Before my daughter was born, my husband and I made the bold statement that we were not going to buy her any pink clothing. If someone gave us a gift, we said, fine. We won’t return it, but we won’t buy her anything pink ourselves.
If someone had pressed us at the time, we don’t think we could have given a coherent, articulate answer. We probably would have spouted a mish-mosh of the following:
Pink is too “girly.”
Society just tells girls they have to like pink, and we don’t have to buy into that.
We don’t have to have our daughter wear her gender so obviously.
It’s just not as good of a color as blue or yellow.
Want to guess how long our ban lasted? Yes, you’re right. Not very.
We got a lot of pink clothes as gifts when E was born, and we discovered, horror of horrors, that we actually found many of them adorable. And, when buying clothes for her on my own, I continued to find a range of clothes fun and interesting - including those that had the color pink. And, honestly, once we actually had to work on taking care of a baby, we had no time or mental energy to worry about making sure this onesie had no pink or those socks were appropriately gender-neutral.
So I threw out our no-pink mandate and life continued along until we came upon the time when E started choosing her own clothes. It was around this time that she began insisting on wearing dresses every day, and she also began taking a liking to pink. She didn’t always choose pink over other colors and she wasn’t inflexible about clothing options that weren’t pink (though she was plenty inflexible about other things), but she clearly started to like pink. And purple. So clothes of that color continued to make their way into her wardrobe. And they still do, among other colors, because she likes them.
And at some point along this journey from opposition to acceptance of pink, I started wondering. And my wondering led to more wondering and to more…
Why didn’t I like pink?
Why didn’t I want E to say her favorite color was pink?
Why did I want her to pick blue or green or orange as her favorite?
Was I valuing the traditionally more “masculine” and “male” color choices more than the female?
Did I view pink as “not as good” because it’s considered the more feminine color?
Why was I afraid of my daughter wanting to identify as “girly” and choose “girly” colors?
Did I view these as inferior choices because I implicitly view “girly” as inferior to “boyish” or “tomboyish”?
I don’t have all the answers to all of these questions. But I have decided that I’m going to try to stop seeing pink as inferior. Don’t get me wrong, I still strongly believe that girls should have equal access to all the colors and all the toys and all the ideas and all the things, and they don’t right now. Some things, like pink and hearts and rainbows and animals wearing lipstick are highly overrepresented. And other things, like dinosaurs and robots and trucks, aren’t even underrepresented in girls’ clothes - they’re not represented at all.
But just because some things are overrepresented and, consequently, linked to being “girly” does not make them worse (except for the animals-wearing-lipstick thing because that’s just ridiculous). And just because other things are, in our society, linked more to being “boyish” does not make them better or off-limits to girls (since of course, in practice, they aren’t off-limits at all).
E’s preschool class discussed favorite colors yesterday. At the end of the day, I saw the list of all the children and all the choices and, beside her name, written in the teacher’s neat handwriting, it said, “Pink.” After taking an internal moment to notice my feelings of surprise that she changed her favorite color from purple to pink and a bit of angst over the choice overall, I turned to her and said, “Pink, huh? That’s a great color.”