I’ve been browsing the children section in clothe stores for the past few weeks for obvious reasons. There is something about looking at these tiny little clothes and picturing the tiny little person that is supposed to wear them later on.
What I noticed right away were two things. A) the baby section is often seriously divided into three colors, blue, pink and white, whereas white is mutual to both sexes but the other colors seem obviously divided between the sexes. B) The figures on the clothes are divided between the sexes as well. Girls get the Disney figures and Hello Kitty and the boys get superheroes like Superman and Spiderman.
Of course it doesn’t say anywhere that this is the boy section and this is the girl section. The process of dividing these things between the sexes happens entirely in my own head. Would I dare to buy a blue body for my little girl? Would I dare to put her in a bright red Spiderman shirt?
There is a campaign going on in Great Britain (and elsewhere?) called pinkstinks. It’s a campaign that directs itself against toy makers and shops and demands that they stop the obvious division between the sexes when it comes to toys. They argue that the section for girls is filled with pink packets and princess outfits which is obviously gender-stereotypical.
As I browsed the clothing sections of a few boutiques nearby I started to think about bringing up a girl. Will it be hard to face the gender-stereotypes and wack them over the head? What do I have to do to make sure that she realizes that she can do anything she wants? Be anything she wants? And where are all the other colors for the smaller babies? Yellow? Purple? Green?
Of course I’ve found clothes for babies in those colors but the vast majority of shops (H&M the worst) seem to focus almost entirely on pink for girls and baby blue for boys (again remember that the gender-distinction isn’t theirs but in my own head).
The first thing I bought for my daughter was a Winnie the Pooh body. It is white with beige/brown stripes. I actively made sure that the first item I bought for her was not pink just to make the point to myself.
But I’m not convinced that the color pink is to be put down. Simone de Beauvoir said that you are not born a woman, you become one. Nina Björk associated the process with the pink blanket girls get in the hospital right after they are born.
Of course the feminist debate tends to ignore what significance comes with the baby-blue blanket. If pink is ‘bad’ is blue automatically ‘good’?
It’s the gender-stereotypes we are against. Girls should be encouraged to be firemen, drive fast cars, climb trees and be loud or obnoxious if they want to be. Rarely do we hear that boys should be encouraged to dance ballet, wear pink shirts and play with barbie dolls, but surely that is implied.
I would, however, like to point out that there is nothing wrong with the color pink, just as there is nothing wrong with the color blue. Girls should be allowed to wear pink tutu’s, ride pony’s and play with barbie. Girls should be allowed to be girls, just as boys should be allowed to be boys. There is nothing wrong with the genders being different.
What is wrong is that we a) think of the feminine as negative, b) tend to shove children in the direction their gender insists and c) frown when a child goes the ‘wrong’ way. There is nothing wrong with girls wanting to be firegirls, playing with matchbox cars or wearing green army pants.
And that’s what the pinkstinks campaign is essentially trying to say. Don’t push our children one way or the other and I support that wholeheartedly although I don’t like that they ban the color pink in the process. It’s a bit like shooting oneself in the foot because with that we’re not only associating the color pink more firmly to the feminine (which I see no real reason to do), we’re also essentially associating the feminin (the pink) with something negative! Pink is not bad. It’s good to be a girl, I should know I’ve been one for …. years.
I will buy pink for my little girl. I will but I won’t shove it on her. I will buy other colors as well. Yellow, blue, green, purple (!), white, black, brown and I will do my best to make sure that she understands that she can wear what she wants, she can become what she wants and I will try to make sure that she understands that math isn’t a boy-thing and that baking isn’t a girl-thing.
It’s things we all do.
Pink isn’t bad, but pushing stereotypes on children is!