In Defense of All Things Pink


My daughter just turned six.  I look at her and I can’t believe it.  The little girl who we took home from the hospital on that warm May afternoon, all bundled in pink and ruffles and lace just finished kindergarten.  We moved out of our first house about six months ago, but her first nursery will never fade from my memory.  The walls were purple and everything else was pink.  The perfect little nest for our baby.

Her two little sisters are napping right now, so Magoo and I have been playing with some of the presents she got from her birthday party yesterday.  She has been playing with glitter; she decorated some bracelets, and now we just finished putting together a pink and purple Lego car.  I’m particularly proud of the last one because I’m not too great with Legos, but it definitely looks like it’s supposed to.

My daughter loves knitting and sewing and reading and writing.  She likes to bake, but we don’t do that around here as I’m more likely to burn the house down than end up with something edible.

My daughter isn’t rough.  If you gave her a foam gun, she would be more likely to finger knit a cozy for it than use it to play shooting games.  She loves science and learning about nature, but she’s afraid of bugs.  Her dad took her out into the backyard last weekend to search for nature items to view under her new purple microscope.  They found almost a dozen things, but when she opened the bag inside, she noticed that there was a bug in there, and well… that was it for science for the day.


My younger two are still too young to figure out what who exactly they will be, and for the most part, my six-year-old is as well.  But at least at this stage, she’s your stereotypical girl.

She would rather have an Easy Bake oven than some race cars.  She loves My Little Pony but is scared of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  And she loves babying her baby dolls and changing their outfits more often than your average celebutante changes her own.

Yup.  She’s pretty much your stereotypical girl.  And there are people out there who would tell me I’m failing her because of that.

I remember when she was about two years old, I took her through the toy aisles at Target.  I think I’ve maybe braved those aisles only a handful of times in the last six years, so each time stands out in my mind.  But during that trip, I noticed that there are pink aisles and blue aisles.  It was very clear which aisles and toys were for boys and which were for girls, and going into even bigger toy stores makes it even more obvious.

You’ll find some of the same toys in each.  Legos can be found in the pink and the blue aisles.  With both you can build cars, but the boy cars are blue and the girls’ are pink.  You’ll find figurines from the latest television shows.  Those, though, are separated by gender with girls’ leaning more towards Disney princesses and boys leaning more towards things that move — cars, trucks, bigger cars, bigger trucks.  And then there are the things that are largely separate.  You won’t find many baby dolls in the blue aisles and you won’t find much science or sporting equipment in the pink aisles.

I think it’s the last things that bother people.  Our culture teaches kids, before they are even old enough to really see at a distance, that pink is for girls and blue is for boys.  And then we segregate the toys based upon what we believe each gender would like.

And there has been a lot of fuss about that as of late.  People want their daughters to be able to play with cars.  They want them to learn science.  They want toys that teach engineering.  They want them to have options besides toy kitchens and dolls that you can apply make up to.

And that is awesome.  That is beyond awesome.  Our kids deserve choices, and if marketers aren’t willing to give that to them, then parents need to speak up and vote with their dollars.

With all of this advocating that has been going on, however, I wonder if something is being lost.  Girls should have the option to play with as many traditionally boy toys and they like, but what if they don’t want to?

What if a girl likes pink?  What if she would prefer her toy cars to be sparkly?  What if she enjoys playing dress up with her dolls and pretending to cook in her kitchen and making ruffly headbands?

Sometimes I feel like we are so intent on opening doors for our little girls that we close ones that have previously been available to them.

Overall, I think I have followed a pretty traditional path.  I went to college and grad school.  I worked in the business world for a year and then I left it to teach writing at the college level.  When my girls were born, I quit working outside of the home, and I dedicated my life to them.

And to be honest, I had problems with that.  For most of my life, culture had been telling me that in order to live a life of value, I needed to be accomplishing things.  I needed quantifiable results.  I needed financial results.  I needed to prove myself and dedicate my life to cultivating a career I could be proud of.

