Pink, or my rant against the gender assimilation of children

I hate pink. Despise pink. The colour. I have nothing against the singer – she’s lovely. The root of my hatred may go back to the solid fuchsia track suit of my early childhood (thanks, mom!), but I also have an ethical bone to pick with the colour pink.

If you walk into any toy store you will immediately notice a strict colour divide. As you know, pink is for girls. So if you are a toy manufacturer and you have an idea for a girls’ toy, make it pink. with a hint of mauve – not a strong purple, but a soft version would be acceptable. No need to consider any other colour in the spectrum. All other colours are for boys.

And this is a problem because only a small spectrum of toys are deemed “girls’ toys”. All other toys are for boys. So if it is a doll, a house or any part thereof, or a fairy/princess, it will be pink. And a girl who wanders into the toy store heads straight for the pink aisles, where they have a choice between a ridiculous amount of dolls and accessories, houses and accessories, and even fairies/princesses and accessories. And then they come to the middle aisle where the colour changes and they know that these toys are not for them. Because they are not pink. And a boy would never dream of wandering into the aisles of pink – we do not want our boys to play with dolls. That would be terrible, and we must make it very clear that dolls are not for them.

Even at my favorite second hand store, the toy section is divided in two, helpfully labelled “girls’ toys” and “boys’ toys”. But you can tell which one is for girls, because only pink (and mauve) toys are on that shelf. And the boys’ toys includes everything else. Now, there are only two small shelves of toys in the story. It would not be overly strenuous for the shopper if they were all mixed together and the shopper had to look through all of the toys. It may actually be helpful – what do you get for the girl who has everything? A boys’ toy.

So, here is my question to you: if we mix it all up and use all colours for all toys and just put them on the shelves, maybe grouped thematically or alphabetically, what would happen?

Because here’s the thing: my 3 year old son loves trucks, LOVES THEM. And when people see him playing with trucks, they often comment on how much of a boy he is, as if he could be anything else. But he also loves fairies and princesses, dolls, and tap shoes. And pink.

And his 3 year old friend across the street, she loves her dolls. LOVES THEM. But she also loves cars and trucks, castles and blocks. And her favorite pajamas are not the pink Dora jammies, they are the black ones with bones on them.

There are differences between girls and boys. I do agree with that. But if we truly believe that boys and girls are so completely different, why do we need to try so hard to make sure boys do boy things and girls do girl things? Why can’t we make cool toys and put them on a shelf and let each child decide for themselves?

Why do I want to start a Riot?

The world is going to implode.

Either through climate change brought on by the burning of fossil fuels, or through civil unrest caused by social inequality and injustice. Or though some as yet unknown blunder created by the human race. Whatever the case, I’d say we have 50, maybe 100 years left. So, being a naive, middle class kid from the suburbs who was told she could do anything she wanted, I thought, I want to change the world.

First, I tried conscientious objection. I became a vegetarian and I eschewed the material in favor of the re-purposed and the second hand. I traveled around the world  to learn about other ways to live and made conscious choices in place of my previous blind faith. But, with the other 7 or so billion people in the world, that didn’t really make much of an impact.

So then I tried to change the system from within. I did my MBA and then consulted for non-profits about social entrepreneurship and venture philanthropy and other business ideas I thought might shake up the capitalist hegemony. But even that didn’t really do much. I’m still a vegetarian with a house full of ‘vintage charm’ and I’ve met a huge heapful of insightful and energetic people running really cool organizations (I’ll be blogging about them later) with tons of super-creative plans for how to make the world a better place. If only people would listen.

Which brings me to my next plan. I’m adding my voice to the cacophony of noise on the internet in the hopes of starting a riot. I figure if enough people start talking really loudly about making the world a better place, sharing everything we know and don’t know, that sooner or later people might start listening, and together we could write a new ending. My research is, after all, about the power of stories for social change…