Even if you subscribe to the belief that girls and boys inherently differ — as argued by a friend who describes her son’s first encounter with a tractor tire at age three: “He stood there staring at it in awe…my daughter would never have exhibited such behavior” — it’s hard to argue that the deluge of Everything Pink, Princess, and Sparkly (after which they graduate to Sexy, Slutty, and Bratty) is doing our girls any good.
First, let’s take a look at the color (actually shade) pink. To those who shrug and ask, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a color,” I ask in kind: What’s the big deal about a swastika? It’s just an ornamental symbol that was in use for centuries before there were ever such creatures as Nazis. See what I mean? Nothing that ubiquitous, that pervasive, is ever “just a…” We can’t turn the clock back to when pink was just a color any more than we can go back in time to when a swastika was just a decoration.
Speaking of going back in time, let’s take a look at the quintessential female-stereotyped toy: the Susie Homemaker Oven As much as I disapprove of its message that cooking and baking are women’s jobs, note that 1) It’s — get ready! — green, and 2) It actually does something, i.e., it’s a tool used to produce, create, make something — not to mention promote learning a life skill — as opposed to the overwhelming quantity of products aimed at today’s girls, which encourage them to 1) dress up, 2) look good, and 3) get pampered.
Even classic toys like Lego, which encourage building and creating, now have a special “Girls” category, and parents unfortunately seem to swallow whole the Legos premise that kids’ interests break down by gender. Instead of asking, “Why aren’t there more ‘girls’ Legos’?” how come parents aren’t simply buying the “boys’ Legos” for their girls? Did I miss the Gender Police at Toys r Us?
Lastly, let’s turn our attention to this century’s corporate juggernaut, the Disney princesses. Look closer: They’re no longer innocent. In fact, they’ve gotten a sexy 21st-century makeover Also, note the facial expressions: In the last two examples, Belle and Sleeping Beauty have coy, come-hither expressions that they didn’t have when they were “born”. In other words, Disney princesses who began their “careers” as girls have "inexplicably" morphed into young women, i.e., they have sexual potential. Whether or not it’s not subtle, it's insidious, and like any subliminal message, deserves our attention.
So, what do we do? Well, for one thing, we can make a Present Pact: Next time you’re choosing a present for a kid, choose a gender-neutral one, or if those are too hard to find, at least don’t drench the recipient, if she’s a girl, in yet more pink; and if a boy, in yet more macho, superhero black. For newborns I recommend skipping a gift for Baby entirely and instead pampering the parents with a nice body products or coffee sampler gift pack. After all, being pampered is a privilege, not a right, right?