Saturday, January 18, 2014

Pink is NOT Just for Girls, and it's NOT the Problem!

A particular Huffington Post article has been making the rounds on my Facebook this week. It's mostly a great article, and it's been bringing a ton of attention to one of my biggest pet peeves, which is awesome. The hook is an adorable Lego ad from 1981:
The article goes on to mourn that we don't have ads like this anymore. And I so agree! I wish we treated girls, and by extension girl toys, as wholly developed things that don't have to be frilly or sparkly or pink in order to be something that girls want. And I wish marketers weren't doing this to the toys of my childhood, as they "modernize" them:

Dolls don't need to be sexier. They don't need to be made skinnier, or given bigger eyes and longer hair and more porcelain skin. Dolls and female characters can be girls without bows and boobs and makeup. I don't know why toy companies are so very insistent that young children believe that all girls want to look like this, or should look like this. I don't know why they want all children to want the same thing! It's infuriating.

Toys should be toys. For kids. Whichever kids want them. We shouldn't be allowing all the toys in our country to be divided up into boy toys and girl toys. It does our children a huge disservice, and it's going to cause problems for us all in about 15 years, when the kids who grew up in this atmosphere are young adults with no concept of gender-neutral.
But the HuffPo article made me pretty angry right off the bat with this line:
The LEGOs are not pink or "made for girls." She isn't even wearing pink.
Aaaarrrggghhh!! Pink isn't the problem! Why does it matter if she's wearing pink, or not wearing pink? Pink is not our enemy. Girls should be able to wear pink if they want to! Why do people, whenever they respond to this kind of problem (and I see it all the time) think that eliminating the pink toys is the solution?

Why is there never any outrage that pink wasn't included in the original Lego set? I dare you to find a gender-neutral toy that includes pink. Or is all pink. It's nearly impossible. I can't dress my son in pink. But I can damn sure find blue clothes and toys meant for girls. Why? Why are we so afraid of pink? Is it because it's associated with feminine, and we are scared of feminine becoming the norm?
We use feminine words as insults all the time:
"You throw like a girl"
"Don't get your panties in a twist"
"Quit being such a pussy"
And we imply that a loss of manhood is the worst thing that could happen to a man:
"Turn in your man card"
"Did someone put your balls in their purse?" 
Jessica Valenti, in Full Frontal Feminism wrote:
“What’s the worst possible thing you can call a woman? Don’t hold back, now.
You’re probably thinking of words like slut, whore, bitch, cunt (I told you not to hold back!), skank. Okay, now, what are the worst things you can call a guy? Fag, girl, bitch, pussy. I’ve even heard the term “mangina.” Notice anything? The worst thing you can call a girl is a girl. The worst thing you can call a guy is a girl. Being a woman is the ultimate insult. Now tell me that’s not royally fucked up.” 
And it's true! Even the majority of our vulgar and insulting words equate to a woman's genitalia! I won't list them, but I'm sure you can think of plenty.

In Chicago several years ago, there was a contest to pick a new color to represent the newest train line. A young girl wrote an essay advocating for the color pink. “Who does not like pink?" she asked. "It’s so bright and lively … if it’s pink people will want to ride it.” The CTA agreed with her, and The Pink Line was born. And with it came outrage on the part of many Chicagoans. From Salon:
A pink train would be humiliating to the good people of Chicago. We are the hardworking, meat-eating, bar-brawling, sports-loving, dirty-politicking, multiple heart attack-surviving hog butcher for the world! We are men, except for the slightly more than half of us who are not! And you expect us to pay good money to ride on something called the “Pink Line”? Why not just put a tutu on the Sears Tower, or fill Soldier Field with tampons, or come to my house and cut my balls off?
 And there, I think, is the real problem. It's not so much that we now offer almost exclusively pink (and purple!) toys to girls. It's that we don't offer them to boys. And by doing so, by leaving pink out of all gender-neutral items, out of all "boy" toys, we are teaching both boys and girls that pink is an other.

That only someone who is less-than will want pink. Pink has been made to represent the underlying hatred our society has for all things feminine, and that sucks. Because I like pink. And I like girly things. And that makes me no less capable than anyone else.

I just wish society would agree with me on that.

***Whoops! Turns out the original title of this blog post was used already by the excellent Bob "MovieBob" Chipman. Here's a link to his great discussion of the same concept: Pink is Not the Problem.

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