What’s the problem with pink and princess? The marketing, not the moms.

This week, New York and Slate published pieces asking why so many moms have a problem with pink and with princesses.

“What’s the problem with pink, anyway?” griped Yael Kohen in New York. Then, building upon Kohen’s piece, Slate senior editor Allison Benedikt demanded: “What is it with you moms of girls? I have never met a single one of you who isn’t tortured about pink and princesses.” Her annoyance is palpable.

Both writers proceed to defend all things pink and princess. “We treat pink — and the girls who like it — with […] condescension,” Kohen states, while Benedikt adds, “Moms of daughters need to chill out.”

Let’s take a step back, please. I am the author of a forthcoming book called The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years, and Kohen and Benedikt’s arguments are wrong on several levels. By pontificating on the subject without actually talking to the moms they’re criticizing, they’ve missed the point. Having interviewed more than 50 parents about princess culture, and dozens of experts as well, I’d like to state this categorically: No one is blaming girls. To suggest otherwise is to make a straw man argument that distracts from the real issues at hand.

Furthermore: No one thinks that pink is inherently a problem. Pink is not the “color of oppression,” as Benedick charges sarcastically.

No, no—the problem is not with the girls or the color pink. It’s with the marketing, because that marketing is reducing girls’ choices.

The pink thing–It’s crazy!

As the mother of a young boy, Benedikt can’t understand why the mom of a little girl she knows spent her own daughter’s princess-themed birthday party apologizing for all the pink and saying things like, “The pink thing, I know—it’s crazy!”

Since Benedikt is a journalist, she would have been smart to ask the mom what, exactly, was “crazy” about “the pink thing.” But instead, Benedikt appears to have arrived at her own conclusion: The mom is the crazy one, because, as Benedikt noted incredulously, she was criticizing the very extravaganza that she herself had organized!

Now, if either writer had bothered to talk with moms of girls, like I did for my book—or, for that matter, to connect with the authors and activists who’ve been critiquing pink girly-girl culture for several years, like me, Peggy OrensteinMichele Yulo, or the team behind Pinkstinks—they would have learned something important. In the marketplace, products that are pink and princessy now dominate the girls’ sections. The marketing is so insidious that the moms I interviewed complained that it is virtually inescapable—and to very young children, it implies that pink and princess are the ONLY good choices for girls.

In other words, it wasn’t that they didn’t want their daughters to like pink or princesses. Far from it. It was just that they didn’t want their daughters to only like pink or princess.

That, I’d wager, is what the mom who threw the princess-themed birthday party was fretting about. You know how the subtitle of my book includes the phrase “princess-obsessed years”? I’m not exaggerating when I say that there are many little girls out there who only want pink, only want princesses, and that the obsessiveness spills over into every aspect of their families’ lives.

In Kohen’s piece, she defends pink princess products and marketing because, she says, “plenty of girls seem to love it.” This is true—plenty of girls do love it. I would never tell a girl that she’s wrong to enjoy what she enjoys. Princess culture is full of pleasures for our little ones. It’s fun and sparkly and such a source of delight!

4359702274_8ebc8aea7aKohen is missing a critical piece of the puzzle, however. Pink princess marketing is so forceful, backed by so many billions of dollars, that it’s not really a choice anymore. It’s proscriptive, it’s coercive, and it takes deliberate advantage of a developmental phase that industrial psychologists are well aware of. Approximately two-thirds of preschool girls go through a phase in which they believe that their sex (the fact that they are girls) fully depends on external factors, like how they dress, because they don’t understand that sex is determined biologically. Fearful of losing their gender identities, and declaring their joy in being girls, they latch onto the most obvious stereotypical markers of their gender.

This developmental phase used to manifest in girls as a refusal to wear anything but dresses. (In contrast, in boys, it manifests as an avoidance of all things girlish.) Now, it manifests in girls as a refusal to associate with anything but pink and princess—a full-blown obsession.

Perhaps that casts a more sympathetic light on the mom Benedikt slammed for planning a pink princess party despite feeling conflicted about it. The mom probably thought the “pink thing” was “crazy” because of its intensity, its grip on her daughter, and its inescapability in the marketplace. And for a mom who wants her daughter to have a delightful birthday experience but is worried about the consequences of all this pink princess stuff overrunning her daughter’s life, it’s a no-win situation.

Think about it. That is crazy.

Also a problem: The minority of girls who actively reject things that are stereotypically girly because they are gender-nonconforming (approximately 1 in 10 children, according to a recent Harvard study) are left out, treated by peers and even adults as somehow defective. The Harvard study suggests that such children leave childhood with PTSD! How shocking and saddening.

Meanwhile, parents whose daughters are inextricably caught up in pink princess culture have legitimate concerns about its effects. For one thing, princess culture focuses so strongly on physical appearance that it teaches girls that how they look is incredibly important. It teaches little girls to seek praise for their appearance—which is why so many little girls insist on wearing their princess playclothes out of the house. People gush over them. This upsets parents who know that it’s what’s inside that counts, and who want their daughters’ sense of self-worth to come from within.

Also, as far as storylines go, the princess script is limiting. Parents I interviewed told me stories about their daughters lying around helplessly waiting for their princes to come rescue them—marking dramatic changes in their previously active and energetic play patterns.

Furthermore, even though Kohen notes that princess products “reflect subtle, but profound changes in the way our society views its girls and their girlyness,” with princesses who are “more dynamic,” she’s missing something: girls may adore their Brave and Frozen DVDs, but in many homes—indeed, across the Disney Princess franchise—Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty still reign supreme. And although princesses on screen have indeed become more dynamic in our post-girl-power world, many of the toys—especially the dolls that preschool girls cherish—all seem to regress to the mean. Strong princess characters like Merida get reduced down to sparkly fashion objects in ways that completely undercut the empowering messages from their films (as my previous posts here and here point out).

Here’s what’s happening: In the marketplace, products that are pink and purple are “for girls,” while everything else is “for boys.” As a mom, I see this playing out time and again. Anything with a hint of pink on it, my 5-year-old son rejects. “That’s too girly,” he’ll argue, even if there’s only the tiniest hint of pink on a product. Where did he pick up on this? Not from me! He’s absorbed this lesson from the culture we’re immersed in—from the marketing that relies on stereotypes to segregate our children, maximizing profits at the expense of children’s healthy gender identity development and well-being.

The moms of girls who are fretting about pink princess culture don’t need to be slammed by Benedikt, Kohen, and others. Jumping to conclusions doesn’t help anybody, and pink and princess really doesn’t need to be the latest installment of the Mommy Wars. If we can understand and address the root of the problem together, we can foster a healthier world for all of our children—boys and girls alike.


Rebecca Hains is a media studies professor at Salem State University. Her book, The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years, is now available for pre-order from Amazon.

If you liked this post, please follow Rebecca on Facebook and TwitterYou may also follow Rebecca’s blog by hitting the “follow blog” button at the top left of your screen at rebeccahains.wordpress.com. Thank you.

210 Comments on “What’s the problem with pink and princess? The marketing, not the moms.

  1. while you’re lamenting about the moms of girls, spare a thought to the the dads of these little princesses who miss the days when their little girls played with cars and toy drills and would like to teach them how to change a car’s oil or tire… and are heartily sick of pepto-pink everywhere (not because they dislike pink, necessarily, but because *there is nothing else*).

    • I couldn’t agree more! I discussed moms in this post because they were the focus of the articles I responded to, but the heavy gendering of childhood commodities affects entire families, dads included.

    • I got lucky – I was young before the pink REALLY got crazy – and I was a total tomboy – just as many trucks, cars and tractors as horses and my little ponies. I played video games, and my Dad and I built our first computer together when I was about 16 or so. I took Shop, Electronics and Programming in High School. But I know what it’s like – at the same time, I questioned my gender identity because I didn’t feel like a woman could be an engineer (like my Dad, the way I wanted to be) so I felt like I didn’t “fit” in the “woman” mold because of that – it took me a couple of years to really realize that THAT was the underlying question driving my gender issue. Once I realized that, I quit stressing about it, realized that it was internal programming that was screwing me up, and moved on – happy to be a woman, but HAPPIER to be helping the NEXT generation of girls to realize that STEM is for us, too!

