Wow – what a month!

It’s hard to know where to begin really. After a year and a half of thinking, developing and working on our ideas, last December Pinkstinks decided to trial run a ‘campaign-within-a-campaign’ to see whether there was an appetite for the issues we raise. The ‘Early Learning Emergency’ was born. Four weeks later we have had coverage in more than 40 countries around the world and spoken on national TV and radio as well as in print interviews. We’ve had 50,000 hits on the website, thousands of emails from around the globe, we have nearly 10,000 members on Facebook and 1,400 followers on Twitter. In short, it has been amazing.

It’s been a very steep learning curve but ultimately a really positive journey. Yes there’s been criticism, when you challenge something so ubiquitous and normalised there is bound to be. But on a positive note, we’ve had support from some great writers and commentators on the ‘childhood experience’, including Ed Mayo (Consumer Kids – How big business is grooming our children for profit) and Sue Palmer (Toxic Childhood), as well as most importantly, the support from all of you.

What this campaign has made crystal clear is the enormous need to discuss these issues. Every day we read more on related subjects and issues. This week is no exception, with a piece in the Guardian ‘Backlash over plan to extend TV advertising’ with ministers, teachers and medical groups attacking new proposals to allow product placement on our TV screens. John Bangs from the NUT is quoted as saying: “It’s very sad that having previously resisted product placement the government has now done a U-turn. There are enough commercial pressures on children and young people without TV adding to that.”

And a couple of weeks ago, just after the launch of the ‘Early Learning Emergency’, we learned that companies now spend an astonishing £100bn on advertising to children compared to £14bn a decade ago. That’s nearly £10bn more every single year. This shocking figure, I hasten to add, is NOT a worldwide one, this is in the UK alone. If you doubt the power of advertising, and assume your children make all their own choices, then think again. The money wouldn’t be spent if advertising didn’t work.

So where does Pinkstinks fit into all this? Well put simply, we want to question these influences. We are not scientists, we can’t give hard figures and facts. But what we can do is to talk with parents, grandparents, concerned citizens and of course children, about the messages that are being perpetuated and peddled and the stereotypes that are being reinforced and strengthened. Beauty tables for three year olds, pink globes, high heels for babies and perfume for toddlers? Where will it end? And what are our children learning from these products and their messages? We can also talk to our children, read up on the issues and put pressure on the retailers and manufacturers. We know that there is concern, we’ve heard from so many of you, so we must put it into action.

We have always wanted to offer girls an alternative to all this ‘princess-sparkle- make-up-body-image-pop-star-fantasy-world’ and we will be working hard on our project in the coming year. This will be our site for children, where they can access content about ‘real role models’ – women who have achieved great things, small triumphs and new discoveries, sporting heroes or the dinner lady next door. All these women will look different, have different notions of fulfilment and be diverse in all ways, except one – that they can inspire and enthuse our children. Our first film is almost ready, featuring Isa Guha from the triumphant World Cup-winning England Women’s cricket team, and using money raised this Christmas we will be soon be making the next one.

So, I suppose Pinkstinks is about standing up for what we believe in, collaborating as much as we can with others, getting practical in making and publicising the solutions and of course, convincing the haters we are right! Our role models will be held up for girls and boys to celebrate and learn from – after all, boys are just as much in need of these role models as girls. When my sons watch the England women’s team play football on TV, they haven’t yet learned the derision and disparagement so commonly aimed at our female sports stars. Pinkstinks wants a world where they will never learn it – a world where their achievements are seen as equal to that of the men. And where boys and men will respect them for it.

This next month or two will be important for us. We know we have to clarify some of our messaging and capitalise on and harness the support you have given us and which we are so grateful for. And we will be asking for all your help again soon. By the end of January we will have come up with some easy ways for you all to spread the word and take action. Watch this space.

It’s going to be a great year.



12 responses to “Wow – what a month!

  1. Keep Going! This is a fantastic campaign which casued alot of discussion over Christmas amoungst my family! I’m a Middle School Principal and a father of a two year old girl who believes passionately that girls should be given the same chances and choices as boys in life. Really excited about the idea too and very keen to learn more. I have given subsciptions to a great magazine called New Moon for girls to my nieces for Christmas ( check it out.

  2. Hi Abi
    Great to hear the news. I just wanted to draw this to your attention: it’s a concrete example, with picture, of the harmful attitudes behind the forcefeeding of pink to girls.

    It comes from the excellent Pharyngula blog by PZ Myers:

    I quote:

    “Here’s another odd pink phenomenon. This is a page from a Toys ‘R Us catalog, illustrating some science toys, and note the odd distinctions being made. Both the telescope and the microscope come in special pink versions, just for the girl who is apparently more interested in getting an instrument that matches her nail polish than being functional, and note also (you may have to click through to see the larger image) that in every case the pink model is less powerful than the black and gray model.

