Sunday, 26 October 2014

Pink is a colour


"What's your favourite colour, Eleanor?" I ask.

"Pink," comes the reply.

(Actually, it's 'pint' because she can't pronounce k yet. But if I'd just typed that you'd have thought she'd misheard my question and assumed I was asking about her favourite unit of measurement.)

Anyway, back to the point.

'Favourite' is still a very fluid term for Eleanor so her 'favourite' colour changes on a daily basis. Today it's green. But pink does tend to be the one that comes up most regularly. And that bothers me.

But why does it bother me?

I'm not keen on pink personally. I have a distinct memory of saying my favourite colour was pink when I was little, but not really meaning it - I just thought that's what girls were supposed to say. When I got a bit older and developed more of a sense of self I moved onto green, then blue. (Interestingly, both of these colours are regular contenders for Eleanor's favourite.)

I mean, as colours go it's OK. I even own a few items of pink clothing. And actually it didn't really bother me until after Eleanor was born - her 0-3 months wardrobe was almost exclusively pink and white, mainly because most of her clothes were hand-me-downs or gifts from other people, but we did buy some pink items ourselves. She still has a fair amount of pink in her wardrobe, again by virtue of mostly wearing second hand clothes that came in big cheap bundles so I didn't have the heart (or the cash) to say, "actually, just the non-pink clothes, thanks."



But I often see a lot of resistance to pink, and I totally understand that. It has become synonymous with 'girly', which in turn has become synonymous with 'decorative, focussed on appearance, with a bit of a princess complex'. (I've dealt with my hatred of princesses before, and may one day have a big rant about how exactly 'girly' came to be associated with one narrow form of femininity, but that's a bit tangential.) And sometimes I feel a bit uncomfortable dressing Eleanor in pink. Especially when she seems to be starting to show a preference for it.

But why? It's just a colour. One of many.

And that's the crux of it, isn't it? It's one of many colours, so why is it so over-represented in clothes and toys intended for girls? And even more under-represented in clothes and toys aimed at boys? It's just a colour. Surely there should be just as many red, blue, green, yellow, brown, purple, turquoise toys and clothes, for both genders?

The second hand clothes thing is emblematic of the issue. Eleanor wears a lot of pink because I bought clothes from a few other mums whose daughters wore a lot of pink before her. And maybe they wore a lot of pink because if you walk into the girls section of any high street clothes shop there is a lot of pink. And maybe a lot of girls say pink is their favourite colour, but OF COURSE they will if they've been exposed to pink more than any other colour in their early years!

I remember about a year ago I was playing at the park with Eleanor. There was a woman playing with her grandson, and another boy in a salmon-coloured top. He was clearly a boy - his clothes were of a boyish cut, he had a boyish haircut. When the grandson nearly bumped into salmon-top-boy, the woman said, "Be careful of that little girl!"

"He's not a girl, he's a boy," replied grandson. And yet, just moments later when they nearly collided again (are toddlers magnetically drawn to each other? They do seem to crash into each other a lot) she said again, "Be careful of the little girl!" Consciously or subconsciously, she had taken issue with the notion of a boy wearing a top of a pinkish hue.

But why? Pink is just a colour.

This is why I wish retailers would offer more diversity of colours, so that children are given true choice and can decide what their favourite colour is without being swayed by their gender - or a social construct of their gender. If a girl likes pink, great. If a boy likes pink, great. If both reject pink for a fetching shade of teal, also great.

What are your feelings about pink? Or blue? Or any other colour, for that matter??!



(As an addendum to this, on Wednesday I took Eleanor to her playgroup and she dressed up in a blue Cinderella outfit. I cringed a bit at the Disney princess link, but cheered up when she told me she was sad that the dress had a pink trim and declared that her favourite colour is blue!)

2 comments:

  1. 'This is why I wish retailers would offer more diversity of colours, so that children are given true choice and can decide what their favourite colour is without being swayed by their gender - or a social construct of their gender. If a girl likes pink, great. If a boy likes pink, great. If both reject pink for a fetching shade of teal, also great.' - Yes, this. Boys clothes aren't quite as bad for this but you do get faced with a sea of blue, brown, grey and black. I want colour! It's there if you look for it but I wish it were more the norm with high street clothing shops. I could rant about this all day but nap time is becoming shorter these days!

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    1. Oh I empathise with your lack of nap time - hence the late reply to this comment and the fact I hardly ever blog these days!! It frustrates me that childhood today is just a sea of blue and pink, where are all the other colours? I have to say I've often seen lovely colourful things in the boys section of shops - although that might be a 'grass is greener' thing, I'm probably tuning out the piles of blues and browns and focussing on the one bright item in the shop!!

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