And that path would have been so nice.  There would have been many benefits to it.

But it’s not mine.  It’s not the one I chose.  It’s not the one that spoke to my soul.  And I don’t regret my decision.

It has taken me six years to come to terms with the fact that I have decided that I don’t want to judge my success by a paycheck or a promotion, that I don’t need professional accolades or ever increasing prestige.

I have had to learn to be okay with the little successes in life.  Like getting two toddlers to nap at the same time.  Or getting my kids to eat all of their vegetables.  And I’ve had to learn that that the really big accomplishments for me aren’t quantifiable and they won’t be seen today or tomorrow or next year because they are evolving and they are ongoing.  Tasks like instilling self respect and empathy and compassion in my children.

As an adult, I feel as if the whole world is telling me that I am making wrong choices.  That it’s telling me that I need to dedicate my efforts to the advancement of some field and that I need to turn my back on the traditionally feminine roles and focus on the more career-oriented ones that in decades and centuries back were the domain of males.

And as a 36-year-old woman, I find those messages disturbing and invalidating and confusing.  So I can’t even imagine what the messages do to a six-year-old little girl.

I think we have made so many strides in the last half a century.  One upon a time, no one would have blinked when they saw the only toys available to girls indoctrinated them into a world of domesticity.  I just don’t want us to go so far to the other direction that we enter a toy store and we see nothing that will help them enter into that world.

It takes all types.  We can’t all be scientists, we can’t all be doctors, we can’t all be teachers, and we can’t all be stay-at-home parents.  We were born into different circumstances and with different skills and interests.  I just want to make sure they are all heard and that my girls feel free to go in whichever directions their hearts and their heads lead them.

There’s nothing wrong with pink any more than there is anything wrong with blue.  They are colors.  Our children have choices. Let’s let them make those choices rather than forcing our agendas on them.

As usual in my writing, I speak more of little girls than little boys.  This isn’t because I don’t believe these issues affect boys any less.  It’s just simply that my experience is with girls.  If you have any opinions as to how these current gender wars affect boys, I would love to hear them.


20 thoughts on “In Defense of All Things Pink”

  1. I respect your nerve for stating your stance baldly. I also have a six year old girl finishing kindergarten. She has had a girlfriend since infancy whose mother also is happy buying from the pink plastic aisles at Toys R Us.

    My daughter has a deep love for teaparties, her dolls, and her art. Just before her third birthday, she woke up and everything suddenly had to be pink or striped or she would not wear it. So I am right there with you in seeing the girlyness materialize out of nowhere.

    I am not, however, with you in how I support it. I struggle to find words for my strategy compared to yours. I feel those pink plastic aisles are like the food at 7-11. They are not grow foods. They taste good in the moment and then are gone, with no lasting nourishment and quite a helping of unhealthy chemicals to linger in the cells.

    And pink plastic in childhood often turns into fads in the teen years, whatever that is, no longer pink or plastic but still marketed to your child and equally unnourishing to the spirit of your future wise woman.

    There are ways to totally support and honor the feminine that are healthier than pink plastic, but far more difficult to find or invent. I have sweated so much to create that reality for my child. It’s so hard to figure out what playthings are soul food and find them.

    Her close friend’s mom is like you. She values my child’s friendship because my kid is grounded, not a wuss, and unconcerned with how she appears to others…the opposite of her girl, who has had her frillyness supported by pink plastic everything since birth. Pink plastic is the shallow end of the pool to me. I dread the vibe around our daughter’s playtime together, all about who gets to be the bride or reenacting movies my kid has never seen. In a few years, all about boy bands and who the cute boy likes back.

    My daughter has a pink bike, pink scooter, pink helmet, purple roller skates, and I was deeply enraged when her new big girl wetsuit only came in the boy style – no manufacturer even makes a cold-water suit for girls or unisex. She picks her clothes and equipment herself, since age three, and pink is often what she has chosen. But if you piled all her things up, the pink would be hard to pick out.

