One of my daughters just rejected a Harry Potter Christmas present on the basis it is "for boys". WHY DID YOU BUY ME A BOY GAME?! she yelled. (To be fair, she is almost four and yells everything. GOOD NIGHT MOM! GOOD MORNING MOM! IT SMELLS LIKE DIRTY SOCKS IN THIS STORE, MOM.) With two girls pictured on the packaging, how did she ever get the idea this was a toy for boys, though?
Not to be totally sexist, but it's a Harry Potter game about potion-making, which is practically cooking. The Harry Potter franchise is the brain child of a woman. So, what was the deal, angry middle child of mine?
Oh. The packaging wasn't pink.
I know we like to get our knickers in a knit about gendered toys, but here we go. Either the smart toys are marketed to boys with blatant sexist language like, literally, "FOR BOYS" written on the packaging or the "stupid" and low-goal toys are pink and in the girl aisle. Enter: pink marketing. Pink blocks! Pink trucks!
Some people think we're making real progress by making pink science kits and engineering sets specifically geared toward lady brains with pink microscopes, but that's all a bunch of crap. What we need to do is stop telling girls their toys have to be pink in the first place.
I get that with lots of little girls, pink is the organic default preference. If you put a dozen baby-teethers in front of my 13-month-old, she's going to crawl toward the pink one. (Wait, make that a dozen power cords.) I'm raising three girls and despite my efforts of painting the play room in primary colors and buying all neutral baby toys, the pink has seeped in. It's like that Cat in the Hat story where a dollop of icing eventually makes it way to cover the whole house with goo. You end up feeling like some kind of feminist renegade for buying your kid a toy in literally any other color. Oh look at you and your lesbian wood blocks. WTF?
Sure, pink is what they like. I know, I know, not every girl likes pink, but enough of them do to set off a marketing trend that has magnificent effect. The result is girls are pinkholed. They take the cue that that can't play with anything that is not pink.
Pink becomes a way we manipulate our daughters. We get them to wear things we want (look honey, the itchy wool elfin helmet is PINK! Just for you!) or to get them interested in the sports we want them to play or to learn things we want them to learn. We don't make the science kit pink because that's how they want their science kits. We make them pink to lure them to science. It's not a half bad theory, but it could use improvement.
What if, now this is crazy, what if we lured girls to science by expecting it of them? What if we made STEM careers accessible to girls by hiring women and making those places to work more family-friendly with adequate maternity leave and support for the unique time constraints of parents of school children? What if CEO positions accommodated women by not making them choose between career and family, the same way men don't have to? I may piss off a few personal friends by saying this, but generally speaking, the women who do excel as engineers and CEOs are the Smurfettes of their work places. There are those who make it, but the top certainly isn't brimming with estrogen. You'll have one Snow White lady engineer in a department of two dozen dwarves. Turning Legos into lady Legos isn't going to even that shit out.
We don't need pink toys as much as we need examples. Stop telling our kids that pink is for girls and the rest of the word is for regular people. Girls are people. They grow up to be women and, as the radical saying goes, women are people.
A guy I know* was interviewing for a job recently and he brought up his three small children in the first conversation. It was a brag of his character, a nod to his reliability as a provider and staved off any silly thoughts of him not committing fully to the position. Why, he has mouths to feed! Of course he is a good candidate! None of this quitting after two weeks to pursue his dream of surfing. He is a father of three.
Can you imagine a woman saying that at a job interview? Bragging about her three very dependent children who require full time care and probably get sick a lot? What if a woman mentioned her stay-at-home partner and thus alluded to a high salary requirement? HAHAHAHA. Ain't all the pink in the Pepto Bismal factory going to save that interview. Instead, we have to have laws that make it illegal for employers to ask questions about a candidate's domestic situation.
So can it with the pink legos already. We want more pink bosses.
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