does pink stink?

Lisa Belkin wrote an interesting essay this week on the nascent Pink Stinks movement in the UK. Pink Stink calls itself a “social enterprise which challenges the culture of pink which invades every aspect of girls’ lives.”

Before I had a daughter, I was an eye-roller at all things pink, and laughed when my sons did the same. Once I put that in print, some commenters pointed out that that was the wrong message to send: that I was telling them girls were inferior.

Oh, come on, I started to respond– if I had two daughters instead, we’d all be snorting derisively at dinosaurs and Thomas the Tank Engine. Upon further reflection, though, I had to admit these commenters had a point. No one gets a laugh out of making fun of high school football players; cheerleaders, on the other hand, will be an easy laugh as long as SNL is on the air. “Girly girls” and the things they like are viewed as trivial, and when you pigeonhole a girly girl’s interests as lame, is that not a slippery slope to saying she is lame herself? There’s no such term as “boys-y boys.” Even if someone says, “Boys will be boys,” they are usually talking about a boy’s activity level, his strength. What pink represents, what the Disney Princess represents, is the opposite of that. Which by the way was why I was such an eye-roller at the stuff in the first place. My third child, my girl, was going to be interested in none of those things.

Smash cut to two years and two months later. Maggie has never heard of Barbie or Bratz, and whenever she sees a Disney Princess, she says “Mommy dat YOU!” because she has no idea who any of them are, either. But Maggie loves pink. She LOVES pink. To the exclusion of all else. To wit:

–Maggie’s favorite food is “pink bacon,” which some of you may know as ham.

–Upon awaking, Maggie tells me in her two-year-old excited stammer of nightmares in which she was pursued by a “pink monster” in a pink car.

–Pajamas must be pink. Socks must be pink. Clothes have to be pink. I managed to get her red and green Christmas dress on her this week to go see Santa Claus, but only because I allowed her to complement it with her hot pink (and none-too-clean) sneakers.

–She claims that Santa will be bringing her a “pink cake” and “pink big girl underwears.”

I have no idea where this came from. I have not overdone the pink in her life (her doll stroller is navy, her two coats are white and red), and we have a house full of boy toys. But Maggie thinks pink, and it is, admittedly, adorable. Santa will be bringing her a pile of presents but I suspect none will top the pink Disney Princess cell phone her babysitter gave her for Christmas last week. Maggie has been marching around with it to her ear ever since. “Yeah… you come over?… I busy. I see you yater,” she says into it, rolling her eyes up and to the right as she must see me do. “She’s really something,” one of our neighbors said, a mother of four boys. I couldn’t tell if that meant my neighbor thought my daughter, dressed in cloying, Pepto-Bismol pink with her Disney Princess cell phone, was cute, or vaguely nauseating. Before I had a daughter of my own, I would probably have been in the latter camp.

Personally I would not have bought a pink Disney Princess cell phone for my daughter. It’s not the toy cell phone part I have a problem with (since my kids have broke my iphone twice), but couldn’t it be black or white? Why does it have to be princess-ified? The problem is that, even if my babysitter had set out to find Maggie a toy phone that wasn’t pink and sparkly, it’s not like it would have been easy. As Pamela Paul pointed out in her excellent book Parenting Inc., everything marketed to children these days is overwhelmingly gender-specified, so that we will buy more stuff. (Of course Maggie can’t play with Shea’s old Bob the Builder cell phone; that’s for boys.) Other than the obvious damage these marketing ploys do to every parent’s wallet, though, I haven’t been convinced that there was something wrong with Maggie loving everything pink. It was cute! I got my girl after all! See, boys and girls really are different!

But part of me now wonders if Maggie has noticed the huge reaction she gets for preferring pink, and that is what has reinforced her preference. Maybe Maggie has gotten the message that she’s supposed to prefer pink above all else by some sort of advertising osmosis, and now she’s going to buy into all the “girly girl” things that go along with it as the way she is ideally supposed to behave. That really would be a shame– not if she loved pink, but if she said so because she thought she was supposed to.

What about you? Have you tried to keep the pink creep out of your daughters’ toy chests and closets? Have you been successful? Do you think it even matters?