    And I am proud of that, like I’m proud of her eating organic brussel sprouts. Because it has come about by far more effort, intention, money and plain ruminating than my girlfriend invests in her daughter. I think you can wholly support your daughter’s purely feminine spirit without even one pink plastic thing in your house. I also think hating bugs can be changed without dissing her feminine spirit. I think you’re retaliating against the disparagement of mothers overmuch in your daughter by refusing to focus on strength. I get that wound and live it too, but mama, we can grow. We can be proud of our choices without pinkwashing. It’s not necessary to feed your daughter only pink to support the domestic female.

    There. I tried to say my best. Thank you for giving me the chance.

    1. Amazing. Your reply was a thousand times better than this entire article, sorry original author, but it’s true. Every word if this reply was what I was feeling reading this article. Thank you.

    2. Hi Capucine,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment on my article. I’m glad to see it got people talking about these things.

      I’m not quite sure, however, where our opinions are different. Yea my girls have some “pink plastic toys,” but those are actually definitely the minority of their toys.

      It seems as if you are implying (and perhaps I read it wrong) that you are implying that since my girls like pink frilly things that I have indulged and even promoted that. Neither of which is true. I actually spend a lot of time (probably too much) thinking about the messages their toys give to them. And I most definitely am not “refusing to focus on their strength.” And I also make sure my daughter knows that everyone is different and that we don’t have to weigh our choices against others.

      My point wasn’t to say pink is best. I actually said it’s awesome that people want more gender neutral colors and that I fully support that with my wallet.

      My concern is that I think Feminism goes too far. It, rightfully so, encourage girls to dream big and not be limited by their gender, but at the same time, it tells them that traditional gender roles are weak. Sometimes people say that allowing a girl to be who she is is the same as “refusing to focus on her strength.”

      The reason I wrote the article is because I never hear people complaining about too much blue, but I hear people complaining about pink all the time, and it’s usually tied in with traditional gender roles. I just don’t think there’s anything wrong with a color.

      But anyway, thank you for taking the time to comment. I appreciate your opinions.

      1. Hi, Amanda. I only have a moment, but I’m glad you wrote your post! The image that lingered in my mind was the purple and pink nursery you created for your daughter. Reflecting on that choice, why it felt right and loving, what it implies, if something so minor really matters, would be a great conversation!

        And, having a son, let me tell you, the aisles for boys aren’t blue so much as black – Toys R Us had not one ‘boy’ lego set without a deathstar, ninja fighter, or or other violent death-and-destruction motif available. In a whole aisle!

        I hope for the best for your daughter and my daughter, so being a roaring birth mother someday doesn’t feel like an impossible thing to weave into the rest of the facets of their lives. And for you and I, frankly, because I am tired and I bet you are too, with all the extra mothering work we have to do with every toy, every sunscreen, every drinking bottle, and god forbid we get into choosing kindergartens! Here’s to many playdates with toys that are healthy for us all!

    3. Me again! For me, this is one of the clearest ways to put it and this is one part of your reply that I really loved “I think you can wholly support your daughter’s purely feminine spirit without even one pink plastic thing in your house. I also think hating bugs can be changed without dissing her feminine spirit. I think you’re retaliating against the disparagement of mothers overmuch in your daughter by refusing to focus on strength. I get that wound and live it too, but mama, we can grow. We can be proud of our choices without pinkwashing. It’s not necessary to feed your daughter only pink to support the domestic female.” Perfect. Thanks again Capucine. Also thanks to the author for writing this article and I do think you are saying a lot of the same things I just feel that this reply is almost empowering in its spirit.

