For one reason or another, the idea of gender was a major theme for me last year. One result of this is that I am defending something I never thought I would.
I am defending pink.
Between the video of the adorable girl criticizing the gendering of toys and the outrage over new Lego for girls it seems like the internet has blown up lately talking about toys for girls. I could spend all day linking to it all, or I could just let you Google it – there is a lot out there. I used to be in the same boat as these critics. I grew up a tomboy and my lust for Star Wars action figures instead of dolls was intense. I hated it when people tried to define my femaleness with traditional femininity. It did not fit me.
While pregnant with my first daughter I put a lot of thought into how I would raise a girl, unconstrained by social expectations of girliness. I was the parent who insisted on gender neutral clothing & toys. Barbie was absolutely forbidden. I ended up with an older daughter who almost totally eschews traditional feminine trappings. Aaaaand then we had daughter number two who is a frilly femme from her waist-length hair to her sparkly blue toenails. No amount of gender neutral propaganda is going to make this child not want to twirl around in lacy dresses and a tiara. And here is the thing – that should never be my goal.
I support gender neutral toys, but I no longer support the ghettoizing of pink ones. When we tell children that pink toys are bad, we tell them that femininity is bad. Girls and women should never be locked into gender stereotypes, but they also should not be denied their true selves if that self feels girly*. We ought not to tell children of either gender that girls cannot be chemists, but we also should not tell them they cannot be fashion designers. In an effort to support telling girls they can be whatever they want and make progress in traditionally male domains, I believe some feminists are painting femininity in a negative light.
One of the things I have come to realize in the past year is that my dislike of the color pink, and various other traditional feminine traits and activities are really my own unconscious internalized misogyny. That is painful to type, because I don’t want it to be true. When I go out of my way to make sure that people realize that I don’t do X, like other women, what I am really saying is that they way women do things is not as good as the way men to them. I’m saying I’m better than other women because I act more masculine. I am not OK with that. I am also finding that the older I get the more comfortable I get with my own femininity – I could not have written this post at 20.
I love my t-shirt & blue jeans daughter and my party dress diva daughter without any desire to make either one more like the other. I honor their true selves. I only hope I do them justice as they grow into amazing young women – with pink or without.
*I’m not ignoring the fact that these issues also apply to boys and transgendered people. I don’t feel as qualified to speak to that. Those issues are real and valid, but they are not the subject of this post.