  2. The articles you mentioned were especially infuriating to me since I had to go to Toys R Us today. I couldn’t find ANYTHING in that store because it is 100% divided by gender. I have no comprehension how that is decided or how it should make sense to me! And, yes, EVERYTHING on the ‘girl’s side’ was pink or purple. They had Brave and Frozen figures…all gussied up in makeup and dresses and pink. It was disgusting and a complete miss – representation of those characters and themes. This will be a sexist society where girls are pushed around and labeled until toy stores stop this crap. How about organization by product…in all colors and styles? One of my girls loves pink, but she also loves orange and Superman and the Hulk. The other one despises pink…but she loves fairies and Batman. One wants a doctor kit, the other a tool kit, and yet they both love Pinkalicious, trains, and dinosaurs. Talk about the circuitous route I had to take through that store in a maze of gender segregation I had no comprehension of! Not only am I appalled by this blatant gender segregation, but I am equally shocked by how threatened and angry people seem to be by the suggestion that this system is sexist, unfair, and makes no sense. I wonder if I am SO shocked because I am an older mother. For twenty adult years I never stepped foot in a toy section, so when I did, this issue screamed at me from every shelf! I have ranted against the inherent sexist system in our society for years. I just never realized it began in the aisles of the toy department.

    • I am not a mom, but reading this article and also about your thoughts, made me really understand your point. The truth is that if I have a little girl one day I would love if she likes pink as if she likes rainbows everywhere, as long as she can choose!

      • Yes, thank you for understanding. It’s all about choice! Let kids be who they are, not who marketers tell them to be.

    • OMG, I know how you feel. I had that same experience a few months ago when I went to buy a birthday present for my niece’s 2 year old son. Everything in Toys R Us is separated by gender so specifically. I couldn’t believe it and it also made it really hard to find things. CRAZY!

  3. Fantastic post, thank you very much. I found the article to be so incredibly obnoxious and appreciate that you so perfectly and thoroughly explained why, better than I ever could have. I also learned some things (that note on the developmental phase of preschool girls was fascinating). I had a few quick thoughts:
    I was what you’d call a tomboy growing up. I steadfastly refused anything girly or pink and proudly proclaimed I would never, EVER wear a dress. Eventually though, I started taking an interest in makeup and more feminine clothes, basically growing out of the tomboy thing through what seemed like a normal developmental process for me. I never felt inadequate and I certainly don’t feel like there’s anything approaching some sort of PSD. Are they referring more to girls growing up in this current climate? (I am 30 now.)
    I also take issue with the societal roles marketers impress upon girls using the color schemes. I have a picture from a Toys R Us I was in last year- all princesses, dolls, and cooking and housecleaning vs. the blue side which included sci-fi, video games, and science toys. There’s no problem with a little girl wanting to pretend to cook, but it so clearly sent the message she is supposed to like cooking and cleaning BECAUSE she is a girl.
    My third point is also an extension of this issue, and that is the bullying little boys suffer because they happen to like pink, or other things deemed “girly”. I was so offended that the article used “bronies” as an example to support their argument without mentioning how much teasing and bullying some of these boys face because other kids are raised to believe there is something wrong or weird about that. This article is just ridiculous.

  4. “Approximately two-thirds of preschool girls go through a phase in which they believe that their sex (the fact that they are girls) fully depends on external factors, like how they dress”
    Does this phase have a name? How can I find out more about it? Child development is not my field but my daughter is three and I would like to learn more.

    Do boys also go through this phase? My son is just as rejecting of “girl” things as my daughter is of “boy” things, but it is less noticeable because everything is set up as default-male.

    • In addition to the references Jo mentions (thanks, Jo!), the source I found quite helpful on this is an article from the journal “Developmental Psychology.” Here’s a link to the abstract; I think that if you search for the full text in Google Scholar, it may come up there.


      And yes, boys do go through this phase, but apparently in slightly smaller numbers and it’s somewhat less obvious, as it’s rejecting girly things, rather than going over the top in wearing boyish things. Good luck and let me know if you need more info!

  5. Canadians have created a number of opportunities to make pink the color of choice for both sexes. One of them is the ‘PinkShirtDay’ which is is an anti-bullying program.
    The Calgary Stampede is one of the venues of Wrangler’s ‘Tough Enough to Wear Pink’ campaign which is a fund raiser for breast cancer victims.
    I don’t know if this does much to change the pink princess culture, but maybe it is a step in a good direction.

  6. I think it would be hard to change all this pink for girls to something else. There isn’t an easy way to implement this. Why change something that works for most?

    • In what way is it hard? One incredibly easy solution is already being implemented by some retailers in the UK, thanks to the Let Toys Be Toys movement: the organization of toys in you stores by their theme or by category of interest–rather than by the presumed sex of the child who will play with it.

      Easy, peasy, done! And to be honest, even if it were harder than that–just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. Heck, the majority of human progress has been hard. Do you think putting a man on the moon was easy? 🙂

      • I would love a store like that! I have the opposite problem with a two year old who loves to “pretend cook”. It seems like cooking is mostly an “all girl, all pink” thing! Regardless of the fact that the most famous cooks and bakers are in fact men. I did find a retailer who makes gender neutral play kitchen, but when we went to the store to get extra food and accessories, I was stuck in a pink girly aisle. Granted he’s 2 and doesn’t care, but I’m dreading the day he stops doing what he loves because he doesn’t want to play with “girly” things.

    • What makes you think it works for most? I think the point of the article is that it hurts most.

    • As a girl in the early 70s, I loved my rainbow colored donut ring stacker and popper vscuum. I was shocked to see both these toys now offered in all pink versions, completely unnecessarily. Maybe one easy thing to do would be to stop making pink versions of all the multi-colored toys!

  7. Just this afternoon I went to the Museum of Technology in San Jose, CA, where they do an excellent job of teaching science to both boys and girls, until you get into the museum store. There they have a lot of non-gendered items, but enough items clearly coloured for either boys or girls. When I saw Astronaut Barbie in bright pink and white, I laughed out loud.

    • Interesting! If you are ever up in San Francisco, check out the Exploratorium. I was impressed by their gift shop, which was categorized by theme. It was great!

      • I will definitely check out the Exploratorium. To clarify, though, I should explain that the Tech Museum gift shop is also categorized by theme. It was just that some of the items for sale were clearly colour coded for gender.

  8. My wife and I have no children of our own, but we are much like surrogate parents to 4 beautiful nieces, all Disney freaks. We have experienced the very same pink-mania you have so brilliantly researched. Their biological fathers are either MIA or sporadically involved in the lives of these precious little girls, but we see them almost daily; therefore, I am, unfortunately, the only father figure they have really ever known!

    Christmas and birthdays are full of pink this and pink that, but my wife and I truly encourage them to understand that their choices in life come in every color that exists! But, as you say, mass marketing (based on, of course, control groups and such) have limited the choices for little girls, even in such gender-neutral items as musical instruments (like, say, a pink Hello Kitty child-sized acoustic guitar).

    Likewise, we teach them that, although we hope they find someone to love someday, they must first learn to navigate the treacherous waters of Life on their own. I don’t want them to depend on a man (or woman, maybe) to “rescue” them, but rather, find an equally self-reliant partner to be inter-dependent with.

    Oh, and pink is indeed an awesome color for men as well (my favorite guitar is a hot pink Hendrix Strat that even glows under blacklite. Groovy, man!)

  9. I agree with you completely! I’m pregnant now and don’t know if I’m having a boy or girl, and the clothing choices I see are so gender specific. Pink princesses and blue trucks. What’s wrong with a girl wearing a blue onesie with an elephant on it? Nothing if you ask me…that’s why I bought it.

    • Absolutely! Blue is a pretty color, and elephants are adorable. No need for such a thing to be considered gendered in any way!

  10. So here is the thing. This is nothing new. Pink and princesses (and unicorns) has always been marketed to girls and yes it does suck. That doesn’t mean you have to live with it.

