Saturday, June 15, 2013

Why does it have to be pink?

Something I've been thinking about a lot lately, particularly because we're having a girl in less than three months, is the gendering of children's toys. When I read this article, it pretty much summed up the great annoyance with stores like Toys R Us or the toy section of Wal-Mart. Why do the aisles & more importantly, the toys themselves, have to be so gender-specific?

Do you remember a time when so-called "girls' toys" (dolls, baby carriers, cooking, etc) came in any colour other than pink? The article has a great visual comparison of how toys have become more gendered in the past four decades. It's bizarre to me that alongside all the strides we've made in gender equality during that time, that toys seem to have returned to the 50s.

This bit from the article really summed it up for me & I have to say, I couldn't agree more:
Let Toys Be Toys believe by making and marketing toys in a more gender neutral way, children will truly have the freedom to develop.

They state: 'This isn’t about political correctness. This is about doing the right thing by our children and giving them a real and varied choice. We believe in equality, but this isn’t about making children the same. It’s about giving children the choice to be individuals.'
Though we seem to be backsliding here, I feel like there's hope. I think parents & grandparents have a lot of power here. We are the ones buying the toys for our children, nieces, nephews & gifts for our kids' friends. We can ask for more colour choices in play kitchens. We can demand baby boy dolls too. We can shop at the stores that don't segregate their toys in this way & support the brands that offer real choice, rather than only pink or blue.

Another easy thing to do? Head over to the Let Toys be Toys website & sign their petition asking toy retailers to stop promoting toys as only for girls or only for boys.

What are your favourite toy stores that DON'T have a pink aisle & a blue aisle? Share them in the comments below!

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  1. I have fallen in love with Dilly Dally on Commercial Drive, they sort things into 'animals' 'things with wheels'. Which makes more sense to me.

    I love Let Toys be Toys. The store catalogue they are comparing is basically the same as Sears here, and where a large proportion of UK kids get their toys. Frightening how much pink has taken hold.

    1. Thanks for providing the context about the store they mention--having spent less than a week in the UK, I don't have a sense of what the stores are like there. :)

      Dilly Dally is good--yes. It seems like it's just the small independent stores that don't really gender their selection. They do carry the pink stuff, but it's not so clearly organized as, "This part of the store is for girls & this part's for boys".

  2. I don't know ...but sometimes I think we overreact about things being pink. It's just a colour. And having one child who is completely obsessed with it, I have to say it makes her happier to have pink things around. But Natalie wants to have purple toys just as strongly as Kira wants pink. In some things, Jonah inisists upon only red because it is his favourite colour.

    We have a toy kitchen that was a hand-me-down admittedly, but it is cream and blue coloured. And the pot set I bought to go with it is red. None of my kids have ever remarked on the colour.

    I guess as my children get older, I care less about the gendered toys. They like to play with what they like. The girls have been exposed to all of Jonah's toys, but they still ask for different things. Everyone likes to play with the garbage truck and concrete truck. And everyone likes the duplo. And the toy food. And the baby strollers and shopping carts.

    When we go to the toy stores, or toy departments, we look in every aisle. Not just the pink ones, or just the black-superhero themed ones.

    1. The issue I have with pink is that it's strongly associated with the feminine in our culture. Boys wearing or using pink things will be considered odd or even bullied for it because it's breaking a gender norm. Pink says that something is FOR girls or women only. Which is dictating how they should play. I am sure that girls even as young as three or four are getting that message.

      For instance, toy strollers are nearly always pink or at least have pink on them somewhere these days. REAL strollers don't--it's an option with some, but the majority are not pink. So why do toy strollers not look more like the real ones?

      I think the 'pinkification' is partly just a marketing tactic to increase sales. If you buy a pink bike for your daughter, you probably won't hand it down to your son, so you'll buy another bike. Or Lego set. Or coat. Just think of all the gendered things you had to buy more of because your children were not all boys or girls.

