fledge capable of flying, from Middle English flegge, from Old English -flycge; akin to Old High German flucki capable of flying,
Old English flEogan to fly -- more at FLY
intransitive verb, of a young bird : to acquire the feathers necessary for flight or independent activity

Monday, January 4, 2010

Thinking about pink

SeoWoo and Her Pink
From JeongMee Yoon's "The Pink & Blue Project" (2005 - ongoing)

PinkStinks. What do you think? Is pink in marketing girls' products limiting their worldview? Are we sending a subjugating message to our girls? In this discussion, "pink" likely refers to that isle at Target. The one in which the toys are not only generally pink, but highlight role playing featuring dressing up, housework and childcare. In other words, no pink rocket kits or chemistry sets.

I'm no expert. I just have a very small sample size to judge from, that being my two kids. My girl, for the most part, entered the environment paved by her older brother. Not a lot of fluff and pink. None at all, really. As an infant, if a stranger asked, "Is that a boy or a girl?" I'd answer, "Yes." But that little, little child, less than a year old, if she saw something pink, sparkly and girly-girl, boy, stand back: She wanted it.

Similarly, because she is her brother's sister for life and I'd like those two to develop similar interests, I've exposed them to the same kinds of sports and classes and activities. Their preferences seem to fall right along gender lines. Who is making those preferences? They themselves? Or is there some gender-identity pressure? Nature? Or nurture? The only way I'm going to get Anna to surf is to get her a pink surfboard, that's been established. But she will get that surfboard.

There are physiological differences between boys and girls in addition to the obvious ones. Boys' and girls' brains are different. Girls have a larger copus callosum connecting the right and left brain halves. They also tend to have a larger hippocampus. There is a pretty big body of research suggesting that boys and girls learn differently. Maybe there is something in the hardwiring that makes a child "feminine" or "masculine".

Anecdotally, my girl will say, "That's not for girls!" for something that her brother does or has. My observation is that she and her little friends will say that as a way to differentiate themselves from the boys in their midst, because boys are yucky. Conversely, my son and his grommie friends are totally into hot pink. Maybe because the surfer brands they prefer are having a Flash Dance flashback and are featuring enough neon colors to do Rick Springfield proud. Or maybe they mean it ironically ("Hey guys, I'm wearing pink!" The sardonic undertone being pink is for girls and girls are silly).

When I think of my girl as a princess, I want her to know that as a princess, she is the future regent of her domain.

Frankly, I hope in the future, we'll take gender stereotypes seriously and ourselves less seriously. I think the future should look a bit more like this:

And not exactly on topic, but then, it's hard not to talk pink and not think k.p.

More here.


Jen said...

Interesting post, Nancy.

I, too, have noticed that little girls will choose pink. I personally hate pink - especially that insidious bubble-gum, so sweet my teeth hurt kind of pink. And I was the first-born. My bedroom was never pink. As a baby it was a circus theme, with the crib and dresser being blue and green. And it wasn't pastel. As an older child, my room was a soft blue with peach and rust accents (very 1980's-era country style). I don't recall ever having a pink dress.

My oldest 2 children are girls. The older of the 2 has been drawn to purple since she was about 8 months old. I find purple an acceptable substitute for pink, since it can venture into burgundy and plum tones to be more sophisticated as she gets older. I try to avoid the pastel shades like lavender, too. This child never had a pink outfit as a baby. Then again, we didn't know her gender before she was born. I tried to get her to play with trucks and things but she was fixated on princesses.

The younger one we knew would be a girl before she arrived. She is my tomboy. She asked for matchbox cars for Christmas. She, too, likes purple, though that may be due to the fact that her wardrobe is full of things her sister wore which are, naturally, purple. When asked what her favorite color is she frequently tells me that it's yellow, sometimes orange.

I often think that girls/women who are fond of pink are somehow confined or perhaps defined by the color. I'm not sure if that makes sense, but it's certainly the impression I get.

This topic is very thought-provoking.

Sarah said...

