Three wheels good

It may seem trivial, but it isn’t. I was pleased, as were friends of mine, to see that at last those three-wheel scooters – if you are a parent of a 2-6 year old, you’ll know which ones I mean – are available in colours other than blue and pink. I know so many mums and dads, who are in a total quandry about which colour to get for their girls. This because they simply don’t want a pink one or have already got a daughter with a pink one and they want one which is different, but not blue. Because blue gives a message as well. How on Earth did these colours get loaded with so much meaning, that we’re worrying about this nonsense? And where did all the choice go?

We’ve been eagerly reading some correspondence that a woman called Christine Emily Campbell has been having with the Early Learning Centre (ELC). She is creator of the Facebook group ‘Construction toys are for girls too‘, and has been in dialogue with the them about their blatant, stereotypical genderisation of all things in store. This now happens to the ridiculous point that the globe itself – yes the entire world – has gone pink for girls.

What does a pink globe teach girls which a blue and green one can't?

What does a pink globe teach girls which a blue and green one can't?

The ELC have responded saying that there exists all sorts of ‘scientific proof’ as to why it is that girls like pink. They say:

“According to child psychologists, research now shows that gender is a major factor in determining children’s colour preferences, with most boys typically preferring blue and girls preferring pink from infancy. To meet the needs of these colour preferences and to ensure children are given a choice, Early Learning Centre are offering limited products in both blue and pink variations.”

They go on to say:

“… the freedom [for children] to make their own colour choices plays a major role in enhancing their development”

Choice? What choice? Frankly, we just don’t buy it. And I mean that literally, as well as figuratively speaking.

I point you in the direction of the girl in the 80’s Lego ad, and only wish that this beautiful image wasn’t so startling and

When girls were girls!

When girls were girls!

shocking. It’s because of its lack of pinkness that I just can’t take my eyes off it! We’ve become so brainwashed into believing that all this is ‘natural’, that when we see an image like this, it’s somehow bizarre. And yet it’s what we all looked like as kids in the 70s and no-one thought we ‘weren’t girls’. No-one thought we had to be dripping in pink to express ourselves, but most importantly we had a choice.

ELC claim that girls naturally prefer pink (take a look at the Wikipedia entry on the colour Pink – specifically Pink and gender), but it’s no wonder they ‘choose’ pink and only pink, because there is no other choice except for blue. And no girl wants to be called a boy. This illusion of choice is extremely convenient for the corporations marketing stuff to our kids. Trivial it may seem but there’s mega bucks being made here.

Interestingly enough, you’ll pay a premium for a non pink or non blue scooter – a whopping 10 quid extra – but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Because at least it’s a choice.

Abi & Emma at nursery in the 70s

Abi & Emma at nursery in the 70s

You pay a ten pound premium for a yellow one!

You pay a ten pound premium for a yellow one!

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23 responses to “Three wheels good

  1. Great article! It’s truly shocking that the ELC is unashamedly putting out such nonsense. How on earth can infants be born with gendered colour preferences? Presumably our genetics have changed over time then, since it wasn’t that long ago that boys were associated with red and girls with blue. Poppycock.

  2. Well I’ve been the ELC today and if they think that what they are offering is a limited number of products in pink and blue then they really must think we are completely stupid. The Let’s Pretend ‘Dreamy dressing table’ was a particularly vile example. Above this was the styling head and a vanity case with real make up in it. Teaching girls … that the only thing they need worry about is what they look like. VILE VILE VILE.

    Oh, also saw the pink globe in all its glory. Took lots of pics. I’ll post them up.

  3. Thanks for the mention in the article!
    ELC still haven’t got back to me about _what_ this research is – they’ve gone strangely quiet about who their child psychologist are and what published papers they’re quoting….
    I love that Lego ad, wish we saw photos like this in marketing nowadays.

  4. I am quite moved by the old 70’s lego advert with the little girl. It just seems so bonkers for that to be a relic of the past and for us to be in this pink-tinted sparkly world of Princess instead.

  5. I, myself, never liked it and never taught my girls that pink is a girl colour but still they like it. My girls have swords, globes, they pretend to be whatever they want (even princes). Nowdays girls achieve better than boys in schools, it depends on the parents, not on the highstreets. This days boys wear pink shirts and clothes, what are they going to say about it???? I think they are making a issue where there is none. I was thinking to buy a “braintrainer” and it doesn’t come in pink and if it did the software wouldn’t be different, anyway I just don’t care, YOU are allowed to buy whatever you want regardless of it’s colour and whether is for your girl or boy. I PERSONALLY don’t teach my girls “that that’s only for boys!!!”
    For those girls who DO like pink: do not worry….only a silly person will grade your IQ based on the colour you like.
    I think is great that some people has the energy to do campaigns like this but there are issues more important, there is a war going on, people dying, children in need….take your pick. Ah! in the Poundland I have found some good books with no princesses or pink stuff….and LOTS of children who do not have money for toys pink or not.