  3. Yeah, this. Having two girls, I am pretty familiar with the pink thing, pretty used to avoiding those stupid big box stores that divide and conquer the sexes based on colours. Oh and pretty used to having less informed people, people who do not know us well, provide my kids with pink! And say things like "I bet pink is your favourite colour, dear!" sigh. If the parents set a strong example by providing a non-sexist home environment, and providing lots of choice to kids, then it turns out that the occasional pink tutu or baby doll stroller doesn't make a big difference, and by the time they're 5 or 6, they are better able to make good decisions based on what they like rather than what is dictated to them. Those stores drive me crazy though! Especially because the infant pink feeds the preschool pink crap which in turn feeds the barbie pink crap....all while, as you say, we are buying two bikes instead of one for our kids, since there are pretty much no gender-neutral bikes available these days...

  4. This is an old one, unfortunately. Yeah, pink is just a colour (one that was associated with boys, pre-1930, actually), but these days it is shoved down girls' throats, and that bothers me. The worst was when I went into Toys 'R Us to buy that Fisher-Price donut stacker we all grew up with, thinking it would be good for my 1-year-old, who was learning her colours and liked stacking things. Well, I discovered, much to my dismay, that there's a separate, pink, aisle for toddler girls. It has all the same toys as in the normal aisles, but they are all pink. So why is it that a boy is expected to learn red, yellow, blue, green and orange, while a girl is expected to learn fuchsia, mauve, blush, lilac, etc.? That assumption bugged me so much that I refuse to go back to the big behemoth box store (also, my hyper-social daughter, now three, loves blue and hates the pink Friends Legos because they're not Star Wars Legos).

    There are things that a girl, left alone, will gravitate towards (at least mine) -- kitchens and stuffies, mostly. (She's not into dolls, and was into dollhouses for about one week, the week it took for me to buy a big one for her.) But seriously, I object to the assumption that girls won't build unless you make it about pink boxes and "Friends." I'm a marketer, even, and I think this was a facile take on the research Lego had. It wasn't an insight.

    1. I had the exact same thought about the pink/mauve/lilac/fuchsia ring stacker too!

      I think if kids were not given cues (either explicitly or more subtly) about what their gender preferences should be, there would be a lot of boys playing with stuffies & dolls & kitchens & a lot of girls playing with building sets & cars. I think it just depends on the kid & their environment. We tried hard to avoid gender stereotyping with his toys. My son loves his stuffies & sometimes plays with his doll. More often these days, it's vehicles though & when we're out & about he is fascinated with ambulances, police cars, fire trucks, concrete trucks, cranes, etc. He does very much like putting on his apron & pretending to make food for people & plays with his kitchen quite often. So he's kind of a mix of what girls & boys are 'supposed' to like.

      It should be interesting to see what our daughter turns out to like... :)

  5. On the lego friends front (a few small sets have been given to us as gifts), my daughter doesn't build the sets as on the boxes more than once. Then the lego pieces sit in the big tub of assorted lego that we have, and she plays with the little girl lego figurines along with her little people, barbies/princesses, animals, dinosaurs and assorted other small figurines and create elaborate scenes and stories. My husband will sit with her and encourage her and help her to build a house or a castle or whatever she wants to build, then it will stay built forever and used in her dramatic play. The only times she takes it apart is when boys come over and they all get involved building spaceships or swords or whatever. My girls both gravitated towards baby dolls from a ridiculously early age and my little one is still obsessed with pushing around her doll stroller, putting her babies to bed, that sort of thing. The pink outfits are long gone, the babies are naked and kind of pretty grubby, she couldn't care less!

    1. I think the way Lego is marketed has really changed, not just with the gendering of it, but also the focus on very specialized sets. I had only the more general sets when I was little & played with them for hours on end. Lego was my favourite toy from about age four until I was in my teens. I really got into building houses, but it was about the building, not the stories so much. I don't think I even had little people in my set until I was at least 10 or 12. I was kind of the same with my barbies--I do remember making stories with them & dressing them, but I remember a lot of sewing clothes for them & designing homes in the bookshelves for them. Definitely not a girly girl. :)


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