Pink Stinks: There’s more than one way to be a girl

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The pinkification of a girl’s and woman’s world, and what I call the ‘Princess’ culture, drives me insane. The sheer assault on my senses of all things pink aimed at young girls is so overpowering, that I find myself gritting my teeth every time I enter a supermarket, open a magazine (which is not that often considering all that trite dribble out there that passes for journalism), passing little girls on the street dressed from head to toe in frilly, pink ‘princess’ wear or going into clothes shops. Where did this fascination for and overkill of pink come from? I have nothing against the colour per se, (apart from that mind blowing day-glo fuchsia that should be confined to the nuclear testing laboratory); in fact I even have a pale version of pink on some of my bedroom walls. When my daughter was small, pink was simply another colour on the vast spectrum of colours on offer. There was white, pale blue (yes blue on a girl I know, whatever next?), pale greens and yellows and if you fancied……pink. Overwhelmingly clothes were a splash of every colour, and looking at my daughter’s photographs that certainly was the case. In fact many of the clothes my daughter wore were handed down to my baby son a year later.

Pink isn’t only used to segregate gender on clothing, it’s used on toys, books, nappies, food, in fact, anything that’s used to promote children and young girls’ products. Pink is now used to promote and exercise rampant child friendly sexism. Things that you think couldn’t possibly be gendered, now are. WH Smith now sells a pink world globe for girls and a blue one for boys. What is wrong with one that has blue water and green land for God’s sake? A major offender is the Early Learning Centre (ELC), a company that has traditionally been seen as having a commitment to child learning and well being, regardless of the gender of the child. The ELC now has rampant pinkification and gender segregation of its toys and learning products. Many major supermarkets and toy shops now have a ‘girls’ aisle’ and a ‘boys’ aisle’, that appear to be faithfully adhered to by the mindless public. Girls’ products overwhelmingly focus on being pretty, passive and obsessed with shopping, fashion and make up – this promotes a dangerously narrow definition of what it means to be a girl. These ‘Girly’ products and concepts are marketed, for the most part, through ‘pinkification’. Pink has become the ubiquitous brand colour to represent modern girlhood. This restrictive conditioning and colour-coding rears its ugly head from the moment a girl is born and continues into adulthood – with repercussions for both sexes.

Girls can dress up as pretty princesses while waiting for the strong superhero to whisk them off their feet and take them to a life of bliss and domesticity. Pink has a meaning behind it that tells girls what their lives will be, what path they should take and how they should look and behave.  This is why I love PINKSTINKS!

Founded in May 2008 by sisters Abi and Emma Moore, Pinkstinks confronts the damaging messages that bombard girls though toys, clothes and media. Pinkstinks run targeted campaigns aimed at creating positive changes in the products, messages, labelling, categorisation and representations of girls. They use writing, social networking, video and blogging to raise awareness and tackle companies. Pinkstinks also seeks to offset current trends, by endorsing inclusive, positive play and adventure for both girls and boys. The website therefore features Pinkstinks approved toy/clothing companies and positive female role models for kids. They work with other organisations, campaigners and friends who share their vision.

Some of their campaigns have included:

  • The Early Learning Centre, where they challenged the rampant pinkification and gender segregation. Although the ELC refused to acknowledge the issues, their Christmas Catalogue clearly had some changes to it. The campaign received press coverage in 45 countries.
  • Sainsbury’s, where they challenged the fact that their dressing up clothes were labelled ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ – doctors for boys, and nurses for girls (of course). Sainsbury’s apologised and acknowledged that it wasn’t acceptable to assign certain professions to certain genders. They have now removed all the labelling.
  • Slap! On The Face of Childhood. This is their current campaign, that focuses on the steady proliferation of make-up aimed at little girls and the damage that this normalising of make-up can do to the self-esteem of young children. Making children internalise messages about beauty products at this crucial and early stage of development, is nothing more than corporate conditioning. Slap wants retailers to take corporate and social responsibility and asks parents to consider the impact that beauty products have on their young children. Slap will be talking to girls about their experiences and to experts on the beauty industry, whilst challenging this burgeoning market.

Pinkstinks believes that by recognising and celebrating the fact that there’s more than one way to be a girl, that the benefits for all children and wider society will be boundless.

As mothers, sisters, aunties, cousins, friends and WOMEN, we can say ‘no’ to accepting our young girls’ futures as pink. We can stand up to the companies that force feed our children a life of lies, sexism and gender segregation. It is us, as mothers, sisters, aunties, cousins, friends and WOMEN that buy these products. We can refuse to buy into this, and force those companies to provide products that enhance a sense of equality and empowerment.
There’s more than one way to be a girl!

Pinkstinks have won a number of awards including; In 2008, a level 1 Award from UnLtd. In 2009 Abi & Emma won the Sheila McKechnie Foundation campaigners award in the Women Creating Change category, funded by Rosa. And in 2010, won a SMK Grass Routes Activists award, funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

This is a guest post by SFN treasurer and vice-chair Ali Morris, originally published in the SFN zine Pandora Press.

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