The Pernicious Pink Princess Plot

Anna
I have a confession: My daughter likes pink, and princesses, and pink princesses. This isn’t something I forced on her, but I don’t discourage her either.

According to Kat Arney of The Guardian, I’m turning her into a passive pink princess:

The increasing separation of toys into “for boys” and “for girls”, strongly coded by colour and reinforced by highly gendered marketing, is depriving girls of active toys and games that encourage the development of their spatial and analytical skills.

Instead, they’re pushed towards being passive princesses, surrounded by fashion dolls, kiddie make-up and miniaturised vacuum cleaners. And at the same time, boys are denied opportunities for more social and imaginative play.

In a society that is fighting hard for equal rights for both sexes, it seems a retrograde step to be increasingly forcing our kids into these pink and blue stereotypes. Isn’t it about time we stemmed the tide of pink?

There are many adjectives I would use to describe Anna: smart, funny, cute, playful, imaginative, energetic, verbose, stubborn, defiant, and independent. Passive? No, she’s not passive.

Sometimes life would be easier if she was, but I’m glad she’s not.

She calls herself a princess, though, but I think that to her princess is another word for girl. That’s why when she’s in ballet she’s a ballerina princess, when she’s in gymnastics she’s a gymnastics princess, when she’s playing pirate she’s a pirate princess, and when she’s playing superhero she’s a superhero princess. It’s all a variation on fill-in-the-blank princess, with the blank being filled by whatever game she’s playing.

Because as much as she loves princesses, she loves other things too. Like superheroes. We thought she would be a princess for last Halloween, but instead she chose Supergirl. She still has her Supergirl costume in with her dress-up clothes, including several princess dresses, but also a vet coat and a firefighter coat—she loves to wear all of them.

And as much as she loves pink, it’s not her only favorite color. As she will tell anyone listening (or even not listening) “I have three favorite colors: red, orange, and pink.” Red actually came first, perhaps because girls have a slight preference for reddish shades (as mention in the linked article), or perhaps because she was two and was obsessed with Elmo. Pink and orange soon followed, and she has loved all three ever since.

She also reads books and plays with stuffed animals and dolls, and building blocks and balls.

In other words, she is a complex little person with her own likes and dislikes. Nobody’s forcing her into anything.

Anna as Supergirl

Who you callin’ passive?

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6 thoughts on “The Pernicious Pink Princess Plot

  1. Kat Arney says:

    Nice post – your daughter certainly looks very determined 🙂 It’s interesting that you raise this point, which I think is fantastic:
    “That’s why when she’s in ballet she’s a ballerina princess, when she’s in gymnastics she’s a gymnastics princess, when she’s playing pirate she’s a pirate princess, and when she’s playing superhero she’s a superhero princess. It’s all a variation on fill-in-the-blank princess, with the blank being filled by whatever game she’s playing.”

    In the programme, we spoke to Christine, who encourages her daughter to be an “action princess”, as you describe. She also told us some ‘horror’ stories about little girls at nursery who thought that the sole role of a princess was to stand around looking pretty until a prince rescued you.

    I don’t have an issue with pink or princessy-ness per se – kids can play with whatever the hell they want to play with. What distresses me is a lack of choice. Kids should be encouraged to play with whatever they want to play with, but as toy marketing is becoming increasingly polarised, this is actually a restriction of choice for both genders.

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  2. Thanks for reading, Kat. Toy marketing is an issue, but it’s up to parents to encourage their kids to broaden their choices.

    I am glad that you pointed out the restriction works both ways. Not having a son myself (Anna is our only child) I hadn’t thought about that part.

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  3. Molly says:

    I agree that toys are too delineated as being for boys or girls. I think its selling kids short in general.
    It used to be that ‘boy’ interests were dominant and little girls had baby dolls. Now toys are too polarized and it seems that kids have less choice to decide what they want to play with.
    To imply that girls should play with trucks because they are somehow a better toy than dolls isn’t right either. (You aren’t implying that.) Some parents try to push their daughters to play with supposedly boy oriented toys as those toys are better somehow, more serious or more educational.

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