Tuesday, 14 January 2014

On Raising A Daughter, Part VI: Pretty In Pink Is Everywhere

I've mentioned it before, but prior to having LB I never really paid that much attention to controversial parenting topics. Why would I?

I WASN'T A PARENT.

However, there were some topics that were too loud not to hear, even for the childless. For example, that whole bottle vs. breast thing, the angry back-and-forth regarding the cry-it-out method, the topic of spanking, and the indignant screams of "Our Daughters Will Not Wear Pink!"

Over the years I have met many, many parents who are absolutely riled up about pink clothing.  For reasons that I really don't understand, it's the parents of girls who want to ensure people don't automatically assume their baby daughter is a 'girl', rather than parents of boys. I have met more than a handful of people who only shopped for their baby girl's clothes in the boy section, but I have never once met parents of boys who have purposefully shopped for their son's clothes in the girl's section. More times than I care to count I have blundered and assumed someone's baby is a boy, when it's a girl, and I took the cue based on what they were wearing. Not necessarily by the colour of the shirt, but by the graphics on the shirt. Does the shirt have a tractor on it? An airplane? A bow tie? Must be a boy, right? Not necessarily. Whenever this usually happens, the parent is oft to smugly reply, "Actually, she's a girl. We don't believe in limiting her clothing choices to pink."

Okay...

Since having LB I'm now even more confused why some parents of girls tried to avoid pink by dressing their daughters in boy's clothing, because I've never felt limited by the colour choices available in the girl's clothing section. Is pink around? Hell yeah. There's a lot of it, and we definitely own some of it. But it's absolutely not the only colour available, not by a long shot. There is a lot of choice, and you don't have to look that hard to find it. To clarify, I shop for LB mostly at H&M, because I have a subversion to spending too much money on something she will quickly outgrow. I also find clothes for her on sale at places like Loeb and Globus, and we have loving family who have showered LB with Carter's and OshKosh. Furthermore, I'm also now really confused about some of these parents who felt the need to dress their daughters in boys clothes because some have since gone on to have sons, and I don't know if they are just too tired (what with having two kids now) to keep up their rigorous vendetta against society's colour coding of gender, but they don't shop for their sons in the girl section. At all. 

What the fuck is the deal with that?

So girls can look like boys, but boys shouldn't look like girls?

That's a fairly significant double standard to play out in one family, don't you think?

I get that the subversion to pink is that it's considered not only a representation of submissive femaleness, but it also is a colour loaded with the implication that pink=girls caring too much about appearance. Being hung up on how they look. However, can't blue be just as damaging? Can't it equally stand for hyper-masculinity and all the problems that come along with that? And if we're going to be indignant about clothing choices, why not get all up in arms about how effing hideous it is that our kids have Disney princesses and Disney cars on their shirts and shoes, often as the ONLY CHOICE. I mean dudes, there's nothing stylish about that at all!

So no, Internet, I haven't found that the battle of pink should be waged in the wardrobes, but hear me out: I definitely think there is a war to be waged and it's in the aisles of the toy stores.

LB is seventeen months old now, and she's starting to branch out into more diverse toys. We are no longer just dealing with rattles and crinkle toys, which are all gender neutral. I didn't even realise that toys have shifted towards being alarmingly NOT gender neutral until that day I tried to find a baby doll for LB, for her Santa gift: one side of the store was garishly pink and the other side of the store was...all the rest of the colours.

There was a girl section for toys and a boy section.

Wha???

Since when is imagination gender specific? And so gender specific that one side of the store practically shouted NO BOYS ALLOWED.

I really don't care if studies have shown that boys and girls play differently. Since when does playing differently meaning spelling out to them that if they're a girl, these are their toy choices, and if they're a boy, it's these ones? It seems fairly stunting, and quite the opposite of what toys are supposed to do, when they are so gender specific. Toys are supposed to foster play, allow your kid to explore their imagination, and consequently figure out who they are and what their interests are.

When the only play kitchen options are pink, does this really encourage the boys to want to pretend to be chefs? Or to cook a meal for their family? When the toy babies are all dressed in pink and accessorised with pink strollers, will the boys, past a certain age, still feel comfortable playing with them or will they feel only girls can play with them? Boys (gasp!) like to play with dolls, too. I guess it's because they're human, hence have nurturing instincts, and want to impart on their baby dolls some of the nurturing they see their parents bestowing on them. Go figure! But it'll be an uphill battle to continue that interest once forces outside the home tell them that pink is for girls, hence their pink stroller is a girl's toy and if they play with it they're a girl. And Internet, I looked: there are only pink strollers.

And our girls. Pink is for girls, so I guess that yellow power drill set isn't for girls. Only boys. I guess it would only be for girls if they made it pink. Because that's the only way a girl will be interested in playing with it, right? If it's a pretty colour? If that's not gender discrimination, then this next one sure is: A grey microscope which, on the box, features a dad and his son being interested in science, marketed next to the pink microscope where the girl is alone, examining a flower. Fuck me. It's bad enough Lego has its pink line now, and it's not for building anything imaginative: it's a pre-determined structure, you build the house (or stable, or shopping strip), and that's all you can do with it. Then the Lego 'friends' can bake, shop, or get gussied up for a party. Holy. Shit. Our girls won't be dreaming about a career in architecture if they're only given the pink Lego, that's for sure.

Listen, if you can't tell, I'm downright pissed about the pink toys.

PISSED ABOUT IT.

Because unlike clothing, there aren't any other options. We're being told that these toys are 'only' for girls, to make sure only the girls play with them they're ONLY PINK, and I absolutely believe this has larger ramifications for enforcing gender stereotypes, and if you don't believe me look at this:

Toy catalog: 1970's vs. Today

(image via ToysRUs)

Nah, I'm just imagining it: toys aren't reinforcing for girls that looks are everything.

But...what happened to Strawberry Shortcake?

And Rainbow Bright?

And why does My Little Pony have to be a sexed-up hybrid?

(all images via Google images searching 'toys seem more pink' and 'girl toys seem sexier'. Though warning: proceed at your own risk on the last search term. Yikes. There was some very NSFW images next to Strawberry Shortcake)

Our girls (and boys) deserve better than this. They deserve to be able to play with any toy they choose, without reaching an eventual point where they wonder if the toy they're playing with is really a girl toy or a boy toy.

Purposefully dressing our girls like boys isn't solving anything, but having our children be able to play together with toys that aren't so gender specific it will create a nagging, wondering, question: "Is this really for me? Is this all there is for me?" can change everything.

Children don't deserve to have their imagination be pigeon-holed by pink or blue.

3 comments:

Ais said...

Amen sista! Also, it used to make me mad when I'd look through the Wishbook (remember!) and the girls toys would be vacuum cleaners, kitchen sets, play brooms/dust pans, baby strollers, pretend makeup sets etc... It's all fun and games until you grow up and realize these are the things that women are expected to do.

Mom said...

Yup Ais, you have that right. And isn't it a sad state of affairs that things haven't really changed that much.

T said...

Well said! Those My Little Pony things are creepy!

Haha, I have been wanting to buy a plain pink onesie for Braden since he was born and use fabric paint to write "I'm a boy and I can wear pink too" or something along those lines.

While I definitely lean towards the "boy toys and clothes" for him now, I fully plan on buying him a doll or toy broom if he ever shows the slightest interest. I already have a speech prepared for my brothers or anyone else that thinks they can make a negative comment on it too. It is sad that my nieces have had toy cars since day one, but I don't think any of my nephews would be caught playing with a doll. We definitely have a long way to go before the double standards are gone and just by reading this post, it seems we may have taken another turn in the wrong direction still.