Monday 24 March 2014

Pink for a Girl and Blue for a Boy – How do we challenge the rules?

Pretty in pink or just stereotyped?
By Lisa Bradburn

It seems impossible to get away from the fact that most girls love pink and boys blue, but has society influenced them or is it innate? And as the director of a toy company, how do I navigate these muddy waters?

There has been much research into gender stereotyping in children. The media covers the topic frequently, taking the debate to the level of the national economy and campaigns such as Let Toys Be Toys and Goldie Blox encourage girls to play with traditionally boys toys and vice versa.

But the fact remains, as this article in the Express supports, if you ask most girls for their favourite colour it would be pink. And for boys it would be blue!

As a professional toy hunter – yes, that’s really my job – I encounter the gender-colour debate daily. The driving passion behind my business is to make it easy to find quality gifts for children, so I list toys on my site by age and gender because adults search for toys according to age and gender.

Inevitably, that means the girl’s section is full of pink, and the boy’s section is full of blue.

With companies producing toys according to gender and adults choosing toys according to gender, how does a company who wishes to serve its customers well and remain profitable tackle gender-colour association in toys? How do you break the cycle when it begins even before a baby comes into the world?

Painting the nursery
Many parents, who know the sex of their baby, decorate the nursery in pink for girls and blue for boys. Even those who don’t know the sex of their baby tend to decorate the nursery once the baby is born.

Picking the clothes
There’s no better way to tell the world, “It’s a girl!” than by dressing your baby in pink – lest the neighbours can’t tell when you’re taking a stroll with the pram.

Just go into any baby clothes shops and you’ll be met by racks and racks of baby blue sleep-suits for boys and baby pink outfits for girls. In fact, the choice of pink and blue gifts is huge, compared to the unisex items.

It’s almost an unwritten rule that baby boys will wear blue and baby girls pink. Would you feel comfortable sending a pink outfit to a new baby boy?

How many of us automatically buy a blue baby card for boys and pink for girls? And the same goes for the gift wrap. As a society this seems to be the norm…but are we setting the scene for things to come...? Even before a baby is a few months old, have we already conditioned and influenced its mind?

Social pressures
As babies grow up they are not only influenced by parents, but by everyone around them - grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends to name just a few. And as they enter nursery and school their circle of influence just grows bigger and bigger.

Children play and socialize with other children and learn from them. They interact with other siblings and friends and want to be like them. Many children want to fit in and don’t like to be singled out as different. So they very quickly learn to conform to what is socially accepted.

And of course, children are also influenced by the things they see around them – toy shops selling pink toys and blue toys. On TV and within the media they are again influenced and form opinions.

How many times have you (and your children) overheard a conversation such as, “That’s too girly for you” or, “That’s more for a boy”? Are those comments based on an item’s colour or purpose? All these things lead to children forming decisions.

They look at adults and make judgements. Many men are comfortable in a pink shirt or jumper, but how many would buy a pink car or carry a pink backpack?

With all these things influencing children, how do you convince boys that it’s OK to like pink and girls that blue is cool– or are you fighting a losing battle?

What if gardening sets only came in blue? And all chemistry sets were pink? Would your son believe chemistry is something he cannot do because pink is a colour he is ‘not allowed’ to wear?

I’d love to know your views. Does it concern you? Or are you happy that your little girl is pink mad, or your son wants everything blue?

Lisa Bradburn is the managing director of what2buy4kids - a place to find quality, unusual gifts for kids. Lisa built her business out of first-hand frustration at the lack of interesting and available gift ideas for children. Now, she hunts them down so you don’t have to and provides endless entertainment inspiration for children of all ages.

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