  6. Growing up with a brother (I am female), we both had access to all kinds of toys. All my parents cared was that we played together without fighting or aggression. We did most of the time. I remember the most fun was the rollplaying we did. Usually reinacting the wester movies that were popular. (We would pretend we were pioneers trying to survive and canoing on a stream. What is more important are the roll models, movies we are exposed to and expectations we grow up with. Also, the opportunities afforded to us were important. As a woman, it is nice to be “feminine” but to be treated like an object is humiliating.

  7. Can you put up more links to scientific studies examing the effects of pink on psychological development of girls (or boys). Im not aware of any research that supports your claim the pink is harmful to girls…..

  8. Please put up more links to scientific studies examing the effects of pink on psychological development of girls (or boys). Im not aware of any research that supports your claim the pink is harmful to girls…..

  9. Frankly i think you are all dotty..Pink is a cheerful colour .A preferance for that colour will make no difference to a girl child at all.You should concentrate your efforts to address much more serious issues like the way poor white working class boys are being failed in education and society in general.

  10. I find the pinking of girls offensive, but what I find even more offensive is what comes with the pinking: the fact that the clothes and shoes for girls tend to be less well-made than those for boys, inviting girls to get less physical exercise.

    Look at Clarks shoes: they’ve got great shoes for boys that allow them to run, climb and get muddy and no genuine alternative for girls. My daughter’s got extra-wide feet (i.e. feet we are refusing to squeeze into shoes that are too narrow) and there’s only one pair of school shoes for girls they do in that size, and they’ve got to be ordered in, to boot. If that pair doesn’t fit, or isn’t warm enough, that’s tough, as far as Clarks is concerned. I’ve now convinced my girl that the pair of football boots she’s got is gender neutral and that there’s only one type of winter school shoe that elegant girls with a desire for warm feet will wear and that for some reason that elegant shoe can only be got from the boys’ section. She’s still climbing trees and jumping through puddles, but I’m wondering for how much longer I can make her accept footwear that is clearly marketed for boys.

    The same, by the way, is true of winter coats and school uniform trousers for girls: they seem designed to be incompatible with running around outdoors and climbing.

    Things don’t get better in summer: have you ever noticed that girls’ sandals have thin or hard learther straps (actually, often not leather but man-made straps) and slippery soles with no grip whereas boys’ sandals have padded leather straps and have lots of grip?

    No wonder girls are less physically agile in this country than boys: their clothes stop them from moving around.

  11. Another thought on the pink/blue issue… it’s an easy way to double sales of non-gender toys like bikes and scooters. If you have already bought a pink bike for your older daughter, there’s no way you’ll be able to persuade your younger son to use it. Hey presto, time to buy another one in a “suitable” boy’s colour. It works the other way round too, to a lesser extent. Try finding a jacket in a unisex colour – by the time you’ve ruled out pink, purple, and the grungy ‘boy’ colours, which incidentally are a nightmare from a road safety point of view, there’s very few out there.

    Pleased to join your campaign. Good luck!

  12. you seriously need to get out more – there are more shops than the ELC and there always have been plenty of colour options for scooters.

    Incidentally where is the research that girls self esteem is at its lowest point ever? I find that difficult to believe so I’d like to see what it’s based on.

  13. This is absolutely absurd. The very idea that little girls dressing in pink and playing with typically ‘girlie’ or pink toys will result in them being conditioned to care about nothing but their physical appearance and growing up with no substance, so to speak. I grew up in the 90s playing with dolls and Barbies, dressing in pink and generally steering clear of most things ‘masculine’, I am currently studying at university, and do not feel pressured to be obsessed by my appearance, so apparently it has had no adverse affect on me. Surely people cannot be expected to avoid toys for their daughters just because of the colour of it, ‘sorry darling, you can’t possibly have the princess doll you wanted for your birthday because I don’t agree with the sentiments it conveys, and I believe you will grow up to be thought of as only a thoughtless object for our patriarchal society’. The only people who need to change their attitudes are these bizarre campaigners.

  14. I understand that there is a lot of pink in shops but it doesn’t mean you have to BAN it completely! I think they should have all the colours of the rainbow (pink included). Pink is a female colour. It’s the colour of peonies and cherry blossom and roses. Your worried about girls becoming WAGs and stripped models. Have you noticed the way most boys collect slam attacks cards with immodest men and watch violence. Many boys practically worship football and want to be footballers when they grow up. A footballer kicks a ball around and shoots goals yet get paid more than people who save lives such as firemen and doctors. Aren’t you worried about that as well? Don’t ban pink just celebrate more colours.