Nancy, you might be interested in a book that came out recently called Pink Brain Blue Brain, which aggregates all the research on this subject and discusses it. I just read it and it was pretty eye-opening. For example, boys and girls mostly DON'T learn differently (and she'll tell you where the false ideas came from and why they got spread).

She also gives concrete suggestions on how to mitigate the differences they do exist without getting crazy (for example, you can help girls catch up in math in science with things like tetris and jump rope).

She also discusses the whole pink thing and thinks that instead of fighting it, there should just be more useful toys in pinks, purples and pastels (legos, for example).

Personally, I have a sparkly pink type girl (although she will be out back digging in the dirt in her dress and sparkly shoes!) and I have no problem with that. I do despise the big pink aisle at TRU, but not cause its pink. And we did find a building toy (it's japanese) that came in pink and orange and light blue for her!

okay, and her Pinkness is climbing on me and so I must go...but it certainly is an interesting and complicated subject!

Erin said...

Really thought-provoking post, and something I've been thinking about myself, lately. I have always, always, loathed anything pink. I didn't want anything to do with it, ever.

To me, it embodied exactly what you describe - the awful, saccharine GIRL AISLE at the toy stores. I didn't identify as a girly-girl - I was a tomboy, climbing trees, playing with Tonka trucks and at times, with Barbies.

It wasn't until I came to sewing and quilting about 5 months ago that I found, when I really, really looked at some of the gentler pink fabrics, that I kind of liked it. Once I divorced myself from the girly connotations and simply beheld it for what it was, I found them quite lovely.

I'm still not wearing it, mind you. ;-)

I worked at a motorcycle shop for awhile, and in the kids' dirt gear section, pink camo became the RAGE. Girls went nuts for it, of course, and then boys started wearing it, too. Like you, I suspect it might have begun somewhat ironically, but that opened the door to making it a bit more acceptable.

Boys running around in pink shirts still isn't something I see a lot of, but I suspect we may be on the verge of breaking that godawful girl = pink association that's so firmly embedded in our brains.

Lola Nova said...

Ah yes, strong feelings over pink I see.
I have one of those girls, mad for pink and princesses but, also bugs and trucks. She's the one climbing the tree in the pink tutu. If I could conjure a pink pony, she would ride it off to rescue villagers from tyrannical kings, getting muddy and bloody in the process, only resting every now and again to right her tiara and hug a tree.

This whole color war is thought provoking indeed. I am only now reconsidering pink in my own design process, due mainly to my girl's passion for it; a passion that I must admit, I once shared.

a said...

I think that it is easy to say that even if we remove gender typical toys and colors that a boy will still like blue and be a "boy" and a girl will still like pink and play tea party and princess. But i refuse to believe that it is in our gender dna to like one color over another or like "girly" things over "manly" things. I think that no matter how hard we try to remove these stereotypes from our childrens upbringing they will still find their way into their subconscious. Even if we never dress our baby in pink or encourage them to play with things typically associated with boys they are still influenced by television, the media, their friends, and always strangers. As long as these stereotypes still exsist in the world they will still exsist in each persons mind in one form or another.

I am so intrigued by this complex part of our daily society. I think that we each just have to do our part in making it known, especially to impressionable children, that they can like whatever color and play with what ever toy, and be anything they want to be when they grow up and they should never worry that they "can't" or that its "not allowed".

check out my wiki and my presentation about this:

Miss K.P.-Ness said...

I tried to raise a "gender neutral" child. He had a teddy bear that he took with us and rolled him along in the stroller. The stroller was blue and it took several people several months to find one in any color but pink. People would look at my boy funny as he strolled along the sidewalk with his teddybear. They would look at me as if I damaged him somehow- like I tattooed his face or something.I never understood people being shocked at my son acting out what he saw at home- a father nurturing a baby.
boys and girls are different. I watched this being demonstrated at a 4 year old's birthday party when all the girls where sitting pretty, neatly licking their popcicles as they sat on a blanket. The boys were using theirs as swords in between bites and letting them drip all over their hands, arms, clothes and faces.
As parents we need to encourage our girls to skateboard and our boys to be tender and nurturing.

They will end up behaving however they were hardwired anyway.

By the way- my son prefers when I have pink hair.


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