Monday, 29 February 2016

The Problem With Pink

My son loves Peppa Pig. He's asked for a Peppa Pig birthday party this year, and, since we didn't have a party for him last year, we're planning to do a small thing at our house this year. I did a quick Google search to start hunting down some Peppa Pig party supplies. I found this....

I had no idea that Peppa Pig was considered a "girls" cartoon. I was actually really surprised to see that the party supplies were still divided up by gender. Why is this still a thing? Is it because Peppa Pig is pink? Well, so is her brother. Is it because she's a girl? That argument falls flat because I know plenty of little girls who love Spiderman, sharks, and dinosaurs. Where is the line? When does something become a girls cartoon or a boys cartoon? (And I did check, there are no Peppa Pig Party Supplies in the Boys Party Theme section).

Herein lies the problem with pink. Somewhere along the way, marketing experts decided pink is a "girl" colour.

I say "somewhere along the way" because it wasn't always like this. For hundreds of years, in European and Western cultures, boys and girls both wore white or other simple colours. And boys and girls often both wore dresses until the age of 6.

Future American President Franklin Roosevelt in 1884. (image credit

As department stores became popular, they started suggesting that boys wear one colour and girls wear another. In fact, initially boys were told to wear pink and girls were told to wear blue.

"The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl"
Earnshaw's Infants' Department - June 1918

The blue/pink debate for boys and girls switched back and forth a bit between different stores. They couldn't agree on their marketing at all. Check out this chart based on a Time Magazine article from November 11, 1927:

Eventually, they settled on pink for girls and the rest seems to be history. But it shouldn't be. Where we've landed in the history of pink and blue for boys and girls has clearly nothing to actually do with gender.

Pink, blue, yellow, green with sparkles...Who cares? Why do these people still care? It's beyond time to move on with this. Target took a big step in the right direction when they chose to no longer label toys by gender. And Quirkie Kids is one of my favourite online stores because of their super cool gender-neutral shirts. Sebastian has the pink dinosaur one, and he loves it.

So, we need to keep thinking about pink, and the history of pink, and how we're making boys feel who love pink. I feel grateful that Sebastian will have no idea that his birthday party supplies came from the "girls" party section, because I do not want him to feel self-conscious about something he enjoys. And as his parents, we will continue to teach him acceptance and love in all of its beautiful colours.


Wikipedia - Pink, Time Magazine, The Washington Post

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