  2. I usually buy from rummage sales, so i avoid all of that color/gender coded marketing. Nonetheless, my boys gravitated to bulldozers and cars all on their own. Not from me i assure you, and there is no male figure to influence them this way. So far, my 2yo girl is wearing many a boy hand-me-down, and some girl clothes that were gifts. She seem less interested in cars, and more interested in marbles and hair clips. I tell them they can wear whatever colors they want, and support my sons interest in jewellery. But i do think its not just marketing behind the difference in interests apparent in many boys versus girls. The marketing though, is quite nauseating to me. Thats a major reason, other than cost, why i avoid new things.

  3. Here’s something that bothers a lot of people that briefly mention, but then seemed to be sort of sidelined in the final synopsis: typical “girly” interests strictly being color-coded. I’ve yet to meet a single parent who thinks that toys geared toward domesticity or “feminine” interests be done away with. Their annoyance is with the fact that any toy geared towards those interests is marketed almost exclusively in one of two colors, which happen to be your daughter’s favorite colors, and that’s great. My daughter doesn’t like pink. Not that I’m a fan of Easy-Bake Ovens, but originally they were sold in colors like yellow and teal. I had a silver Barbie Corvet in the 80’s, and the bathtub in the Dreamhouse was actually white (like 90% of all bathtubs.) Ten years later, every Easy-Bake oven, Barbie car, and piece of doll furniture on the market was….you guessed it….pink, pinker, or occasionally, purple. Frankly, that’s pretty disappointing for girls who are interested in “girl” things who are NOT obsessed with pink, and do not care to live in a monochrome world of cotton candy sparkles. As far as I’m concerned, the color pink needs no defense in a girl’s world, since it clearly has the monopoly….I’ll defend it when it actually needs defending.

    1. And yes, I realize that there was more to the article than the literal color pink, and I think the second half was very strong. But the first half? All the rambling about toy store segregation and people wanting to do away the girl section? I think that half was off the mark. Just my opinion…

  4. In defense of the author, she is not defending plastic, just pink and traditional “girly” toys. I have two boys and one girl. We tried to avoid plastic when our boys were little, but there are so many great plastic toys (legos, playmobil, etc.) We also gave them mostly books and blocks but they inevitably received gifts and hand me down toys from friends and family. They gravitated toward the super heroes, trains and trucks. My boys were obsessed with batman and star wars, light sabers and swords. When I was pregnant, I gave my son a doll to play with. He was not interested. My daughter, having two big brothers, has lots of “boy” toys to play with and does play with trains and cars but she prefers dolls, her play kitchen and coloring in her princess coloring books. Her favorite color is pink and for a while, she only wanted to wear dresses. My response to this is the same as it is for my boys, I let her choose her play things and clothes (within reason) because it is her way of expressing herself. When my son was interested in lady bugs, we bought him a pair of lady bug rain boots at a resale store and had a lady bug birthday party. We even made a “lady bug vampire” costume for Halloween. When he was interested in star wars, we made light sabers out of pool noodles and had a star wars party. So when my daughter wanted a pink princess party, we did it, complete with pink sparkly tiaras. As far as the plastic? I am concerned about the environment and about toxins in plastics. That is why I buy second hand and look for alternatives. We try to shop at resale stores and I try to find better quality alternatives to some of the mainstream cheap, plastic items that are out there. We also make “toys”. Her princess dresses are real party dresses from the goodwill, we made fairy wands with wooden dowels and ribbon, her tea set consists of real china tea cups also found at goodwill. Her doll house is a pink wooden house with wooden dolls bought second hand. So I think we can indulge our children’s interests without indulging the toy companies. However, let our girls be girls and our boys be boys. We can do whatever we want: dance or play sports (or both); work or stay home and raise families.

    1. Thank you for your very reasonable reply! I also have two boys, and now a baby girl who I expect will have a mix of interests just as her brothers do, but will likely gravitate more toward “girly” things, if even for a while. And I’m okay with that. The boys enjoy their play kitchen AND their light sabers. One was never much into cars, but the other was. Neither cares much for stuffed animals nor has any interest in dolls. One LOVES the color pink. All of this is just fine with me. (Though it’s quite challenging to find pink things that are gender neutral in style, just as it’s hard to find non-pink easy bake ovens. Also, does the world really need all-pink stacking rings and shape sorters and exersaucers for babies? What happened to teaching them primary colors? THOSE are my beefs about pink.)