  15. I can’t believe this! I loved pink as a young girl growing up with a pink bedroom and playing with barbies. My parents weren’t that keen on forcing me into this ‘pink world’ but I made sure that my brother would give me pink stuff for my birthdays.
    I still like (actually love) pink and I don’t think it had any influence on my professional career or personal development. At the moment I am doing a PhD within Immunology and live abroad. If anyone wants to think that I believe in a ‘princess world’, this person should do a PhD him/herself, there is nothing princess about that.
    I would like to see some research done on this subject because I don’t believe there is some real conclusion about this. I have many friends who grew up with pink and are now lawyers, accountants, scientists etc etc. They get well paid, buy houses and don’t have to rely on guys in that kind of way.
    If girls like pink they should be able to like it and not be under the influence of feminists who think that girls should behave like boys and otherwise they will end up in the kitchen??
    I can’t stand it when people suggest that I should be completely the opposite from what I am based on the way I grew up. I am an example of the opposite and please pay attention to those people as well. Don’t buy that pink stuff if you don’t like it but don’t blame others when they like to buy it.

  16. Catherine, there is much to worry about, including the way “poor (delete white) working class boys are being failed in education and society in general”.

    It is a problem across all races and cultures, not just for white boys.

    Kelli, Possibly the issue is with the specific colour branding directed at girls these days. Obviously this campaign does nor hate the colour pink, as anyone who reads the campaign write up can garner, the issue here is the sudden and provocative switch amongst child focused companies to ‘gender brand’. Almost certainly this is riding on the back of a consumer wave which cannot see the irony of ‘Princesses on board’ stickers and focuses on celebrities as primary female role models.

    It is entirely commercial in that it insists on duplication of toys in families with both children of both genders, for as we all now know, what boy is going to ride a pink bike?

    It is insidious and frightening because women similar to you who were brought up to make choices cannot see how the colour pink can be a marker for a bigger problem and so you laugh off the campaign. Yes of course we wore pink and had Barbie, but we did not have gender branded objects like pink globes, or pink musical instruments. Most of those things just were. They were green or red or whatever, but not ‘for’ boys and ‘for’ girls. It’s so obviously a commercial ploy to get peole to buy more!

    Now for the 7,8, 9 years olds there are few choices and limited options these days. Even Hannah Montana, a bastion of personal freedom and ‘clever swot’ versus ‘celebrity’ life does not make her own choices. Hannah never gets to choose in fact. Other people all make the choices for her.

    So what is the harm in a pink globe? It’s not the pink, clearly that is the problem. It’s what it represents, and why the girls want it. Why do they want a pink globe? I didn’t, you didn’t. Globes, as we all used to know were not gender biased. So why, all of a sudden in the last few year have they become gender branded and specifically targeted?

    I think this campaign exists to ask why this is happening. Why pink globes and magnetic letters reading ‘hairdresser’ for girls whilst the boys have blue and ‘Astronaut’? Why are boys shoes (as the previous commenter identified) so much more biased towards activity and the girls have strappy straps and silly soles? If we want our female children to grow up with a healthy attitude and a feeling of personal freedom with regard to gender job roles I think we all need to be questioning the companies who have begun to make ungendered things gender branded.

    All women everywhere should be supporting this I think. I don’t see why anyone would want to knock it.

  17. I agree about Hannah Montana but thats not to do with pink. Its to do with girls picking the wrong role models. Pink rocks, its a feel good colour.

  18. I have read your argument carefully and now understand your reasons for this campaign. But perhaps you should give it a different approach. The title Pinkstinks is making people angry and judging your campaign by the name. Many girls are becoming self obsessed with their looks by the style of the clothing that is out there (immodest) and the teenage superstars that they are forced to look up to.
    Remember pink is a feminine colour and naturally popular with girls.

  19. And while we’re at it, why do boys have to wear such dull, dull colours? There seems to be some kind of conspiracy to get them into camouflage gear. I don’t really want my boy to be camouflaged – I like to be able to see him from a distance – for obvious reasons – but it’s almost impossible to find bright colours for boys.

    There is a difference between the personal and the political. An individual may feel personally liberated by choosing something that is politically oppressive – like the burkha, or appearing topless in a magazine.

    My daughter loves pink (though she is fussy about the shade), and that’s fine, but I worry about the role models she is presented with. I particularly loathe the Disney princesses, who seem to spend all their time making cakes and choosing dresses and waiting for their prince to come back from “royal business”. I only hope that my example of frazzled working mum-hood will be inspirational!

