The BBC London evening news just ran a story about the Pink Stinks campaign. Although the news article mentioned that the campaign is about persuading marketers and toy makers to provide more toys aimed at girls that are more positive and not just about beauty, clothes or looking after babies. The news item then just focused on the question "Should girls have pink toys?" This involved interviewing lots of little girls in Hamleys', garish pink "girls floor." Of course all the little girls said that they loved pink. They wouldn't be in the pink girls floor of Hamleys if they disliked it.
Sadly, I think the Pink Stinks campaign asks for this kind of treatment by the media though, because of its name. Great marketing, grabs attention but the media aren't inclined to dig deeper. I am all for promoting more positive role models for girls and young women. I think the media really needs to sort out its act when it comes to how it portrays women. The trouble is the pink stinks campaign alienates all those girls and women who do like pink particularly when treated shallowly by the media. I was a real "tom boy" until I was about 5. What a loaded statement that is? A tom boy, what do we mean by that? Well it was sometimes used to describe me because I only wanted to wear trousers or dungarees, I had shortish hair for a while, my favourite toys were cars, I was always climbing trees and getting myself in a mess. But I liked cuddly toys and dolls too.
When I got a bit older I went to the other extreme, I wore long skirts, grew my hair long, loved pink, played with my Cindy dolls. I still climbed trees, built dens, played football with the boys and even cut the hair of one of my Cindy Dolls so she could be Cagney from Cagney and Lacey. (Pretty strong, if dysfunctional role models for me there!)
But in my childhood, during the 70s/80s the marketing men and women hadn't got their teeth into exploiting the under 16s as they do now, and certainly not the under 10s. What for the girls of today?
My oldest niece went through a pink phase for a couple of years, everything had to be pink, but she is now 6 and her favourite colour is red. She is fascinated by volcanoes, likes to pretend to be a vet rescuing animals in danger, she also like dancing and looking at the pretty dresses worn by the dancers on Strictly Come Dancing. She doesn't just want to wear those dresses though, she wants to design them. She has a self assuredness that many girls of her generation and a little older seem to have. They do feel that anything is possible. When she plays with cooking utensils it is because she wants to be chef not a slave to the kitchen.
So things look positive for my niece's generation, unlike my Grandmother's and my mother's generation, she won't have to fight for basic rights, to work, to have a family, to carry on working if she wants etc. Unlike my generation she won't have the burden of being the first to make full use of these rights, to test the waters and push and fight against those slow to change. My nieces generation won't have such burdens.
So what am I worried about? Why aren't I denouncing the Pink Stinks campaign as superfluous?
It's not superfluous but the message for me seems skewed. I'd rather see a message that says Pink is for anyone! Boys and girls who want to wear pink, play with pink toys, live in pink rooms should be allowed to and their choices valued. Boys and girls who want to play with cars and Lego should be allowed to and their choices valued.
What worries me by the Pink Stinks title for the campaign is that it devalues and ridicules a choice of expression that many girls go through, and many boys would like to if they weren't discouraged for being "sissy" or some other insult. Yes the market is saturated with pink and pretty gifts aimed at girls, there needs to be more variety and choice. I believe that no one has the right to say that dressing up, making up and wearing pink is wrong what ever age or gender you are.
Being interested in beauty or appearance does not equal shallow or valueless, (Just look at Dolly Parton) buying into that message only perpetuates stereo types about women as air heads, and bimbos. We need balance and we need to value people even if their choices are not the ones we would make. The saturation of pink toys and goods certainly doesn't promote diversity and we need more positive goods available. But attacking the toys and goods that already exist and those who enjoy them only divides girls, boys, women and men.
Strong, successful, creative and intelligent women are everywhere; some are interested in fashion and beauty, some might never wear as much as lip gloss, some might work as scientists and doctors one of these wonderful women might be your cleaning woman or your Mum.