    You have a choice how you raise your daughter. I made a conscious decision to raise mine by letting her choose what interests her. One year I started to laygh as she got dressed for Halloween. Not because of her costume, but because her costume that year was of the crocodile hunter and her room was cotton candy pink!

    She would play with Barbies and remote controlled race cars in the same afternoon.
    Marketing will make kids interested for a little while in something but it is their own mind that will tell you where their true interests lie.

    • Thanks so much for commenting! Your daughter sounds awesome. 🙂

      Actually, there’s just one point I want to respond to, too: pink has not always been marketed to girls! Before the 1950s, baby blue was considered the appropriate color for girls, in part because it’s the color associated with the Virgin Mary. And pink was a boys’ color because it’s a lighter version of red and therefore was considered more powerful.

      Jo Paoletti (who commented upthread) wrote all about this in her book “Pink and Blue,” which I recommend—it’s a fascinating read!

      • The first time I came across the concept of ‘pink for girls and blue for boys’ was in a L M Alcott book where one of the characters has twins – a pigeon pair – and another character suggests that it would be good to follow the French fashion of pink for the girl and blue for the boy. I can’t remember which book but I don’t think it was from the Little Women series.

        Would this have had some influence on the American culture? which by the way has spread here to Australia.

  11. As a mother of two girls, one very much a girly girl and the other feminine but more rounded in her tastes, I have always let them decide what they preferred and have never been bound by the pink and princess chains. My oldest still loves pink and all things frilly and my youngest plays with GI Joe and Monster High dolls and loves all colors. Because I never put them into a girly box they have had the pleasure of defining who they want to be, not what marketing thinks they ought to be.

  12. Pink is an attractive beautiful colour. Even the Nature sprinkles this colour at dawn and dusk. Small children look very very beautiful in pink attire with their pink cheeks.

    • I agree–boys and girls alike! Nothing cuter than a rosy-cheeked boy in a pink shirt like you might see at Easter.

      The point is simply that when it comes to girl culture, ALL pink and ONLY pink is too much of a good thing. 🙂

  13. Its the common Stereo type of Girls are princesses and pink and sparkles.. with there prince charming.. Name one Disney princess that doesn’t need a man…Besides the New one Brave.. we have taught out girls that its fairy tales and puppies.. Sadly, Life is no Fairy tale coming from a single divorced mother of 3 girls. My girls have dolls but have nerf guns and legos (that aren’t girly) cars and building sets.

    • Yes, SO many of the parents I interviewed for my book objected to the whole romance narrative of princess stories. People kept asking why all the Disney Princesses are so focused on Prince Charming, when there are other interesting things in life, too?

      Bra handled this really well, and Frozen addressed it, too. I don’t want to put any spoilers here since it sounds like you haven’t seen it, but you might really like the way that film ends.

      • My niece recently visited Disney World with her family (she’s 8) and noted a sort of hierarchy among the Disney princesses. Cinderella’s at the top (it’s her castle), with Aurora and Snow White pretty high on the list. Characters like Mulan and Jasmine that are actually pretty capable you basically don’t see. So the message is that the more vapid and helpless you are, the more of a “proper princess” you are.
        Enough of this insanity!

        • Your niece is right on the money! She may not have seen them, but Jasmine and Mulan are over in Epcot, in the Morocco and China areas. In kids’ eyes, Epcot is absolutely lower in the hierarchy (and less magical) than the Magic Kingdom, so even though they *can* be found, I agree with her fully: they’re lower in the hierarchy, and the more “princessly” princesses are of the classic, helpless variety.

          • THAT’S where they are?! Now I’m really upset. Those were my favorite princesses growing up, and when I went to Disney World, I chose Magic Kingdom because I was expecting to maybe find them there. Nope, just those top ones that I had no interest in. Epcot from description didn’t look that interesting, but now I wish I could go there so I could give my favorite princesses a hug.

            • Epcot has been my favorite Disney park since it opened when I was 12. It’s really fantastic, especially for teens and adults.

    • Mulan, Pocahontas, and Jasmine didn’t need men. They were all being forced to marry by their families, but the characters themselves didn’t need the men they fell in love with and fought their families on how marraige was going go happen for them. They each won their family over on it, while Milan and Pocahontas went on to save their people and the men they loved. Belle also didn’t need a man, he needed her. Rapunzel saved Flynn Rider two or three times before he returned the favor. Tiana also didn’t need her man. And I’m guessing you haven’t seen Frozen yet.

      • I was just about to say the exact same thing! Plus, Ariel saved Eric.

        • I’d question Ariel because she chose to get legs and lose her voice for Eric later. It feels more like a mixed message when you consider that factor. There’s compromise, and then there’s sacrificing voice, family, friends, and comfort zone to be with a guy you just met even if you DID help him out.

          • I think that’s more because of her age (rebellious, impulsive teen who thinks the first crush is THE ONE) than because of her gender LOL. Plus, I think if Eric had known the girl was from the sea, he’d have found a way to get to her, even by becoming a merman!

  14. As the mother of two VERY different girls, we often talk about gender norms in my house. Both of my kids at different ages have questioned what they are “supposed” to think, feel, or wear whenever their friends have said they are doing something outside of the usual. I think this struggle is something that is hard to battle with a young child – and marketing is huge. The Goldiblox revolution is thriving on this struggle!!!

    I agree with you that we should be looking at who the problem is REALLY about and reflecting on that issue versus the power of the pink dress.


    • Yes, exactly! It sounds like you know just what I mean. Thanks so much. GoldieBlox absolutely is thriving off of this, which is interesting because if you read the reviews, it doesn’t even sound like it’s that engaging a toy–it’s not open-ended or interesting enough to get a lot of use from most kids, from what I’ve read. But it’s big business to claim you are selling empowerment nowadays, especially with girl culture such a focus of the Mommy Wars. Ugh.

  15. I love how thoroughly you explained this. There are tons of princess themed marketing aimed at little girls, and in contrast, little “masculine” themed marketing. I think people jump to the conclusion that little girls prefer princesses, when in truth, girls might like superheroes better if they had more characters like Wonder Woman for role models.

    • Thanks, I appreciate that–and I agree! More Wonder Woman (and not the pinkified version Target sold last year, ack!).

  16. This has been a hot topic in my circle of friends lately. I am a mother of a little girl, and yes, I am not a fan of pink. Like you said, it’s not that I hate pink, it’s that I hate gender based play being shoved down our throats. If you walk into any major retailer, you will find the clearly divided and defined toy sections of pink and blue.

    • Exactly. I really think a lot of people wondering what the big deal is need to take a field trip to a toy store. It’s much more demarcated than it used to be!

  17. Great post! It truly is a bizarre situation. As I’m sure you’re aware, pink was not always a colour associated with femininity, but given the strength of the connection it now has to femininity it’s almost hard to believe it was ever different! The power of marketing, I suppose.
    It’s also such a hard dichotomy to break, given that children pick up on other people’s behaviour in such a sensitive way.

    • Indeed! Children are very sensitive and notice cues we don’t even realize we are sending. I think that when it comes to gender segmentation and gendered marketing to kids, we’ve created a monster.

  18. Loved this post. My 6 year old daughter was huge into princesses for many years and I too felt the princess and pink thing was crazy but that’s what she was into so we embraced it. Now she’s rockin’ out to super heros with her younger brother which I think is great. However, I was bummed the other day when she didn’t want to wear her Avengers T-shirt to kindergarten because she said she didn’t think the other girls would like it since it’s not “girly”. I hope I can help her get over worrying about what’s girly or boyish and just be content to enjoy what makes her happy.

    • It’s great that her interests are broader now, but I agree, how sad that she’s worried a shirt she likes isn’t “girly” enough for her! What did you say to her when she said that? Any good examples of conversations you could share for parents going through the same thing with their kids?