  20. I always wear boys shoes. I have extreamly wide feet (two toes on each foot are bent) so I never fit into girls shoes. I also like climbing trees, walking a lot, playing football ect. I want to study biology and palientolgy or possibly geology. I also love traveling. I went to Rome by train last easter!!

  21. As a mother of a 16-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy I applaud the campaign to raise awareness of the prettification of girls. I ‘m alarmed at the retrograde marketing to girls that is prevalent today. In the mid-nineties toys seemed less gender specific than they are now and when shopping for younger nephews and nieces I have been shocked at the increasing segregation of toy stores into girls and boys areas and the attempt to ‘feminize’ even construction toys like Geomag with ‘appealing’ pastel shades. When my daughter was young she generally preferred blue and was as happy playing with dolls as with train-sets. Girls are not genetically programmed towards pink: it is a 20th century western cultural phenomenon they cannot escape from and seems to have worsened in the past decade (and we had seemed to be getting somewhere post-70s). When shopping for a child the first question vendors ask is “Is it for a boy or a girl?”. My son was fortunate to have all sorts of toys open to him having an older sister. When my baby daughter was dressed in blue people cooed over her in a different way from when she was wearing pink: they seemed to need a visual clue to dictate how to treat her and where flummoxed when they didn’t receive one. However, I am not anti-pink as a colour, only for what it now represents in this commodity obsessed world. My teenage daughter now embraces hot pink in her decor but not in her clothes; she happens to be petite, wants to be a professional dancer, and admires hard-working role models like Darcey Bussell, who need grace and steel in equal measure. She knows how much effort and dedication is required. This is her choice and not something she was guided into because little girls are supposed to like ballet (lucky for all of us that hunky Adam Cooper wasn’t put off ballet). I was a reluctant ‘ballet mum’ but recognised my daughter’s determination and talent; as I would have done if she’d wanted to be a doctor or an engineer. So next time as a parent you say ‘but she is naturally drawn to pink’, think how you reacted if your son liked pink. I’m sure he didn’t though; as soon as he could open his eyes and focus he would have got the message that pink is for girls and that he shouldn’t want the same as these lesser creatures… We all need to be vigilant and not fall into these marketing traps.

  22. I’m not so sure I understand this. Obviously toy manufacturers are going to offer toys in colors that typically sell the most, and if I have a girly girl who loves pink I am getting her this globe, it goes with her room, and will be out all day so she can play with it and learn, and if the color gets her more interested in learning then I love it. My daughter is 3 and started speaking early and at the age of 6 moths would get up and ask for tap shoes, dress and hair bows, and not from me, I wear sweats, jeans…never was girly, never wore make up, but my little girl is a girly girl and I am proud of her for that b/c she chose it, I am responsible for the boys coat she occasionally wears, or the cool boy sneaks that I get her to wear to the park (since she want to wear heels all the time) so if you see a girl dressed to the nines with boy sneaks under the frilly dress that is my kid….and I am not against it…maybe I’m getting this all wrong, but it seems like you think places make her choose pink and be feminine b/c of marketing, well my daughter was not watching tv at 6 months, saw a girl in a dress and loved it for some reason, she saw plent of people wearing jeans but would comment on dresses and shoes from 6 months on, with no influence from me or anyone else. Also I am very firm with everyone to let them know, just b/c shes wearing dresses doesn’t mean she can’t do what she wants in them, she digs for bugs in frilly dresses, she plays with the boys, she rolls in the mud, all dressed up, she is a tomboy in frilly clothes…i love her the way she is!

  23. My daughter is one – and from about the first week of her life people responded to her differently when they knew she was a girl or thought she was a boy (because we preferred bright colours to pastel shades). I hate it and always have. As a dad I get different treatment to her mum doing the same thing, despite that from as soon as I was able I took a completely equal roll in looking after her (bar breast-feeding!). I get concerned, opinionated and mostly wrong advise from women who appear agitated that I am out alone “babysitting” my child (who is often cunningly disguised in a blue dress – that throughs them!).

    Not being a family who have many pink girly friends or a tv so far my girl has found her biggest joys come from music and farm animals (I lasted 7 times in a row on the last farm animal library book before I had to hide it!). I am sure at some time she will have a pink stage and we shall go all out, but I am hoping it only last a few months, and then we can get back to real stuff like dancing and swords and playmobile ambulances… And if I have a son I hope he has a pink stage to – carrying on this fight for the right to BE by picking up the best of everything, including pink – something I had to do from school onwards, despite open and supportive parents. Being straight and yet not into confrontation without cause is a difficult path to stay true to.

    SO (lots of waffle later) – Lets not damn pink so much as big up the full colour spectrum of the freedoms of childhood! Explore and learn – that is the game!

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