    There is a message being sent here. Being feminine, being girly, means you belong in a separate category in the science world, and it’s a category that needs less utility and more concern about appearances. “

  3. Love the idea of going anti-pink. Right on!

  4. My friend posted a link on Facebook to a Guardian article about pinkstinks. She did so because she was inspired by my 6-year-old son’s audacity to wear a pink scarf to school the other day, only to be reduced to tears by teasing within minutes of getting to school. Sad thing is: I could see it coming, even tried to steer him toward wearing a different scarf (without saying “kids will make fun of you b/c this scarf has pink in it”) knowing what he was setting himself up for. The brave part came the next day when he donned the offending scarf again, “because there are no boy colors and there are no girl colors.” It’s clear, though, that the “cool” has gone out of the scarf for him, and now it is problematic because he associates it with those hurt feelings. He loved it because it had stripes that made him feel Dr. Who-ish. The boys in his class only saw the “girly” pink of the stripes. Another point to keep in mind with your campaign is not just what the pinkification of girls does to girls, but what it does to boys. It makes pink off-limits to boys.

    • Go your son!

      And Dr Who was never afraid to look ‘silly’ as long as he had his companions in adventure.

      There are these light scarves, and then there are the feathery ones, and then the heavy wintery ones.

  5. HI Abi
    I have 2 girls aged 3.5 and 2. This year was the first year i had to go out to do proper xmas shopping for toys (first year santa was understood). I went to the usual suspects and came home nearly crying with the crap I felt forced to buy. I got them some ‘boys’ toys as well but the whole experience totally opened my eyes. I then read the Guardian article re your campaign and felt totally lifted that others felt the same. I grew up in the 70’s and we had action men and lego to play with and the odd doll – none of this pink fairy stuff. I am just dreading the hannah Montana stage. Yesterday I saw pink glue (pritt stick) in Tesco’s. Help! please keep going!

    • Pink glue stick!

      What were these people thinking?

      In the very first scene of Toy Story 3 (trailer) there were these green Action Men. (I didn’t think they were a gender per se, unlike, say, GI Joe/Jane).

  6. Hello! I am Brazilian, and I have a blog about the variety of issues that concern all new feminist and reflexive mothers. I’ve just loved this campaign, and put a link for the site in the sidebar of my blog, ok?

    So, I just want to say: keep going! Keep going!

    See you!

  7. I look forward to seeing and spreading the revised message. I started following in advance of the birth of my first child, who was (to my joy!) a girl; I admit that I had a bias towards having a daughter rather than a son. 😉

    Well, she’s nearly a month old now, and quelle surprise – family members finding out we’ve had a daughter has caused a trickle of pink to start in from both sides of the pond. I can only hope that campaigns such as this one can stem that before it becomes a flood that drowns her poor little life. 😦

  8. My son was a fan of pink for years –

    He’s not so keen now he’s reached the grand age of 10. But when he took part in a fancy dress Fun Run he wore his sister’s fairy outfit (pink, of course) and didn’t care what his school friends thought.

    And he often tells his friends there’s no such thing as “boy colours” and “girl colours”.

    Not sure they believe him though.

  9. Well done for continuing your campaign and for offering a much -needed positive direction for parents and children.

    A recent article in the Nottingham Evening Post proves, I think, just how necessary Pink Stinks is. I’ve blogged about it and linked to your site. Hope you don’t mind.

  10. I can’t help thinking that part of the reason we’re drowning in a sea of pink plastic comes down to basic human nature. Little girls overdose on pink princessy things because there’s something in them that gives them pleasure. Grown-ups overdose on junk-food for the same reasons. It might be bad for us, but damn it tastes nice! Ditto alcohol and tobacco. It’s hard for commercial pressure alone to persuade people to buy things for which don’t chime with their own inner cravings – which is why decades of Popeye never did anything to make kids like spinach. For all that we live in the modern world we are a species of animal that evolved for a hunter-gatherer lifestyle on the savannahs. We have a mild inbuilt sexual dimorphism – which is to say, boys and girls are just born different. There are big areas of overlap, but boys, by nature, tend to grow up to have a greater muscle mass and, through the influence of testosterone, higher levels of physical agression. And when young they tend to be more drawn to things that, in the wild, would make them better hunters. Whereas girls tend to be drawn towards things that make them better gatherers and nurturers. And this is why businesses find it so easy to push natural tendencies to excess, overdosing boys on Transformers and toy soldiers, and girls on pretty pink princess things.
    None of this is to say that boys and girls shouldn’t have equality of opportunity in life – but it is to say that part of the reason for the way the world is comes down to the way we all are, and it’s something that is unlikely to change, except over evolutionary time.

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