  19. I think the best thing I can do for my future children is just teach them to be decent people and not think about feminism or gender issues at all. I don’t think it’s helpful and I don’t think it’s productive. My mum, aunts, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers raised wonderful children and didn’t give one thought to “gender roles.” My mum just bought us Barbies and my Aunt bought my male cousin action figures and rubber bugs and that was it. I know I can’t stop this craziness that’s distracting us from focusing on what’s important, but I don’t have to be part of the problem. Turning our children into good people can be done without ever mentioning feminism and whatever it’s standing for that week.

    • Hi, Anthea! Thanks for your comment and for reading. I can appreciate that from your perspective, this all seems like no big deal. But it’s possible that when you have children, you’ll understand why so many moms and dads are worried about what the marketers’ approach to childhood is doing to their kids. Becoming a parent is often a huge paradigm shift: things we thought didn’t matter suddenly do, and things we thought really mattered suddenly don’t.

      If you have a child who is gender-non conforming and is bullied for it, or a kid who is pretending not to like the things they love because they’re afraid they’ll be picked on, as a parent you are likely to feel incredible distress.

      It’s the humane thing to make sure that all children feel valued and respected in our culture, rather than force-fitted into rigid pink and blue boxes.

      • I appreciate your response, but here’s the thing: I’m admittedly going to buy my little girl toys geared towards girls and vice versa if I have a boy. I will do this without shame. If they want different toys, maybe I’ll buy them those. It depends. I know I’m not going to give one thought to them being gender-non conforming because if my family is anything to go by, my kids will be okay with whatever gender they are. I’m not going to complicate their lives by making them asks questions that no one has answers to.

        • I think you misunderstand me. I’m not saying that you should complicate their lives and make them ask questions. But I can tell you that 1 in 10 kids is gender conforming. So sure, the odds are in your favor that your kids will be happy with whatever is stereotypically associated with their gender. But the odds of gender nonconformity (meaning they don’t like the things stereotypically associated with their gender–like a girl who hates dresses or a boy who loves dolls) are not terribly low.

          So, here’s the thing: *you* need to plan to be okay with whatever gender identity your kids are. As a parent, you put your kids’ needs first. End of story.

          • I NEED to? Yeah, I’m just to raise decent kids and not thought give one thought to gender-identity. Also, I’d love to know where you got the 1 in 10 statistic. You know, 82.5% of statistics are made up on the spot. 🙂

              • I’m not going to need luck. I don’t have a misguided loyalty to feminism to interfere with my parenting. 🙂

                  • Yes, and good luck with your participation in an ideology which stereotypes and limits you because of your gender. 🙂

                    • That’s a nonsensical thing to say, but… thanks? You seek to be describing feminism as the exact opposite of what it is. Is it Opposite Day where you are? 🙂

                    • Remember when you said because I’m a woman, I have to support feminism?

                      “Are you glad you can have a job if you want to, that you can own property, that you can vote? Thank feminism.”

                      If I was a man, you wouldn’t say I need to support a specific ideology. Imagine if someone religious wandered around saying, “Because you exist, you’re automatically in the religion I believe in because I believe God made you.”

                    • Nope, I didn’t say you have to support feminism. If I did, I must have misspoken, and I apologize. Can you point to where I said you must support feminism?

                      I have come to the conclusion in our exchanges here and on your blue tonight that you’re not arguing in good faith. You’re making straw man arguments and even putting words in my mouth. You also seem to have some challenges with reading comprehension, misinterpreting what I’ve written. So, it’s been nice, but I’m going to now out of this conversation. But have a good night, and good luck with everything.

                    • You said are you happy you can get a job? Thank feminism! This implies that IF I’m happy I can get a job THEN I need to thank feminism. You’re saying because I’m a woman who IS happy about working, I must support feminism. There’s no misinterpretation on my part. But I’m done too. Good luck with everything! 🙂

                    • Anthea, that’s incorrect and a bad-faith argument. I asked (in a comment thread on your blog) why you are afraid of feminism? I explained that feminism is to thank for some of the basic rights you now enjoy (being allowed to work, to vote, to own property).

                      You misread that (or perhaps deliberately twisted my words–it’s hard to say, as you’ve also put a lot of words in my mouth in this discussion) as meaning you had to “support” feminism or be “happy” about feminism.

                      Please check your dictionary: To thank someone or something is to credit them for their work. It’s to give credit where due.

                      You can disagree with someone and nevertheless thank them for a favor they did for you–even grudgingly or unhappily. It’s a mark of maturity and being a well-rounded person who sees other people–and even ideologies–as nuanced and multi-faceted, rather than as oversimplified caricatures.

                    • I think it’s bad-faith argument on your part to continually say that I’m arguing in bad faith.

                      I removed the comments on my blog because I felt the discussion got too heated.

                      “It’s a mark of maturity and being a well-rounded person who sees other people–and even ideologies–as nuanced and multi-faceted, rather than as oversimplified caricatures.”

                      Again, talk to the author of the FP post who said that the Male’s Rights Movement was stupid. Also, you can see my most recent post that shows thoughtful girls who also disagree that feminism really does stand for equality.

                      You know, I wasn’t going to reply but calling someone immature and arguing in bad faith simply because they disagree with you is not mature.

                      But it’s your blog, so you can have the last word. Tell me I’m arguing in bad faith one more time, I won’t reply, and we can move on.

                    • I saw your response here before I got your email. Sorry–I would have let it be had I seen your apology first. And so in respect to that, I’ll just let this be, too. Peace.

                    • Great! Would you actually be able to delete the comment thread? I know that’s asking a lot, but I that I really would have communicated better last night if I hadn’t been pulling an all-nighter for school and running on 3 hours of sleep. I know that’s not an excuse, and I know the internet never forgets, but I thought I’d ask.

            • I know this ‘argument’ has basically been resolved but I still feel like complaining about how much of an idiot you were being because I’m bored and you’re giving anti-feminists like me a bad name. Though since I’m an irritable 17-year-old dateless/kissless/etc male, my opinions on gender issues aren’t the most experience-based in the world. Still, I was a child once I think. Anyway.

              You know, this article deserves a lot of appreciation because I came here hoping for something I could get good and angry at (being an anti-feminist and all) but instead I found a completely reasonable article about a real gender issue that contained essentially no reference to feminism or the bullshit that’s been associated with it in recent years (PATRIARCHY and the like). And the group painted as the ‘bad guys’ weren’t ‘EHRMAGAWD MEN’, but the insidious money-obsessed marketing industry that is always doing its best to wreck our society in exchange for more swimming pools and private jets. So I want to give all of my gratitude to Rebecca Hains. All of it.

              Now Anthea, raising decent children is a very important thing! And I do think ‘gender identity’ has become far too much of an ‘issue’ in the idiotic land of social justice and believe everything could be made simpler if we just let people do whatever they wanted as long as it didn’t directly hurt anybody. For example, I used to pretend to like classic ‘geek’ things like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings to fit in better with my geeky friends. Nowadays, I couldn’t care less. If the entire visual novel fandom thinks I’m wrong for loving Chaos;Head and disliking Ever17 then so be it. Likewise, purple is my favourite colour and any guy who thinks that’s ‘gay’ can go fall into a dumpster made of giant human-eating venus fly traps. (I’m not quite as fond of pink though. It’s not as bad as yellow or orange but maybe not as good as blue or green if you know what I’m saying. Colour preferences are pretty dependant on context and variety anyway.)

              Jesus I start rambling easily. What was I talking about. Oh yeah, you being dumb. This is one of the most spectacular examples of a strawman I’ve ever seen (and considering that the internet’s social justice movement is basically MADE of real live strawmen, that’s saying something!) because it’s like you’re trying to argue against a radical feminist when there isn’t actually one here! You kept referring to feminism when Rebecca literally never promoted it (from what I’d read on this page). You do actually say some things I agree with, including “an ideology which stereotypes and limits you because of your gender.” but you’re complaining to the complete wrong person here.

              When you do actually pull out a pro-feminist quote from Rebecca (“Are you glad you can have a job if you want to, that you can own property, that you can vote? Thank feminism.”) you then continue being idiotic by complaining some more to the exact same strawman while ignoring the actual point of anything said. As I understand it, Rebecca was referring to the early waves of feminism which, believe it or not, actually did help things somewhat. Obviously what is commonly referred to as ‘third-wave feminism’ is the absolute garbage I’ve already expressed my disagreement with. Okay I think I’m done.

