? I’m not sure we should.
Your daughter’s not going to see you denying her the pink hoodie and think “you’re right, that colour choice was pretty heteronormative. Hand me that grey shirt!”
She’s going to learn – already having been taught from infanthood that “pink equals girl” – that girl also equals weak, frivolous or somehow inferior. The danger is, in other words, is that our anti-pink message could come across as anti-girl.
Let’s remember this: the girly marketing trappings of these products – the fact they sparkle and shine and twirl – is not the enemy here. It’s just distracting us from the real issue, which is the types of products we tend to force onto girls. So let’s call off the blanket ban on “pinkification” and instead, start distinguishing between kids’ products that are genuinely sexualising or diminishing girls, and those that are fine but just happen to be wrapped up in a glittery pink package.
Because, all things considered, Dora the Explorer’s a pretty kick-arse role model. And the last time I checked, girls can play as freely and creatively wearing fairy skirts as if they were wearing shorts.
So, my solution? Let’s relax about pink a little.
Because isn’t the sensible thing not to ban girls from the colour they already identify with femininity – but, rather, to work on giving them greater options as to what femininity means?
To choose the pink products we buy for our daughters carefully, so they’ll associate pink and girly with strength, empowerment and intellectual engagement rather than passive domesticity, pole-dancer-sexiness and ditziness?
I say: next time she wants to wear a tutu while she does her science homework? Sure. Buy her some bright pink Lego or one of those fuschia Rebelle archery sets for Christmas too.
Pinks aren’t going away any time soon.
So let’s stop universally condemning the pink aisle and give girls some better options.
Does your daughter wear or play with pink items? Do you ever feel uncomfortable buying pink? Did you like the colour, as a child?