Does the “War on Pink” need to stop for boys’ sakes? No, and here’s why.

In a recent blog post on Girl w/Pen, professors CJ Pascoe and Tristan Bridges—sociologists whose work focuses on masculinity—make a strange request of their fellow feminist scholars and activists. “Stop the war on pink,” their headline pleads; “let’s take a look at toys for boys.”

Pascoe and Bridges claim that boys’ toys’ problems have been overlooked too long. Boy culture is too violent, too “gunnified.” Now, they say, we need “at least a pause” in critiquing girls’ toys and their “pinkification,” so that we can give boys’ toys our full attention.

As the mother of two little boys, I fully agree with their concerns about boys’ toys. Countless boys’ toys function to socialize our sons into stereotypical masculinity, and that is unfair. Boys deserve expanded play offerings every bit as much as our girls do—which is why I already support the Let Toys Be Toys campaign they mention. It’s why my gift-buying guide for children is gender-neutral. It’s why I’ve even read the book My Princess Boy to groups of preschool children: ALL toys, whether pink or blue, princess or superhero, should be socially acceptable for both girls and boys to play with. Full stop.

Unfortunately, Pascoe and Bridges’ ultimate assertion perplexes me. “Stop,” they say–“stop the war on pink.” This makes no sense.

Why? Why must we stop critiquing girl culture to address boy culture’s problems? After all, both problems coexist. Addressing them is not an either/or proposition. The dichotomy Pascoe and Bridges suggest—that we need to stop the war on pink to focus on boys’ toys—is as false as the dichotomy the toy industry presents to boys and girls. It’s not right.

Near their post’s conclusion, Pascoe and Bridges backpeddle a bit; rather than stopping our critiques of girl culture, they wonder if maybe we just “need to add to it a focus on the toys that we market to boys.” As an alternative to the “pause” they argued for, they suggest that girl-centric scholars and activists could just address both boys’ toys and girls’ toys simultaneously. You know—do all the work at once.

Well, I take issue with this assertion, too. Individual scholars and activists who work on girls’ issues have no obligation to “add to it a focus” on boys. It’s valid for girls’ toys and media to be the “project” that some of us choose to focus on. And that choice in no way detracts from the attention available to boys’ toys—a project that many activists and scholars are already engaged in (though Pascoe and Bridges’ post would lead readers to believe otherwise).

Dr. Jennifer Shewmaker, an associate professor of psychology at Abilene Christian University, agrees with this stance. “There are groups of scholars and activists who focus on different issues,” she explained, offering Crystal Smith and The Achilles Effect as an example. “Focusing on one does not negate the validity of the other.”

The thousands of people who support Let Toys Be Toys and similar initiatives are also well acquainted with how easily one can address stereotypes about boys’ and girls’ toys simultaneously.

In short, if Pascoe and Bridges feel there is not yet enough work on boys’ toys, it’s fair for them to call for further research and activism in that area. They can even seek out like-minded scholars and activists, and band together to make a positive impact on boys’ popular culture—just as my colleagues and I are working to do with our Brave Girls Alliance. After all, when you’re trying to sustain a cultural conversation, there’s strength in numbers.

But to suggest that the rest of us should “pause” in our work on girl culture while they work on boy culture—or shift our attention to boy culture ourselves—is preposterous.

14 Comments on “Does the “War on Pink” need to stop for boys’ sakes? No, and here’s why.

  1. Anyone who suggest one should stop paying attention to female socialization and instead pay attention to male socialization is questionable far as real feminism goes, as real feminism is about women and girls first and always. Good assessment.

    • You are uninformed. Feminism is about equality, and having the right to be anyone we want to be. Anyone who says that Feminists should be focused only on women, are just using the Feminist platform in order to put down men and masculinity.

      Something else to ponder….in olden times, pink was a boy’s colour, and blue was a girl’s. Blue was considered a weak colour, whereas pink, in it’s relation to red, was considered a strong colour.

  2. Reblogged this on Dr. Jennifer Shewmaker and commented:
    Thanks to Rebecca for addressing this either/or mentality. It’s important for scholars and activists to focus on promoting a healthy childhood for ALL children. Some will focus on girls, some will focus on boys, and others will focus on both. All of these positions are important and legitimate.

  3. As a mom of two boys, I see the de-pinkification of toys inherently increasing the toys options for boys and the whole point is to make toys gendered neutral. Yes, there are more guns/weapons for toys in the boys’ aisle, but that’s just because there IS a boys’ aisle. If there were just toy aisles, then yes, you would still find some weapons (catapults make a great physics lesson!) but dolls and dress up wouldn’t be as “off-limits” to boys as they today.

    That being said, as a society, it would be nice if we had as much focus and acceptance on nurturing the “feminine” personality traits in boys as we do on nurturing the “masculine” traits in girls. Personally, “real” feminism is about viewing men and women as equals. If we don’t encourage both men and women to reach across historic/cultural gender lines, we won’t succeed. De-pinkification is a step in this direction.

    • This is very well said. Whether we’re critiquing boys’ culture, girls’ culture, or both, we’re all on the same team. Reaching across those lines is the clear path to success. Thank you, Nic.

  4. That would be like asking us to stop finding solutions for homelessness because we need to focus on feeding the hungry. May the war on pink rage on and perhaps we can get just a little bit closer to the solution that is needed for all children to be socialized just a little bit better.

  5. Pingback: Boys and Girls, This Isn’t a Zero-Sum Game

  6. I agree wholeheartedly that it shouldn’t be an either/or thing – both are important. I wonder if there is a more subtle point, though, which is that when we critique ‘girl culture’ we must be careful to make sure we’re not inadvertently sending the message to both boys and girls that anything which is stereotypically feminine isn’t valuable. As I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s okay to like the colour pink, it’s okay to want to play with dolls – it’s just that girls shouldn’t be limited to those choices and they shouldn’t be off limits to boys. I sometimes worry that if we’re not careful in how we nuance what we’re saying about girl culture, we might reinforce the message to boys that anything which is pink and girly is icky and wrong.

  7. I don’t drop a comment, but after reading through
    a lot of responses on this page Does the War
    on Pink need to stop for boys sakes? No, and heres why.
    | Rebecca Hains. I actually do have 2 questions for you if you don’t mind.
    Is it just me or does it give the impression
    like a few of these remarks come across like they are left by brain dead people?
    😛 And, if you are posting on additional places, I’d like to follow you.
    Could you make a list of every one of all your shared
    sites like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

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