              Also just going to add that as I read through the comments, I continue to agree with everything you say Rebecca. 🙂

              • I became angry and did not express myself eloquently and emailed an apology to Rebecca. I also requested that my comments be removed, but evidently they were not. I hope you have a good day and good luck in school! 🙂

              • I am impressed by your ability to give an objective reading to the article and respond accordingly! Way to go 🙂

            • Yeah, sorry for dragging it back up for my own amusement. My first line, “I know this ‘argument’ has basically been resolved but I still feel like complaining about how much of an idiot you were being because I’m bored” pretty much sums up 90% of my interaction with people on the internet.

              I hope you too have a good day, good luck in life and in future promote gender equality all the right ways!

  20. I read your blog and it’s quite interesting. Marketing is not in the benefit of children, but to themselves. Parents sadly buy the stuff to their children and then when they’re in the real world, they hit the roadblock. If I have a kid, I rather not push him to be someone that society pushes him or her to be.

    • Thank you, Omay! I agree with you 100%. Let kids be who they are–not who it’s convenient to marketers for them to be.

  21. I can really appreciate this article from my experience buying toys for my niece and nephew – the way the toy stores are segregated is frustrating especially when I’m trying to find a toy that is not pink or blue but rather gender-neutral.
    I disagree with some other comments that they would “parent properly” by avoiding the issue altogether because I don’t think this issue is about parenting at all and avoiding these topics just makes you an ostrich with your head in the sand. There are valid concerns over the control that marketing asserts over the choices children can make.
    In any case, interesting read, thanks!

    • That’s a really good point re: the head in the sand. As parents, we have to address contentious issues with our kids head-on, or they’re going to believe all kinds of things that are worrisome–and they will misunderstand our beliefs, too! In my book I have a chapter on parenting and race issues (since princess culture as a whole does a pretty crummy job with race representation) and I explain that, for example, when white parents avoid discussing race with their kids in an effort to appear “colorblind”, kids actually think their parents don’t like people of other races! It’s by talking with our kids that we help them understand how we see the world and what our values are. If we don’t do that, they are likely to absorb values we disagree with.

      Parenting: It’s hard work. 🙂

  22. Great post! I wish they would introduce blue for girls. I’m a girl and as far as I could remember my fav color has always been blue and there is nothing wrong with that 🙂

    • Yes! It’s interesting that blue used to be a girl color. Have you seen Disney’s Sleeping Beauty? That came out around the time that the pendulum was swinging towards pink being a girl color. That’s why the two fairies are always fighting over whether Aurora should wear pink or blue!

      • oh ya I totally forgot about her, and Cinderella wears blue too. They should definitely market both blue and pink and more colors. More options for consumers hehe.

        • In the movie, Cinderella’s dress is actually a shimmery light silver, but the lighting in some parts makes it look blue. Not sure why Disney chose blue for her dress for the Disney Princess line, but I’m glad they did because it’s a nice change from all the pink. It’s interesting that almost none of the princesses’ main outfits are pink, but all the products are pink anyway.

  23. No one thinks that pink is inherently a problem. Pink is not the “color of oppression,” as Benedick charges sarcastically……..true this post………i like this line no no no pbm in pink.,……….#wordpress!

  24. Interesting thoughts. It does make me proud of my husband. He wears pink and my daughter has even noted that pink isn’t just a color girls can like because her dad wears pink. Our children not only learn from society but from our actions as well. My 5 year old has seen Frozen and Tangled and Brave. However she has yet to experience Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty or even Beauty and the Beast for a reason. It’s hard to deny our children anything but it is important to that they are so busy that they have many other things to be engaged in

    • That’s great. Good for your husband! Pink is a flattering color on most people, and it’s certainly not going to threaten the masculinity of a person who is secure in their identity. 🙂

      I agree with your strategy of not sharing those older princess films with your daughter. Frozen, Tangled and Brave handle gender in much better ways!

  25. “because that marketing is reducing girls’ choices” … No, it’s not. Girls aren’t ‘banned’ from buying anything that isn’t pink. Free will is still a thing.

    • It’s not about banning–it’s about coercion. Look how the toy aisles are organized: as “boys’ toys” and “girls’ toys,” rather than by activity or interest or theme. Lots of young children are afraid to cross over into the aisle labeled as being for the opposite sex. Simply decoupling gender expectations from the way toys are marketed and sold would do a world of good!

    • I’m not sure what your point is. Can you clarify why you ask?

      Meanwhile, to answer your Q: Recapping the contents of my book for free as part of a timely discussion is a public service. If citing my own book as the source of my claims to expertise in this area constitutes a plug, well… I don’t understand what the problem with that would be.

  26. I’m glad this issue is being brought up again, because although we’ve heard it before and we know the problems, nothing has been done. It happens just as badly with books, too.

  27. I couldn’t agree more with you. My daughter is two years old and I avoid all of those pink girly toys as well as those cheesy princess costumes because I want her to be well-rounded. I want her to like to play with all kinds of toys and be open minded to not only play with regular coloured lego blocks (I still can’t believe that they are even making girly coloured lego blocks these days), but to also want to play with cars, animals, build things and not feel confined to only like a certain thing. I can’t stand this whole Disney princess obsession. It’s terrible because it really does get little girls thinking that they can only get a good guy or be successful if they are thin and beautiful. I don’t want my daughter thinking that her only worth is to be a trophy for some guy who swings by to rescue her from life. I want her to understand that she can succeed in life using her brain and being a contributing member of society–not a prize to sit around eating bon bons and just having to look pretty all day.

  28. Thank you so much for this. As a mom to a two-year-old girl, I have a hard time explaining to my own mom why I prefer her to stay out of the pink only aisles at Target when she’s picking up birthday and Christmas presents for my daughter. Happily, we have so far avoided all the aggressive princess marketing. My daughter got toy cars for her birthday; granted, they were pink, but it’s a start.

  29. What an interesting post you wrote here. You shed new light on a problem I had no idea it did so much damage to young girls. I always thought pink & princesses stereotyped girls in cookie cutter fashion but you showed it was much more.

  30. I am very interested in the concept of the Barbie dilemma and the polarity of the arguments. I face a lot of scrutiny for voicing a “pro Barbie/ princess” opinion. I feel like the message is there as long as we reinforce it, like you said with the Merida example. I really appreciate this post and the thoughts contained here. I am already adding your book to my reading list.

    I believe it is important that we not damn girls who want “girly” things. I am studying advertising and public relations at Ball State and I completely agree (I know that my validation means very little) that the point is to force girls down the avenue that sells pink sparkly princesses. That fact would be incredibly ignorant to deny. As I get older and learn to look at advertising with a more critical eye, I realize more and more how it forms perceptions, especially of children.

    Anyway, I appreciate what was said here and will definitely be looking for your work.

  31. As a mother of two boys and a girl, I couldn’t agree more with Rebecca. When I found out I was pregnant with a girl, I bought nothing PINK and still don’t even though it is a lot harder to buy clothes for girls with other colors. PINK always sneaks up every now and then.Also, most gifts and hand me downs are dominated by this one color and I do feel that I suffer from something called ” PINK OVERLOAD”.I have always thought that PINK and GIRLS was very stereotype, just like BOYS and BLUE”. I think in the initial years of a girl’s life, a mom own upbringing reflects the way she would dress up her daughter or decorate the room. Someone who was tomboy when growing up would have cared less for dolls and princesses. Till the time my daughter starts making her own decisions, PINK will be an eyesore in our house.

  32. I am so glad my little girl loves all colors and she loves “boy” toys as much as “girl” toys. She Is always asking to play with cars and fretting to “fix” things but I can see how kids think that pink I the only way.

  33. Reblogged this on Heather Brady Art and commented:
    It is hard thing to decide. I don’t want my children to miss out- just be well- rounded. It is up to me to find that balance and present it to them. Then, being well- informed, they are able to pick and choose whatever makes them happy!

