The Tyranny of Pink

I love the colour pink. It’s a warm, soft colour and it suits me perfectly so I wear it a lot. However, I’m sick to death of seeing it on little girls. I’ve been teaching for about 100 years now and it’s only in the past three that I’ve noticed the dictatorship of the pink coat…and pink gloves…and pink lunchboxes…and pink bags… Enough – you can see where I’m going with this. Little girls like pink so let them wear it, of course, but not every outfit and not every day.

I’ve had parents of boys come in to see me questioning the sexuality of their young sons because they like pink. I’ve seen children saying to each other, “You can’t play with that, it’s for girls.” Or, “That’s a boy’s one – the girl’s ones are pink.” This is the tyranny of pink. It’s creating gender stereotypes that didn’t exist ten years ago.

Why does a girl’s bike have to be pink? Or a skateboard? Or a scooter? They’re just toys. I’ve had reps trying to sell me pink lego-type toys and pink toolkits on the grounds that the girls will be encouraged to play with them. No thanks. I want my class to play with the toys and equipment that interests them. I don’t want to see a girl under seven (my age range) sitting in a sea of pink fluff instead of tearing round in the big tractor and I don’t want to see a boy scared to wear the clippy cloppy Barbie shoes because his parents will be cross.

There will always be toys that are marketed to specific genders (Barbie/Action Man) and I’m not arguing with that but a jigsaw doesn’t need to be in a pink box for girls.

Increasingly, shops are dividing their goods into Boys Toys/Girls Toys. There really is no need to encourage young children to believe that there are some toys that are “not for them.” Unless someone tells them otherwise, young children don’t naturally see toys as gender-specific; they’re just props for their imagination. If you feel you can’t be a female St. George or a male princess when you’re five then it’s a great shame – and I hold the tyranny of pink very much to blame for that.

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About andromedababe

Schoolteacher,shoe lover,garden geek.Likes glitter.Any views on educational practice are my own and are not to be taken as endorsement of any specific educational theories or schemes of work.Note: this is my personal blog - not all my posts relate to education.
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11 Responses to The Tyranny of Pink

  1. SarahT says:

    My son has always liked pink and like pushing toy buggies around and I’ve never had a problem with it…since he started school last September I’ve noticed him comment on toys saying “that’s a girls toy” or “is that for a boy or a girl?”

  2. impeus says:

    You are so right. I have a brand new daughter, and can confirm that in any given generic toy shop, products are strictly organised by gender. And the girls’ toys are RUBBISH. Even the Early Learning Centre, which I’d always thought was beyond that kind of drivel, is guilty. Look at their two globes, for instance: pink for girls, including a mermaid, and the PROPER one, with manta rays instead. Needless to say, my daughter won’t be getting any girls’ versions of toys from her parents.

  3. I don’t think I mind the pervasiveness of pink anymore–though I think it could really use some updating in the way that we talk about it.

    My five-year-old daughter is all about pink (she used to be all about yellow, I kind of miss it). And my son, now eight, was ALL about pink from age two to six. If I’d had my daughter first, I would have assumed that she loved pink because her friends, the media, and Target shoved it down her throat. But watching my son form his own preferences for colors, toys, friends, and games, I realized that gender is something innate, not something that friends, the media, or Target can dictate. But social pressures for boys and girls to act respectively masculine and feminine are very strong–even my daughter, raised in a house with a boy who wore a dress for many years and has very long hair, sometimes tells us that pink is a “girl” color. What this ends up meaning is that our culture does not form our kids’ gender identities–it just makes it very hard for kids with non-normative gender expression to be themselves.

    What I really wish is that we allowed kids free gender expression. So while there might be pink clothes and boy clothes, feminine toys and masculine toys, I’d love it if there were no “boy” and “girl” toys. Just a whole range from which kids could pick as they prefer. But as far as the pervasiveness of pink, I say that’s awesome–for all those girly girls and pink boys out there. And to go along with that, let’s have a pervasiveness of blue for the boyly boys and tomboys–and neutral tones, too, for those who aren’t really at one end of the spectrum or the other.

  4. Frances Coppola says:

    I hated pink as a child, and I’m still not really very keen on it. I don’t think pink was quite so all-pervading when I was young as it is now for little girls, and fortunately no-one ever tried to make me wear it (I had ginger hair then!), but I definitely remember blue – my favourite colour – being regarded as more suitable for boys.

  5. MmeLindt says:

    Great post.

    Our children are growing up in Switzerland and I notice that the pink/blue divide is less strong here than in UK. When I go to France, it is back to separate aisles for the boys’ toys in the supermarket.

    For anyone looking for non-gendered toys, check out the German websites, or ebay.de – much better selection there.

  6. Sir James says:

    Excellent analysis. Many thanks.

  7. impeus says:

    Sorry to comment again…

    What I find particularly annoying is the binary nature of baby clothes. Almost every store carries pink or blue baby clothes, with a small section of white and cream for the traditionalists who are waiting until the birth to find out the gender of their child. I don’t want any of that stuff, the baby pastel pink and blue. I want bright rainbow colours! It’s very hard to find baby clothes that manage to escape the baby pink/blue regime.

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  9. Lily says:

    This is a great article and I agree, that whilst some children are happy to express their individuality and choices, the ‘tyranny of pink’ as you call it rules so many others. I have groups of kids who come to the woods with me and the boys won’t use the spare gloves if they are pink, or light purple, or dark purple because they have got into their heads these are not boy colours. They would actually rather freeze and be unhappy than wear ‘girls’ gloves. In the really cold weather we had before Christmas I went to buy extra socks for the kids to keep feet warm and I couldn’t find anything even remotely practical in the girls section. Lots of pink bows but nothing that would actually keep a body warm. I think this has a lot to do with societies expectations of what children of different genders do and where they play.

  10. Moofleur says:

    I am strongly of the belief that little girls only like pink because it is shoved down their throats from birth. My daughter has never had any pink clothes or toys, and funnily enough her favourite colour is yellow. Now she has started school she sometimes says her favourite is ‘pink… but I like yellow best really Mama’ – peer pressure has a lot to answer for, even at 4yo.

  11. rosamundi says:

    And it continues into adulthood. B&Q used to (I don’t know if they still do) sell two different toolkits, identical in contents – hammer, set of Allen keys, spanners, an assortment of differing screwdrivers, hacksaw, etc. A fair assortment of the things that an enterprising DIY-er could need.

    One was in a case in B&Q’s signature orange and black, the other was in a case that was two shades of pink. Pink plastic must be terribly expensive, because that toolkit, with its otherwise identical contents, was £5 more expensive than the other.

    Dad and I laughed merrily and bought the one in the black and orange case.

    I can, potentially, see a market for, as an example, drills aimed at women – smaller, lighter ones that better fit womens’ (generally smaller) hands, but a 5lb lump hammer is a 5lb lump hammer and is just as effective if its handle is plain wood or if it is pink.

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