Monday, May 19, 2014

Pink is for girls


As stated in my previous post, I've just finished reading Redefining Girly, an amazing book by Melissa Atkins Wardy. I bought this book when Addi was about 3 months old after a friend who has a daughter recommended it to me. And boy am I glad I did. 
I know what you're probably thinking; "Oh great. Mallory's turned into one of those annoying feminists and now that's all we're going to hear about." I promise to keep the angsty-feminism posts to a manageable level. But it is a topic I feel strongly about and the feelings escalated when I found out I was having a little girl and the pink crap began rolling in.

Speaking of. 
I want to address my beef with the color pink.

First of all, I don't hate pink. Necessarily. I like colors. I've always been obsessed with rainbows and color wheels and the idea of all colors in general.

What I don't like is what some colors represent.
My favorite color has always been blue. Whether that spurred from my favorite sports team is beyond me, but I've always liked blue. And I've always hated pink. I have no explanation for it other than it was what I was expected to like. Because girls = pink and boys = blue.

And if any of you know one thing about me it's that I don't like to be told what to do. So when girls clothes and toys and pencils and stickers and happy meal toys and bows and ribbon and coats and shoes and notebooks and earrings and jewelry and suckers are all PINK, I looked at it and thought..."I hate that color." Because it's all I had ever been offered by society. Melissa covers this in her book. The idea that one color should represent a gender is so beyond stupid, it gets my blood boiling.

Because it's not about the color. It's about what the color represents.

I'm going to bag on my favorite retailer for a minute as an example.
[Please don't kick me out of your stores, Target. I would never recover.]

I pulled these side-by-side comparisons off of Target's website 10 minutes ago. Left is girls, right is boys. Obviously.

In case you can't read them, the one of the girls onesies says "Pretty as can bee", the other is purely pink with bees, and the other is beige with a pink bee on it.Notice the "choose color" option, too. Really giving us a load of options, Target. Bravo.

On the other side we have the boys. There's a plain blue one, one that says "All Star," and the other says "Play" in a baseball-style font. 

The issue here isn't that the girls stuff is pink and the boys stuff are blue and green, though that does irritate me, if only because I really love blue and green. The issue is what these colors represent in the selected choices. What we're suggesting to our girls is that they can be pretty. In contrast, we're suggesting to our boys that they can be "All stars" and they can "play."

I'm not trying to pick on Target here. They're just the distributor. If I'm going to blame anyone, it's Carters [don't get me wrong, I love their stuff and still buy their products that don't irritate the crap out of me].
Target isn't even close to the only major retailer pulling this crap. Just take a look at what Old Navy has to offer for ages 6-12 month:

Boys get to be international jet-setters, patriotic kiddos, silly monkeys, photogs, mama's boys - 
and girls get to be perfect, gorgeous sparklers who get attacked by paparazzi and creepy bunnies.
Really?
That's what we want our future girls to aspire to be? Perfect? Gorgeous? Chased by paparazzi? For the love of God. 
No, I want my girl to be a jet setter. And a photog. And someone who MATTERS. Someone who loves herself for her talents and abilities and that face in the mirror.

And in case you think it's just present in the clothes we put our kids in, think again.
It's the toys, too. And the books and the food and seemingly EVERYTHING kid-related.
I would actually argue that the toy manufacturers are the worst offenders.
Because we need to specify who can play with what.

Let's start with the purple arrows. On the left we have the boys. "Be just like dad." they exclaim! Every little boy wants to be like their dad. But girls? They want to be like those creepy-ass dolls. And to "dare to dress up." That's what they aspire to do. 

I don't think I'm alone in wanting to be like my dad. He's successful, he owns his own business and he's a hell of a spouse, parent AND grandparent. But if we're sticking with the gender-related situations, girls don't even get to be like their moms.
Why do you think that is?
It can't be because moms are the strongest creatures on this planet; the most patient, loving, hard-working, giving, and committed people don't even get to be role models because barbies and beyond disgusting Monster High dolls are better than a hard-working mother with bags under her eyes and briefcase hanging from her arm.

The red circle denotes "categories" in which Target appeals to each sex by assuming their interests. 
For boys it's riding toys, action figures, vehicles and outdoor toys. 
For girls it's dolls, doll clothes, dollhouses, doll accessories, and stuffed animals. 

Now ask yourself this: whether you have kids or not, girls or boys, ask yourself if you would have wanted your mother to be interested in only those things. She wouldn't have made for a very good mom, would she? Or your sister who played in the dirt with you and scraped her knee on the sidewalk. What if the only thing she wanted to play with was dolls?

And I'm not trying to say kids shouldn't play with dolls. Dolls [save for those god-awful Monster High ones] are a great way to foster love and creativity, both for boys and girls. The point here is that girls are ONLY offered that. They aren't offered the option here to have outdoor fun or use action figures. 

And you know who's to blame? Brands.
Take a look at those lime green circles and you'll know what I'm talking about.
Here's a little test. These names are sorted in no particular order. I want you to take a minute to sort these out into "boy" or "girl" brands. You have 5 seconds. GO.
Nerf, FurReal Friends, Air Hogs, Disney Princesses, Lionel, Sofia the First, LEGO, Matchbox, My Little Pony, LeeDaDa

One could argue that LEGO could be boy or girl [hopefully] thanks to these new, ridiculous Lego Friends line of Legos for girls. Why girls can't just play with regular Legos is beyond me. But otherwise, it's a pretty easy sort, correct?

I'm going to take a stab at what you're thinking now. "Well, just don't buy them." I don't know about you, but I've taken a kid into the toy aisle before [not even my own, she's only 6 months old], and trying to walk out of there when they've set their mind on a certain toy is like swimming through a tide of jelly fish. It's both painful and you will want to kill yourself by the end of it. 
And when our girls have seen the commercials of other girls playing with these ridiculous excuses for toys, they think to themselves, "Hey, she's having fun and she has lots of friends so playing with that toy must be something I should do!" How do we fight that? 

How do we fight the perception that our child has formed thanks to thousands of dollars of marketing materials geared directly at them? 

The answer is, that we just fight
We fight society. We fight brands. We fight the teacher who separates the classroom bins to pink and blue. We fight the doctor's office who only give girls princess stickers and boys dinos. We fight the media for making women into sex objects. And we fight our inner desire to fit into the mold.

As I mentioned, my girl is only 6 months old and already I'm struggling with how I'm going to raise her to be a strong, independent woman who respects herself enough to know that she's better than limiting herself to only barbies and dress up. Who plays in the mud and gets her rainbow colored skirt dirty and falls off her bike but gets right back up. And who loves herself for who she truly is.

My daughter will be strong and fearless and kind and loving and beautiful, both inside and out. 
So if pink is for girls, than I guess that is the new pink.

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