Monday, January 30, 2006


I took my boys to the playground this morning, and stumbled on a local mothers group - mostly girls. The children (10 or so) were mostly 3 or 4, with a few siblings in attendance. Every single girl was dressed in bright pink - either the whole dress, or both the top and bottom. I have no real evidence for this, but I can't help thinking that this is more extreme than it used to be.

Why are girls forced so emphatically into very gender specific clothing at such a young age? And more worryingly to me, I'm wondering what has caused such a retreat into femininity for all those girls. The clothes weren't impractical, but they were very pink. I knew a few of the mothers, and I didn't get the sense they were the kind of women who think a woman's role is only to be feminine and girly. (I've never met that kind of woman, but according to every Sunday supplement article you read about mothers, they do apparently exist).

Maybe it's just another example of the consumer society gone mad. We're all richer now than we used to be (and clothes are cheaper), so we can afford to buy clothes for every occasion and give into our children's desires. Or maybe every mother does secretly want to dress her daughter in pink, and I've forgotten now I've had two sons.


At 8:50 pm, Blogger Tjilpi said...

You could try dressing your boys in pink - and see what happens! :-)

At 6:03 pm, Anonymous elsewhere said...

I think we just live in more conservative times these days, full stop. Also there's all that stuff around at the moment about girls brains and boys brains being hard-wired for gendered activities, so maybe people think, 'I might just as well buy pink!

I have met some of those women who believe in the girly stuff for girl children tho they may espouse a little bit of careerism themselves. They've usually been, ahem, in the lower eschelons of any organisation I've been in...I don't want to sound class-ist, but I'm infering that they're less educated (i.e. the clerical brigade, etc). Mind you, my cousin dresses her daughter like a China doll (because she looks a bit like one at the moment) tho I can't imagine she would ever have dressed or been dressed that way herself.

Friends here complain that it's really hard to get practical shoes for little girls, so they end up buying them mini-blundstones.

I can't imagine parents in Sydney are starved for choice.

At 9:58 pm, Anonymous JenniferV said...

OK, I'll bite...

1) The vast majority of clothing for sale for girl babies and toddlers is pink. Unless you are deliberately making a statement about not dressing your daughter in pink, it's easier just to go with the flow.
2) When you have a two year old who insists on choosing her own clothes each morning, it reduces the risk that she will look like a clown if her entire wardrobe is from a fairly restricted tonal range.
3) I like pink. I wear it myself.
4) Getting speculative now... might it also have something to do with the "everything's so cheap nowadays" factor that you have written about before? Maybe in the past parents had half an eye to hand-me-down-ability of clothes so they went for more unisex colours in case the second child was a different sex. These days each new child can have its own new wardrobe and not overly strain the parental finances, allowing for pinkerama explosions such as the one you witnessed.

Interestingly, once they get out of the compulsory pink phase of toddlerhood, girls have a much wider colour palette to choose from than boys. There is no colour that girls can't wear. But, as tjilpi suggests, try putting a boy in pink and see what reaction you get.

(And, yes, I have met mothers of girls who have very girly aims for their daughters eg worrying about their 18 month old being too chubby - for appearance not for health reasons. I'm sure they want them to have interesting, fulfilling careers too, but they certainly already see their daughters through what I would consider a not very feminist prism. But my take on feminism and toddler clothing is that its practicality for play is more important than its colour.)

At 4:49 pm, Blogger Susoz said...

The ubiquity of pink is a bee in my bonnet too. I can't remember ever wearing pink as a child and neither did my three sisters. I did put my baby son in pink and he had one shocking pink t-shirt that he wore when he was four and five. I tried hard to put him in a range of colours and even now I try and keep him out of all the military khakis and beiges which dominate boys' clothing - though I think there is more of a range for boys. Jennifer's reasons chime with me - in clothing shops, the girl section is almost entirely pink ie there's not much else on offer; I suspect that little girls pick up on pink as a definition of girlhood and demand to be in it - this seems to apply even more to little sisters who see their big sisters in it all the time; people can afford to buy new clothes for all their children - it's apparently unthinkable to put a girl in hand-me-downs from a boy.
I was astonished when my son's teacher, who always wore jeans to work, said she was glad she was expecting a girl as she could dress her in pink frills. I just don't get it! Why would you put a baby in something you wouldn't be seen dead in yourself?

At 8:03 pm, Blogger Jennifer said...

JV, I could say this post was just to get you to comment (just kidding).

I don't think the pink dressing says that much about the mothers level of education or feminism. One of the mothers I was talking to said it was all her husbands' fault, and there was quite a mix of education and feminism in the women involved. Maybe it is just the shops after all (I don't tend to spend much time in the girls' section - it depresses me that it is usually twice as big).

But it seems to me that boys of the same age have a much greater choice of colour than the girls do. Probably about half my boys' clothing is blue, whereas it seems a much higher proportion that's pink for the girls of my acquaintance.

(for the record, C's only article of pink clothing is his swimming goggles, and D has none, although C would wear a lot more if we let him, as it's his favourite colour - but both boys have quite a lot of red clothes, which I have heard described as a "girl's colour")


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home