Pink stinks

Pink stinks. It really does.

Before I had my daughter, I was already annoyed at the quantity of pink clothing that was out there for girls. But now that I shop for baby and toddler clothes on a regular basis, I find myself getting more and more frustrated.

Some shops are worse offenders than others, but sometimes there is no choice except pink or blue. There’s such a stark contrast between the boys and the girls clothes. Where’s the variety?

And it’s not a colour issue, it’s the designs of the clothes themselves. For example, boys t-shirts get trucks, trains, dinosaurs, spaceships, animals. Girls get butterflies, flowers, stars, princesses and love hearts. Oh god, the love hearts. Why?!

A little while ago I was trying to find a rash-vest for my daughter – now 16 months old. The blue and pink divide was very clear, as always. But worse, I think, were the choice of animal logos. Boys (or, I should say, the blue and green swimwear) had turtles and starfish. The girls were in various shades of pink and mauve with a choice of: seahorses or flamingoes. Except they weren’t just seahorses and flamingoes. The seahorses had glittery sparkles and bows on their heads. The flamingoes made the shape of a love heart and were captioned with the words “Summer Love”. This is clothing for a one-year-old.

Kmart clothes are particularly bad in terms of their baby clothes. If it’s not the stereotypical gendered colours, it’s all their naff phrases. “Daddy’s little princess”, or “Mummy’s little angel”, etc. They make me want to puke.

Oh, and don’t get me started on all the tassels and frills. The limited colours are bad enough, but the selection of say, t-shirts, for girls, always tend to have puffy sleeves. Or the swimming cozzies have tassels around the legs, or the trousers have ruffles across the bum or lace around the hem. I just don’t see how those kinds of frills are necessary on a baby or a child. On occasion they might be cute, but they just seem to accentuate the idea that females are there to be looked at. Why have ruffles across the bum or tassels on the legs if not to draw attention to those parts of the body? What does a toddler want with these things?

And if the clothes for girls must be pink, why can’t their tees at least also have trains or trucks or tennis rackets or planets?

In the UK, there’s an organisation called Pink Stinks that is working to redress the pinkification. In Sweden there are schemes underway to make marketing to children less stereotypically gendered. I think we need to start something like that in Australia**.

I’m sure some would argue that I am being overly sensitive, and that it doesn’t really matter, they are just clothes. But the thing is, they are not just garments. Right from birth we are told what is appropriately masculine or feminine. Certain colours or toys or roles aren’t seen as appropriate for girls, and certain aren’t seen as proper for boys. Right from the beginning both boys and girls are stereotyped and limited by society. And this is where it is problematic.

I don’t know what the answer is. I try to avoid purchasing pink clothes for my daughter, but I can’t avoid it completely. And actually, I wouldn’t want to ignore pink altogether. I don’t want to dress my baby as a political statement. Pink is a fine colour…in moderation. What I would like though, is greater choice in the colours available. Where I could go to the shops and instead of there being boys’ and girl’s sections, there was a children’s section... with green, purple, yellow, orange, red, turquoise, and everything in between. Where pink was just one option among a rainbow of colours.


** I wrote all of the above last week, but just this morning came across an Australian lobby group, Play Unlimited, who have begun petitions to try and change the way retailers like ToysRUs market to children! Fantastic! We need more like this.

Please have a look at their petition and look at their website:

If you think their following three points are a good idea (YES YES YES!) please take a moment to sign their petition.

1 – Remove ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ headings from their website and marketing and sort toys by theme.

2 – Be diverse in their marketing – let’s see examples of both girls and boys playing with all sorts of toys

3 – Stop using pink and blue as proxies for ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ sections within marketing materials; let children know that a world of colour is available to them.


10 Responses to “Pink stinks”

  1. Deborah Says:

    In what be a very small hint of a change possibly starting to occur, when I went to buy sandshoes for my daughters yesterday, we found that all the purple, green, red, black and blue shoes in their size had sold out, and there were masses and masses of pink shoes still on the shelf.

  2. Susan Cope Says:

    You’re so right about the clothes, Pen. The colour thing is appalling, but it’s the obliquely suggestive pictures / writing that I find positively dangerous (now retired, I had along career in child protection). Girls are sexualised from the get-go, and there aren’t many years between ‘soooo cute’ and ‘she was asking for it’.

    The colour-police stay with us through life though. Shopping in a well known UK clothing emporium recently (Marks and Spencer – mean anything?), the gender divide was stark. Colour was available for women (not just pink – honest!), but It seems that colour isn’t “manly”. Racks and racks of brown, black, navy, sludgy greens – about as sartorially inspiring as a damp February night! Even summer attire for men is pretty drab – though they do seem to be allowed to retreat to childhood in cartoon-Simpson Bermudas and t’s.

    The greatest insult, of course, being that if one comments on this, one is immediately accused of lacking humour … taking things too seriously … etc., etc

    Ah well, I’ll continue to fight the good fight – but it gets more tiring as you get older!!

    • doctorpen Says:

      Hi, thank you for your comments. I think you are a new reader, yes? May I ask how you found my site?

      I agree about the bland colours for men. It really is just as limiting, isn’t it?

      And oh yes, we feminists don’t have a sense of humour at all, do we? So sick of hearing that one. 🙂

      Thanks for your comments about fighting the good fight. I sometimes wonder if there’s much I can do, but I suppose if I at least write about some of these issues, then we can start to do something.

      • Sue Cope (nee Dunstall) Says:

        Hi Pen

        No, not a new commentator, accidentally logged-in thro’ Facebook, where I’m registered in my married name Sue Cope. We exchanged comments quite recently under my family name – Sue Dunstall.

        Hope you and your baby are thriving, and that you’ll maybe have more time to reinvigorate the blog soon 🙂


      • doctorpen Says:

        oh yes- hello Sue. I remember now! I thought you were a new commenter because usually once I’ve approved a comment, the next time that person comments I don’t have to approve the comment before it is published.

        Thanks for your enthusiasm for this blog. My baby is going very well. A little toddler running about now! I plan to make some more time to slot blogging somewhere into each week or maybe month. 🙂

      • Susan Cope Says:

        My latest outrage? Vagisil. Apparently we have thousands of sweat glands around what is coyly described as our ‘intimate’ area (you don’t say?). An unfortunate side-effect of this is that we might – well – smell. It’s all quite normal (thank God for that then), but Vagisil is there to help us, and prevent us smelling – and what’s more smelling like – dare I say this – smelling like – er – women. I CANNOT believe that 45 years down the line women are still being demeaned in this way. We’re not beautiful enough, we’re too wrinkly, we’re too fat and as if all that isn’t enough – we smell. Post-feminism, Pen? Sometimes I fell we’re pre-suffragism!

  3. Down Under Feminists’ Carnival LXVII | Kiwiana (inked) Says:

    […] “Pink stinks” at Pondering Postfeminism […]

  4. Gemma Mason Says:

    I definitely agree that it’s a real problem that we project extreme gender differences onto very small children in this way. I have to say, though, I hate the name “Pink Stinks” because it encourages an attitude of hating things that are traditionally feminine. How about “Rainbows for Everyone” instead, or “The Whole Paint Box” or something like that?

    • doctorpen Says:

      Hello – thanks for commenting. I actually totally agree with you. It was laziness on my part when it came to deciding on the title of this post. I only had limited time to write and that was the last thing that needed doing, and I just went with the easy option. I do like how it rhymes, but I completely understand the problems with using terminology like ‘stinks’. Thank you for raising it as an issue.

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