Raising Trouble: Does Pink Really Stink?
The merchants of pink would have loved School Picture Day at my son's preschool: hardly any other color was visible on the little girls. Naturally I was thrilled to learn about an organization called Pink Stinks, a UK-based project – founded by twin sisters, both mothers of girls -- seeking to challenge "the culture of pink which invades every aspect of girls' lives." This group has, among other achievements, successfully pressured Sainsbury's, a major UK clothing retailer, to stop gender stereotyping in its kids clothing sections. Awesome, obviously. I wish there were more groups like this everywhere.
But I'm curious what we should think of the vilification of pink. When I've criticized the pinkness of girl culture here on this blog, some readers have suggested that to demean girly culture is to demean girls. And I agree that there's no question that girls should feel free to wear pink and aspire to be astronauts –there's no contradiction between being feminine and being powerful.
Maybe pink is not such a big deal. Studies show that despite being enveloped in pink and obsessed with princesses in preschool, girls today are growing up playing sports in greater numbers than ever, and are more likely to go to college than boys. They're less limited by gender roles than girls have been in the past – or, interestingly, than boys are today.
For most girls, pink is a phase, and kind of a cute one at that. I like the way the little girls in my life dress. Most dress themselves, usually with charming results: they wear a ton of pink, but with creatively mismatched tights. They wear jeans under their dresses. Most look hipper than their parents. They seem to enjoy being girls. Moms – and in private moments, dads – often admit that they wanted daughters because it's so much more fun to dress girls than boys. (Unless your son is a fashion visionary like Iggy, who this morning was wearing his little brother's clothes; he'd been spending some time in Williamsburg and got inspired by all the trendy short jackets.)
But those of us who grew up in the '70s wearing our boy cousins' hand-me-down overalls – indeed, I suspect many of our mothers make up for the asceticism of this period by lavishing glittery femme treats upon their granddaughters – do find the ubiquity of pink disturbing, and I think we have a point. Little girls wearing coordinated pink outfits with ballet slippers don't look ready to climb trees and get dirty. Pink sends a message at an early age that a girl's job is to look nice, rather than to be messy, scary and -- when she feels like it -- downright ugly. Pink tells all kids that boys and girls are vastly different, when they don't have to be.
I can't wait to hear your thoughts. As you can tell, Raising Trouble is conflicted about this issue. Is pink harmless fun, especially if we take it for granted that femininity is compatible with feminism, a notion some of us have been happily rolling with since sometime in the '90s? Or is pink a pernicious feature of a culture that tells girls that while it's cool to kill a dragon now and then, it's even more important to be pretty? Please discuss!
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