Today an article discussing the “pinkification” of toys and products for girls appeared on Stuff.co.nz, and actually did a good job of articulating why the all-pink “toys for girls” aisles of toy stores are problematic. I was especially pleased that they mentioned, as an example, the release of the pinked-up versions of Jenga (“Not only are the Jenga blocks pink, but each features a different question such as, “If you had one wish, what would you wish for? or “Who do you have a crush on right now?”) and Monopoly; over the Christmas holidays I was browsing the games section of The Warehouse and was totally appalled to see Twister Pink: “a girlish twist on a classic game” . Appalled because Twister is already a gender-neutral game, people! This description talks about how “all of the traditional primary colors have been replaced with pinks and fun patterns”; I had no idea that primary colours were the fucking death knell of sales to girls and women. Twister does not need a twist; the classic game is already fine for boys and girls. It doesn’t need to come in a furry pink shoulder bag –“perfect for taking to sleepovers!- for it to be “girl-friendly”. To this some people might say “but hey, some girls love pink and glitter and funky patterns, so why not attempt to tap into that demographic and catch their eye, thus upping sales?”. Well, some girls might like cute lil’ animals, and there’s no animal themed Twister. Some boys might like cars and trucks and rugged grunty stuff with flames and skulls (y’know, “boy stuff”) but there isn’t a version of Twister that comes in a camo-print bag with studs and flames and maybe a giant monster truck on the front. Actually, I think a boy version would come with a mini leather briefcase to remind boys that they will one day grow up and enter the workforce and bring home the bacon. The fact that there isn’t any special effort made to create a boy-targeted version to aim for that demographic of buyers suggests that the original version is the one that is ok for boys; the default is for males, and a special version is made for females.
The reason this pinkification of toys and games is problematic is because toys and games don’t need to be pink to be good. And the reason that they “need” to be pink to appeal to girls is because we have taught girls that this is what girls like. Girls aren’t born preferring the pink version of a toy to another version, this is something girls are conditioned to do through repeated exposure to message about what girls want, what girls like, and what is considered to be a “girls toy” or a “boys toy”. And, as the article on Stuff said, the reason that this is a problem is because it forces girls down a certain path they didn’t necessarily choose: there is a right way to be a girl, and this is the way to do it, and deviation from these rigid norms is bad and abnormal and wrong. As it is put in the article,
“We’re imposing stereotypes from the word go and that doesn’t really free us up to choose whatever our self-expression wants to be, whether it’s to muck around in the dirt, climb trees, pretend to be an artist, whatever.”
So to all the commenters on Stuff who have missed the point of the article (surprise, surprise…) and said “girls just naturally like pink, so who cares? It isn’t sexist, it’s human!” or “why are you saying it’s bad for a girl to like pink?!?!?!11!” or “who cares if girls like pink???” or “I loved pink growing up and I turned out just fine!”: none of that is anywhere near the point. Nobody is saying it’s bad for a girl to like pink; what is being said is that it’s bad for girls to be conditioned (trained, essentially) to like pink based on social and cultural stereotypes about what is normal for boys and normal for girls. I’m not anti-pink, I’m anti the idea that pink is a girls colour and blue is a boys colour or the idea that girls can play with dolls but boys can’t. Not that people can’t CHOOSE pink or dolls, but that we shouldn’t be systemically limiting choices to the point that people aren’t actually choosing at all but are really being told what to do. If you have a daughter who loves pink, fine. But conditioning a girl from birth with baby stilettos and all-pink wardrobes, or conditioning a boy with “boys don’t wear pink” or “dolls are for girls”, isn’t ok, and it certainly isn’t choice.