I was reading The Guardian a while before Christmas, and came across an interesting article about a campaign called Pink Stinks, started by two sisters (Emma and Abi Moore). They were sick of the lack of choice of clothes (everything pink and sparkly) and toys for girls, and the fact that toys which should be gender neutral (like globes) were being marketed towards girls by being manufactured in pink. The kinds of toys and activities marketed towards girls also seemed designed to restrict them to 'feminine' roles. Those of you who have read this blog for a while will know my hatred of pink gadgets marketed at women, so this campaign struck a chord with me.
The article had a wonderful advert for Lego from the 1970s, which features a smiling girl (wearing a blue t-shirt and jeans, as it happens), proudly holding out a wonderful, wild Lego construction. What I like about the picture (apart from the lack of pink) is that it is genuinely gender-neutral — you could substitute a picture of a boy, and it would have exactly the same message. I also like the fact that the Lego construction doesn't look like anything in the real world, but is the joyous result of seeing what happens when you put loads of Lego bricks together, quite unlike the restrictive Lego sets you get now which have lots of shaped, specific pieces so that you can only make a house, or whatever it is.
In the article, Emma and Abi said that they were amazed at the level of criticism they had received. People seem to think that girls are genetically pre-disposed to love pink, and that to say that there's something wrong with everything for girls being made in pink is somehow denying girls' human rights. Well, when I was a kid, girls liked lots of different colours. Some liked pink, it's true, but we all wore lots of different colours ^1^. I also think that girls played with a greater variety of toys. I was a real tomboy (I'm sure that surprises no-one), and although I did have a few dolls, I also played with Lego, Meccano, my brother's toy cars and planes, and I made tree-houses and go-carts. I find it a bit creepy that some people seem to think that it's perfectly normal for little girls to be obsessed with only one colour.
Of course it's true that boys and girls are different and that there are some differences in what they like, but should we decide for them what kinds of things they should like, based on their gender alone? Should we restrict the kinds of activities and roles that girls (or boys, for that matter) are supposed to enjoy? Apart from anything else, it's fairly obvious that toy manufacturers are trying make more money by getting parents to buy the same tat twice over (if they have sons and daughters), by making them buy it in both pink and blue.
^1^ In fact, it being the 1970s when I grew up, we wore some revolting colour combinations: mustard and purple, anyone? ↑