  34. Great post! You make a very good point in saying that it’s not the pink and the princesses that are the problem, but the lack of alternatives. I hear this from my friends all the time – that even trying to find clothes for little girls that *aren’t* in shades of pink or purple is impossible.

  35. Excellent post. I have two daughters who’ve come by their love of pink and purple as organically as I can manage, and I think that’s good enough for me. They’re playing with Barbies right now, but the Barbies have no hair, and they’re missing several limbs, and the storyline involves a doctor (no men) and a dog and attendance at a Hairball Ball: altogether not too princessy!

    Defying gender-biased marketing and teaching gender-blindness is possible, but it also takes a lot of effort. I shouldn’t have to dodge entire aisles to do so 🙂

  36. My nieces attend a school with a dress code. Their clothing, including their shoes, is not allowed to be adorned with non-school colors. As much as she likes pink (and of course she does), my niece is OK with not being able to wear pink-splashed shoes. But she was really very upset that in order to accommodate the dress code, she had to buy shoes from the boy’s department, because those were literally the ONLY shoes available WITHOUT the un-approved pink adornments.

    Where ARE the clothing choices for dress codes that don’t include Barbie/Princess shades of PINK or PURPLE in the color scheme? For that matter, where are the choices for girls who (gasp!) don’t like pink?

  37. Reblogged this on The Student Becomes The Teacher and commented:
    As a pink color enthusiatist, I understand how it can be limiting to little girls in developing more varied interests. This post taps into this “Lean In” cultural phenomenon in a very articulate way.

  38. Pingback: Weekend Cures for Curiosity! | Cures for Curiosity

  39. This is indirectly related but I really don’t like that only girls are encouraged to play with dolls – act as though the doll is their baby and care for it; immediately engraving into them that their role as a girl is “mum”. Meanwhile boys play with fast cars and destruct things – they have fun without responsibility. I think lots of boys briefly take an interest in dolls but the parents almost seem embarrassed when this happens because dolls and babies are “girls'” toys.

  40. Whew. This is slowly spilling into India as well. I am in my 30s. I have a lot of friends and cousins in the US (I assume you are from US). One of my cousins had come down from US when I once wore a pink colour shirt (it used to be one of my favourites). He saw me and said “Not bad, men in India wear pink coloured shirts. If a man wore it in the US, he would be branded ‘Gay'”.

    And that was the last time I wore that shirt. Today I consciously avoided all that which is pink. I don’t know about Indian parents’ (in India) knowledge or lack of it about the colour ‘Pink’. Even Barbie dolls are quite expensive for an average family in India. I am sure the industry will invade the average Indian house very soon.

  41. Very interesting post. I have two boys (6 &4), and my six-year-old has no issue with color. My four-year-old is much more color oriented and sex identity aware (or just picky, as I saw it until now). While I haven’t any girls, I still see myself in your post. I was a girl who loved pink as a child (this was way before the princess days, I was a Barbie girl). I always saw the “pink” toy section as a fulfillment of what girls prefer, but I agree that it limits girls.
    As an adult, I cannot wear pink. I feel it is a princess color, and I am extremely particular about wearing certain shades. Even as an artist/designer, I never think in pink nor want to use it. To me pink is the antithesis of empowerment, and it holds a Paris Hilton stigma for me. (I realized all that from your post). It is a shame really, pink is a beautiful color in nature and compliments so many things. I have only used it as a request.
    The empathize with mother’s of girls. As a mother of two, I am trying to delay all commercialized marketing to my boys. It is a huge challenge. I am lucky to have a supportive partner who agrees. It is always a delicate balance of exposure, so they are not an outcast at school and maintain a degree of innocence. Thank you for your post and insight.

  42. Why do our girls love pink so much? Because Grandma says : “Uhhh, such a sweet young lady!!!” …
    Don´t get me wrong, I agree with your point on industry producing not only barbies made of plastic. But one should never forget about the responsibility and power that you´ve got as a parent. Do you want a “barbie-girl” or one that can deal with a “Bob the builder”-Shirt too?! It´s a hard walk through the pink wonderland but it´s up to ourselves if we take up the fight or give in and carry that pink plastic home ,-)
    You can´t change industry but you can change your own behaviour and the way you raise your kids, my two cents …

    cheers nathen

  43. I am a first time mom-to-be that found out two weeks ago I am having a girl. I originally thought I would go crazy shopping for girly things and have so much fun picking out her bedroom theme and bedding sets. I figured girls have more options in clothing and sets because we are more flexible than many boys with a lot of things. However, I soon realized the plethora of pink for girls. I couldn’t find a bed set for a girl without venturing into the “neutral” sections of the baby stores. Everything seems to be an overload of pink, and it is incredibly hard to find things that are girly in any other color. Since when did Minnie Mouse wear pink? I thought she wore red! Hello Kitty too! I am increasingly annoyed by the fact that it almost seems that girls should only wear pink. It really shouldn’t be so hard to find things that are cute and sweet for baby girls that aren’t all pink.

  44. Pingback: Girl’s Dreams and Boy’s Worlds. On early gender stereotypes. | zesyra

  45. I love pink. I was deprived of it as a child. I think there’s nothing wrong with girls loving pink. It is in fact a lovely color and if our daughters like it, then I believe we shouldn’t forcefully shove other colors at their faces. Not every girl’s a princess, but we’re all privileged to have our own fantasies. Pink and girl empowerment match really well. It’s up to us parents, to make them see the difference and guide them, whatever or whoever they want to be. Pink is not only a color now, but a broad idea. And among all colors, it’s one of the prettiest. Xo

  46. As the mother of a grown up boy (22) and the godmother of a 7 year old princess, I agree wholeheartedly. There is only room in the real world for a handful of princesses. The zillions of them that our market-based culture has created will be sadly disappointed in life. Because they are no longer playing princesses, they are living it. But they won’t be able to do that for very long.

  47. I agree. A huge problem. It seems worse for girls, all this stereotyping. Being young, they absorb it all. Why? because it’s everywhere – from TV to school to what all the other girls are doing and wearing, and peer pressure is so big (think Mad Ave doesn’t know that?)

  48. Reblogged this on and commented:
    I totally agree it’s not about pink or princesses… What do you think?
    Alexandra T. Greenhill, CEO myBestHelper and mom of three girls

  49. Excellent post!

    I remember when I was pregnant with my now 8-yo daughter, I already knew she was a girl by week 20, but my husband and I decided not to tell anyone, precisely to avoid the pink avalanche. We were given nice stuff in green, yellow and white, which was exactly what we were going for. I’ve tried doing the same for friends’ babies in recent years, but there is no such thing other than pink for girls or blue for boys. So sad.

  50. My daughter (now 8) went through the pink phase when she was around 5-6. I can proudly say that she’s over it, and not because we banned it, but because we simply refused the pink marketing, and continued to expose her to a range of different colours, toys and interests. The easiest way to refuse the pink marketing is to get out of the shops and get your girls to love doing something that doesn’t involve buying products.

  51. I found this post very interesting. I don’t have children but I do collect dolls and in particular Barbie. It annoys me a lot that there is so little choice both for me and for girls. Nearly all playline Barbies are pink themed and either princesses, fairies or mermaids. I have no problem with those characters but it is rather restrictive. When I was a little girl playing with my own fashion dolls their clothing and accessories came in many styles and colours, there was just a normal amount of pink. Toys looked realistic. Even though I was a little girl in the 1960s I had Matchbox cars, Lego and a trainset as as well as dolls. Have we gone backwards?

  52. Exactly. By starting childhood like this, you’re creating stereotypes already! What if girls want to play with trucks and action figures? And it’s not just girls, it’s boys, too. Why can’t they play with dollhouses?

  53. Marketing is amazing and scary. They can’t legally strap us down and brainwash us, but they can bombard us with identities and stereotypes that we slowly latch onto and associate.

