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Does pink really stink? We explore whether a love of all things pink is really so bad

With four little girls between us, it would be possible for our world to be totally pink. Yet, being well educated North London Women we feel slightly troubled by this and want to explore what is behind the pink obsession and question whether in fact pink really does stink.

Up until my eldest was about two and a half, her world was made up of many hues - I could dress her in red, yellow, green and any other colour - then without warning, and seemingly from nowhere she suddenly seemed only interested in wearing pink (and purple at a push). Not only this, she absolutely refused to wear trousers.

Bemused at first, I found myself buying her more and more pink clothes to save fights in the morning (getting her dressed being painful enough as it is) but must admit to feeling slightly bewildered by where this girliness came from, as I am myself a trouser-wearing, many colour wearing woman. I have friends who have taken firm stands against the 'pinkification' of today's girls and refuse to let their daughters wear pink but although I admire their attempts at fighting back, I can't quite bring myself to do this. 

The history of how the pink for girls and blue for boys tyranny arose, is interesting and you can read all about it here in this  article from the Smithsonian Magazine. The article explains that originally pink was seen as a boys colour and it wasn't in fact until the 1940s that the trend was reversed.

In 2007, research suggested that the colour preference may in fact be hardwired in our genes, which could explain why our daughter's seem to gravitate towards pink without needing any encouragement. You can read more about this here.Whilst there may be some truth in this, it doesn't explain to me why I don't remember this pink obsession factoring in my own girlhood. I remember liking many colours and owning clothes and toys from across the spectrum.

There is in fact a whole website dedicated to telling us that pink is bad - Pink Stinks describes itself as being " a campaign and social enterprise that challenges the culture of pink which invades every aspect of girls' lives" and says that they "believe that body image obsession is starting younger and younger, and that the seeds are sown during the pink stage, as young girls are taught the boundaries within which they will grow up, as well as narrow and damaging messages about what it is to be a girl."

The anti-pink lobby now has a strong voice to the extent that sometimes I feel like I am being anti-feminist by allowing my daughters to wear pink. However, my rational side tells me that when worn as one of many colours there is nothing wrong with pink itself. I feel that the argument has become slightly confused in focussing so much on colour. Parents can still teach their daughters to be confident, to expect a lot, and that women are equal to men AND allow them to wear pink if they so desire.

 The real issue for me is the one that Pink Stinks highlights about confidence and body image and the very real inequalities that still exist in the workplace that we, the mothers inhabit.

Recently I have come across this excellent website that gives tips on parenting confident girls - Wonderlicious
encourages mothers to believe that they are the most important role models for their daughters and should lead by example. They say that they "focus on overturning the gender stereotypes that  make girls obsess with body image, keep girls from taking leadership roles, that limit girls' interests in sciences and math and cause them to feel self-aware when playing sports". This rings very true for me and I think a great deal about the mesages I send to my daughters though the classes I sign them up for (football as well as ballet), the things I say about myself (trying not to obsess about weight) and the way I balance my career with their needs. 

Wonderlicious has recently published an app book for iPad and iPhone for girls aged 3-7, which  focuses on themes they believe are very important in the development of strong confident girls. North London Mums will be reviewing it in our Appy Monday series of app reviews soon but in the meantime you can get it here.

If you want to read more about the issues we've raised, we highly recommend this book - Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein. In the book Orenstein describes a very similar story to mine, where she felt very proud to be raising a daughter who transcended gender stereotypes (liking Thomas The Tank Engine as much as Barbie) and then suddenly, a change occurred and her daughter refused to play with Thomas or wear trousers. All this despite her being a long standing writer and thinker on gender issues. The book is really well written and entertaining and very thought provoking for mothers of daughters. If you don't want to stretch to buying the book, read this really great summary of it and the issues it coveres here.

 And for some plain talking and down to earth advice for all of us on the whys and whats of feminism and being a woman, we heartily recommend Caitlin Moran's superb and hilarious new book -  How To Be a Woman, because we can't raise daughters who are confident in their abilities and about being a woman unless we feel that way about ourselves!

These are just some of our thoughts. What do you think? Do you agree with what we have said? Have you taken a stance and banned pink? Have you read any of the books we recommend or can you recommend any others? We want to hear your views!
Jo@handsomeinpink.com 1 September 2011 at 05:35 said...

Please check out my business, Handsome in Pink (www.handsomeinpink.com). We are an online clothes store all about combatting the stereotype of pink and redefining it as a rough and tumble color!

Liz Mc 25 September 2011 at 12:18 said...

Love this article. Pink is a great colour in all it's forms (for boys and girls) but the pastel (Disney) pink does feel like a stereotype and many Mum friends of mine really hate it. I've dressed Lucie in it lots of times though, in fact on Wednesday last week she wore it head to toe.


I find it interesting that blue doesn't get as much hatred toward it as a 'boys' colour. Yet again the demonstration of inequality?? I don't know. I dress Lucie in pink because it suits her (I also dress her in blue, green, red, stripes, leopard.. etc etc).

I loved Caitlin Moran's book and now intend to buy 'Cinderella ate my Daughter'. Thanks.


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