I can’t pinpoint exactly when Americans felt the necessity to dress their daughters up like Easter baskets with ribbons and ruffles and sparkles and bows in order to prove they were girls, but I can say that as a child born in 1976, those things were generally reserved for special occasions, and there are plenty of photos of me and my three older sisters wearing earth tones and primary colors, and even [gasp!] blue without any flowers or frilly things with it! If you know me well, then you know that I hate the color pink. As one might imagine given today’s society, this became somewhat problematic once I had a daughter. While there are a few muted shades I can tolerate, especially when sprinkled in with other colors, I usually find myself shuttering, and ultimately fleeing from the girls section in clothing stores. Particularly the shoe department – apparently no girl can be without a bedazzled flower, rainbow, or glitter on her already pink shoes.
Don’t get me wrong, I see plenty of little cutie pie girls dolled up in pink floral dresses and I find them absolutely adorable! I have no problem with other parents choosing to dress their children this way, because that is absolutely their own decision and far from my business to judge. Worrying about how others dress their children is not something I see as a valuable way to spend my time. However, when it comes to my own daughter, something about the whole thing makes me cringe. I dread the day when she will be old enough to choose the things she wants to wear. The day when she will start to submit to marketing, peer pressure and social paradigms. She is only 19 months old, and I’m already struggling to devise a way to somehow protect her from this oversimplified “genderfication,” as I personally like to call it. Even if I can limit her exposure at home to television and Disney princesses, how can I stop it from seeping in through friends at school, sleepovers, etc… without keeping my child in a bubble or making her an outcast?
It is infuriating to say the least, because there is something far greater going on than simply dressing girls in pink. The notion that girls are only meant to be pretty little princesses has far reaching implications, and marketing, media and society all seem to be on board with the plan. But whether or not immersing my daughter in a sparkle covered pink world of Barbies and princesses will have an adverse impact on her life is a topic for another post. My intention is to focus on the color divide that has evolved around our children. It truly baffles me.
Prior to last month’s addition of yellow, somewhat feminine looking eyeglasses, I can probably count on one hand the number of times strangers referred to my daughter as a girl. Even if she was wearing hints of pink, the response given far too often after it was revealed that she was not a boy was, “You need more pink.” You need more pink? What does that even mean? I have to dress my daughter monochromatically because you are incapable of uttering an extra sentence to inquire about the sex of my baby? These people always acted as if I had her dressed head to toe in baby blue, and it was obviously all my fault for leading them astray. When in actuality, my means of trickery usually consisted of her being dressed in earth tones, primary colors, or even pastel yellows and greens. My favorite incident occured when she was wearing the rainbow, puffy sleeved onesie pictured below. She was pulled out of a blue baby carrier, and my other baby gear is either indigo blue or earth tones. It made me question whether baby gear colors trump clothing in shaping people's perception of gender. I was unaware that I had to extend the pink rule to my baby gear as well. In the end, I was always more irritated by the foolish color related comments than the fact that they mixed up her sex.
What struck me about the whole thing was that apparently baby boys are permitted to wear ALL but one or two colors, whereas girls are strictly limited to pink, and I suppose by close relation purple. When did this happen? I realize it’s been going on for some time now, but it only seems to be getting worse. The few commercials I have managed to catch that are aimed at young girls practically make my head spin Exorcist style. There’s usually a few girls playing in a bedroom, EVERYTHING in the room is pink, and there are sparkles literally flying through the air. What is the reasoning behind this? Is our society so hell bent on instilling female gender roles from infancy onward, that from day one we have to blanket their entire world in the one color that is associated with women? Will they not know that they are girls if every single thing they own, from school supplies to dishes, isn't pink or purple? I’m pretty sure if we opened up the spectrum a bit, girls would still play with dolls and adhere to all the other parameters of their “genderfication.”
For the record, I’m not against playing with dolls, or many other things typically associated with girls. The division of labor in my home could not be more stereotypically assigned, with me doing the cooking, cleaning, laundry, sewing and daytime child rearing as a stay at home mom. I adore fulfilling that role and wouldn’t have it any other way. I think doll play instills nurturing abilities, and pretending to be a princess is wonderful exercise for the imagination. However, my daughter also plays with cars (which she loves!) among other things, and even at this early age is showing signs of becoming what some may consider a tomboy. I just wish that everything for girls wasn’t color coded, and especially in the case of toys, that pink girly things weren’t the ONLY things marketed towards them. Sadly, with media variations expanding by the second, hand in hand with new means of bombarding these images and products at the brains of our impressionable daughters, I only see this problem getting worse. As a result, chances are my daughter’s favorite color will be pink. If that’s the case – so be it, as long as it makes her happy.