  54. My daughter is exposed to that fairy princess girly girl world at her dad’s house constatly. At our house we fish, hike, ride bikes, play sports, get our nails done, go shopping… I try to make sure that she realizes that yeah princesses are fun but this stuff is fun too. It’s definitely a mother’s responsability to teach their children that they can be whoever they want. My daughter wears a tinkerbell dress to bed, but earlier that day she insisted on putting her own cricket on the hook (she’s 5 – so I’m suprer proud of that)

    The whole thing is over commercialized etc etc but as mothers we control what our children are exposed to and even if they are exposed to pink princesses and it’s out of your control you can still teach her how cool it is to bait your own hook and catch your own fish. They can like both worlds. It’s really not that big of a deal.

  55. My daughter loves pink, likes princess but thinks she more like Vanellope von Schweetz from Wreck it Ralph ! lol

  56. I think this trend started recently of girls liking pink ,but girls come to know their taste about different colours at a very young age.

  57. When I went to get an exersaucer for my infant daughter, there were two at the store:one that was jungle themed with all different colors on it and pictures of boys playing in it on the box and one that was completely pink with girls on the box. She’s six months old and it’s starting already. I don’t particularly like jungle themes, but two large toys of hers have it because the alternative was all pink. It’s ridiculous.

  58. We have managed to avoid this craze with our 2 girls by not having television and not sending them to pre-school. Without them seeing all the marketing, commercials, and store ads, at very young ages they didn’t know they were “supposed” to like “girly, pink” toys. They played with dolls, trucks, Legos, a play kitchen, etc., without discrimination. One daughter had a joint Cinderella and Darth Vader birthday party! Our son is in between the two girls, and he had his fair share of tea parties, but also preferred to build, throw, destroy, etc. Now they are 12, 9, and 7, and are confident enough to like what they like. My youngest does love pink, especially in clothes, but she also loves orange and green, and she plays with her brother’s toys more than her own. My oldest is a fierce athlete, choosing red and orange jerseys because she thinks they are intimidating. I think we need to look at ourselves, as parents, and what we expose little children to. We can blame the media, advertising, toy stores, etc., but if we expose our young children to things we know give ideas we disagree with or consider to be damaging, we have to also blame ourselves.

    • So true. Until reading this article I had never analyzed what methods we used to help our daughter not absorb all those wrong marketing messages, but looking back I realize we did a lot of things unconsciously — such as avoiding TV and only using streaming services, and in various ways enforcing our own view that toys and clothes are not gender-segregated. And she never separated toys or clothing by gender, in her own mind or in her tastes. Her 5th birthday party was a Princess, Pokemon and Superhero party.

  59. Fantastic article! I have LONG commented on the ‘PINK AISLE’ in stores like Walmart or Toys R Us. I felt it even more powerfully when I went from being a Mom of a boy, to five years later, having a girl. And, wait for it, she loves Disney Princesses and Barbies. I can’t stress enough how much I AVOID these aisle’s in the stores, but it is all encompassing – friends, birthday parties, television shows, clothing… and endless barrage of PINK!!!
    My own favourite toys as a child were my Fisher-Price battery operated power drill and my Robin Hood suction cupped bow and arrow – and I was raised in a family with 4 girls!!! I must reluctantly admit that I did ‘evolve’ into playing with Annie dolls and Barbies – but you would mostly find me creating a show, belting out a tune, riding my bike or imagining I was a super-hero.
    I continue to try and bring balance to my daughters life by teaching her, and pushing her into things where she can feel empowered by her strength and ability rather than identifying only with her beauty and ornamental value. I am pleased to announce that her favourite colour now is BLUE!!! 🙂 A small victory, but an important, long-lasting one nonetheless.

  60. Reblogged this on lorenzotyner81 and commented:
    marketing is the best way to go especially now with the net its such a high demand career field doing well, that’s the way im going :)!

  61. Very Interesting! You and others on her bring up wonderful points! My man is a big bearded dude, with tattoos….and he wears as much Pink as I do. His son is wearing a pink striped shirt for Easter cause he will look BOSS in it. B goes back and fourth between seeing something “for girls” on tv and saying “I want that!” or saying “That’s for girls”. I will now make the point to make sure he knows its for ANYONE and if he wants that….well he’s spoiled enough so he’s not getting it, but he can want it :+)
    My FAVORITE Princess/Anti Princess quote “Don’t sit around waiting for Prince Charming. Get up and find him. The idiot may be stuck in a tree somewhere”

  62. very interesting. Made me remember when my girls were all young and of course into the pink/purple thing. They did grow out of it into the GASP black thing, and then moved on to normal…..well whatever that was as the time. In looking at toys and marketing today it is as if there is very little imaginative process that goes into the vision for children other than gender seperation. At some point we as humans should be able to look at the individual and their special abilities and not their gender in designing toys that will shape their future

  63. Pingback: Sometimes, I Don’t Want to be Beautiful | theauthorwhoknows

  64. Between marketing and lack of choices, I am seriously questioning the possible life paths: risk PTSD or succumb to becoming a poster child (and pay for it for a significant part of your life) for the forceful marketing of the pink&princess (and help perpetuate it). And what do you get for it? A) a significant handicap for your social and professional life that may or may not be reversible or B) a distorted system of values and a penchant for total conformity.

  65. Reblogged this on I'm Booby-Trapped! and commented:
    I was never a pink princess… I wonder what our little girl will be? I do find it difficult to buy even non-pastel babygrows which bothers me, I’ve bought boys’ ones.

  66. This comment will probably get me hated but… whatever. I totally and completely 100% disagree with this author. Despite saying “it’s not about pink or princesses”, clearly the problem this author has is exactly that. The problem is NOT with the MARKETING but the MOM’S themselves!! Stop talking about not having enough choices, we live in an over saturated wasteful market and you want MORE?!! Ludicrous! First of all, there are billions of choices already out there whether you have a girl, a boy or an alien. You should be surrounding your children around semi-educational fun toys anyway. I mean like with puzzles and games, trains and heck even Lego’s, play doh and lite brite and musical type instruments. Let them be OUTSIDE playing with nature, read to your child, or even just drawing and coloring. Is that enough options for you because I have a hundred more, and these are just the standard everyday everyone does ones. Where are the pink or princess in any of those options? It’s what YOU give your kids. Second of all, it doesn’t matter how hard advertisers try, as long as you teach your children to be strong independent people, (even yes at a small age) it won’t matter how hard anyone tries to sell you stuff. The problem itself is the mom’s. Children look to us to see if behavior is acceptable or not. Like this author pointed out, at some point children go through the “this is a girl” and “this is a boy” phase and won’t touch things that belong in the other labeling gender. But you know what? It’s exactly just that… a PHASE! As long as you teach those values to your children, it won’t matter. I myself went through this phase as a child at about five or six, where I wouldn’t touch certain things because they were “for boys”. But you know what? It was just a phase!! I was lucky enough to have a mom who yes, let me play tea parties and play with a ton of girly toys from Barbie to dress up but she also took me to museums and art and I played outside with bugs and didn’t come back inside till I was completely filthy. I’ve always felt like growing up that I was given more than a girly-girl attitude, I was taught how to be independent and form my own opinions of what I liked and what I didn’t. Yes pink and princesses played apart of that. But so did playing with blocks and Lego’s and being the most well read child in my class. TEACH your children to be independent should be the message, not a hate against what is marketer’s sell. I hate to say it but, that is their job. YOU are the consumer and you don’t have to buy what their selling.

    • You are of course totally right that the actual number of toys available to girls (and boys) is not limited, but the main problem, which this article addresses, is that the way they are arranged in the stores makes children perceive them as being ONLY for one gender or the other. And ads and product photos usually show just that one gender playing with the particular toy, reinforcing the gender separation even more. And the toys that are targeted at girls tend to be just pink, and very little else.

      The other problem is that when it comes to clothes (which the article didn’t get into as much, but the comments did), there is actually a pretty narrow range of options, as some commenters mentioned. My solution has been to buy boys’ clothes for my daughter when she has wanted, say, Spider-man or Vader undies and shirts. But then you run into kids at school being negative about it. Fortunately in our case, when this happened, there was another boy in her K class who defended her and said girls and boys can wear whatever clothes they want.

      And yes, of course it is up to parents to teach their kids that these marketing messages are not true and to ignore them. Some kids can and will do this, but others will not. It is a problem for both boys and girls, because boys also can feel limited with the message that they shouldn’t be playing with dolls or cooking toys for example. I’ve heard many stories to that effect.

      Of course there are also parents who reinforce the gender segregation of toys and clothes. I remember being at Disney World and a little boy about 5 years old wanted a teal Ariel shirt. His mom said no because it was a “girls” shirt, and even had the audacity to point at my daughter and say “that shirt is something she would like.” It was just a regularly shaped t-shirt! I was really mad at that mom and I wish I would have said “well actually, she loves Spider-man.”

      • P.S. Since this article was written, there have been some small changes that I’ve noticed. For example, Disney is realizing that females can love Star Wars too; my husband just got our daughter an awesome Vader purse.

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  69. I’m a Dad with tree daughters and one son ages 11-19. One quote I share with all new parents I meet. “You have to the age of five to instil your values in your child”. Many parents get overwhelmed with the mounds of information on how to raise their children. I believe there is nothing wrong with allowing my daughters to be princesses at least once in their life, they are only young once. In the movie The Wizard of Oz, i believe one princess wore blue. I still allowed my girls to help with mechanics.

    • It was Socrates who said: “Give me a child to the age of 7 and I will form his/her character – and then nothing will be able to change it.” I was brought up on that.
      As a child I played with the notion of princess for a short time, but only used white sheets as there wasn’t anything else available. (1950’s Australia). It didn’t even occur to me to use something I didn’t have. We made do.
      The colour pink has appealed to me only since the age of 19. And it has to be bright pink.

  70. Omg I totally agree with you, I still haven’t got any children but everyone who knows me really well, is pretty that I would never restrict my daughter to wear pink “JUST BECAUSE IT IS CUTE AND GIRLY” What is wrong with the world, there are so many colors out there, nature offers a whole variety of them why should we wear girls with horrible shades of this color. Nice post I really enjoyed it!

  71. Girls usally at the stage of 3 to about 6 tend to go into this fase of pink, pretty princesses and most of them grow out of it and they can start like Harry Potter to really into animals this blog is really inspireing. the second stage can really be anything

  72. Your picture reminded of Shanghai, where the craze is Hello Kitty, and the pink princess theme. I went to the TESCO for shopping at the nearest mall to my apartment. The only words I could write on my small notepad for the metro were economy, organized, and petty.

  73. Pingback: The pink machine, and why I won’t tell you my baby’s sex | The Ancient Breeder

  74. Reblogged this on cristinagcarrera and commented:
    El problema no es de las madres (y los padres) es del marketing, dice Rebecca Hains pero alguien, personas, también hay detrás, no?

  75. My children two sons and one daughter are all grown now, but I remember this phase even back in the eighties, altho I don’t remember the girls isle being ‘That’ pink, that is just crazy for sure. Maybe the moms, aunties, grandmas of today can take their little girls back to the little mom and pop toy stores. They are still around and with lots healthier looking isles.
    Thanks for the post about this, I’m going to forward it to my son, who is the daddy to two young girls.
    from a lover of pink myself,
    peace n abundance,

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  77. Pingback: Even Ironman Wears Pink! | A Spoonful of Suga'

  78. Reblogged this on Y'all need to know and commented:
    This article has already started with some gender binary with only mentioning the attitudes of mothers being associated with girls. It is a fascinating read however to challenge gender binaries being imposed on children from a very young age.

  79. Reblogged this on Big Logie's Missus and commented:
    Rebecca Hains is my new hero.

    Please save me from this Pink Hell I have found myself in. This is possibly the biggest reason to stay on the African continent until modern-day marketing catches up with us.

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  82. likely not unlike warning label excess – too much warning is “pollution” and disguises intended purpose to alert not bury warnings.
    there have been successful law suits based in this theory.

  83. This “princess” obsession is still my ex-husband’s address to our 36 year old daughter! And he named his new boat after her too! “Princess K” !! I’ve never nicknamed her Princess to her face. She behaved like that princess in the fairy-tale: you know the one who could feel that one little hard pea under 12 mattresses. So, to me, to call someone a princess, conjures up a person who isn’t altogether nice, but rather fussy.
    This family princess did like pink as a child, I have recollections of a pink tutu and a pink room for a while, until she chose chocolate brown walls. It was always her choice.
    Frankly, I can’t see anything wrong with pink. I love hot pink and have pink shirts, bright pink, that is. And I’m grown up. I didn’t have pink in my childhood. That’s probably because my mother chose what I should wear. She was a practical woman. She knew that I’d be wanting to climb a tree. I didn’t have girlfriends to impress. And frankly I don’t think the boy next door, with whom I climbed those trees, cared one little bit what I wore, as long as I was available to climb that tree.

  84. This is the exact reason why I would rather shop for boys although I do have a 4 year old daughter, it is so much easier with greater choices and a wider variation of colours.

  85. What I’m more worried about is the effect princess culture will have on adult women. I’ve met several who still see themselves as princesses and would hardly lift a finger if only to feed themselves. While they don’t wear sparkly dresses out of the house (at least I hope not) they are waiting on their prince charmings and refuse to actively strive to make a life for themselves. On top of that there is the “royal attitude” that places them on a pedestal and subjects those who are unworthy of their grace to the scorn they deem deserving of a servant or underclass. It is disgusting. One particular person I am making reference to has a daughter who she is blindly subjecting to princess culture in the hopes that she does grow up to act like a princess, to follow in the footsteps of her mother. Thankfully, I think this radical acceptance of pink and princess is in the minority and that the majority of parents out there do have some misgivings about it and want their children to be well rounded, happy, and tolerant. But for the few who aspire for their children to be princesses, be careful what you wish for… I think you can fill in the rest.

  86. “Parents I interviewed told me stories about their daughters lying around helplessly waiting for their princes to come rescue them—marking dramatic changes in their previously active and energetic play patterns.”

    I only have sons, who are now in your 20s, but as a preschool teacher of many years I watch children play daily. Our school is an upper-middle-class area with two-parent working families for most part. Any teacher working with young children will tell you that each class can vary depending on gender make up and which personalities end up dominant. But I have never seen little girls lying in wait for a prince to rescue them.

    Pink-and-frilly is a small part of the dress-up area, yet most in demand. But the girls who put on these dresses just go about their day as if they were wearing their street clothes – art, play dough, math games, etc. And when they do engage in dramatic play, they are by no means acting weaker than or subservient to the boys (if anything, pity the poor boys who want to join them only to be ordered around by the girls).

    As an aside, my sons’ now-grown female classmates were in at the beginning of the princess marketing and fully embraced it when they were little, and most have had great success in school, athletics, and careers.

    This is not to contradict those who were interviewed by Ms. Hains, but I wished to add one perspective after 15 years in the field.

  87. I trained as an early years teacher about 2 years ago and it completely changed my outlook on toys and play opportunities I offered my 2 girls. We were not overtly pink anyway because we had a number of toys for role play that are not all pink but I learned of other things I could give my children. In the world of early years there is another debate – some of the experts shun plastic toys which I understand but its about having balance. One of the best things I did for my children was make them a mud kitchen using real utensils, pots and pans etc. I have a feeling I need to part with their much loved play kitchen in the house because playing with real stuff with things like dirt, water and leaves and flowers is much more exciting than plastic and wooden food. another thing I discovered held their attention and fueled their imagination was a box of interesting things which were not toys and it could be anything one box was full of cupcake cases, decortative stones, cocktail umbrellas, foil pie cases cocktail sticks, small cardboard boxes, the children made artful pieces or what we call transient art (which could be remodelled, packed away – so not using any glue) and another box we have has ornaments like candle holders, marble egg, bangles, paperweights etc and with some of their other toys they made up stories and magical worlds. we still have toys, my little pony and frozen are favourites as well as dressing up but its mixed with what we call loose parts which makes play much more interesting and stimulates their imaginations. younger children will need more supervision but by far the best plaything children have are their parents joining in.

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