  5. I would like to hope that it wasn’t your intent but the argument that your daughter is “all girl” for liking pink, princess, glitter, crafts etc has a very negative exclusionary undertone. If your daughter is “all girl” simply for liking those things than what does that say of the boys who also like those things, my youngest son for example? Does that mean he is not “all boy”, not a “real boy”.

    I’m very glad that the marble races come in a choice of primary colours, pastels (incl pink), and black and green. I’m glad that lego comes in a multitude of colours and themes, I’m glad that there are pink cars and black cars, but I’m not at all happy that there are pink aisles and blue aisles and I tend to avoid shops laid out that way. And I will write a letter of complaint to any company that labels things as “for boys” or “for girls”.

    I think I understand where you are coming from. I hate the way that certain feminists seem to think that anything previously designated as “masculine” should be for everyone (from careers to emotions) and anything previously deemed “feminine” should be frowned upon. That is wrong. There’s nothing wrong with being quiet, creative, nurturing, etc instead of boisterous, logical, goal-oriented. There’s nothing wrong with being a nurse or teacher, there’s nothing wrong with being a doctor or lawyer. There’s nothing wrong with liking skirts or pants, or make-up or not, or pink or blue. There’s nothing wrong with preferring My Little Ponies to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There is something very, very, very wrong with saying that any of these things are worse than their opposite. It’s even worse to say that are part of gender -they’re not. No matter what you like, what you do, how you act, you can still be a “real man”, “a real woman”, or whatever you chose to define your gender as.

    We should encourage our children to be who they are, like what they like, be proud of their strengths regardless of what those strengths are. We should stop telling people that their gender, sex, or sexual preference in any way defines who they are. We are not defined by the contents of our underwear, we aren’t defined by the people we love, we won’t be limited by some else’s arbitrary gender roles.

    1. Hi Mystic_Eye,

      After reading your comment, I went back and reread the parts where I used the term “all girl,” and I see your concern. I meant that she is a stereotypical girl, but I think I did select a poor phrase.

      I can’t change it from my phone, but I will actually be going back and changing that phrase because I don’t want to be exclusionary.

      Best wishes!


      1. Amanda,
        I just want to take a moment to thank you for your open and understanding response to the comments. I enjoyed your article and the comments, finding in all some things I agreed with and others I did not. I love finding a page where open and thoughtful discussion is welcomed. Thank you.

        1. Thank you Tracy for being so gracious and uplifting. It’s always nice to find kind people in the world! I wish you the best.

  6. This is a wide-ranging issue, and to nit-pick about whether those “girly” toys are plastic or wood or titanium steel… is distracting from the real issue. I believe the author made the point well, and stuck to the main picture, without going on a sweeping tirade against commercialism and “junk toys”. The point of the article was to show how feminism has gone so far on the pendulum that it’s not simply enough to accept a girl playing with “boy” toys, but that it’s “bad” when a girl actually plays with “girl” toys. I’ve known parents who have adamantly restricted Barbies, cut lace off their daughter’s dresses, and refused to ever let them wear pink. Well, in the same way that manufacturers and retailers are limiting children in what they are being told to play with (by having the “pink aisle” and the “blue aisle”), those parents are limiting their daughters’ interests by not allowing any “girly” items into their lives.

    For the record, my daughter loves both Elsa and Captain America; ponies and bugs; pink and blue. She likes to cuddle with me as much as she likes to wrestle with her daddy. We’ve given her the prerogative to choose what toys she likes and she’s chosen a good balance, I think.

    I might be rambling now, but the point is, criticizing the author for not expanding into other areas of toy problems, is detracting from the larger issue at hand.

  7. I have been part of the feminist movement since I could articulate my opinion, however, I have never heard anyone say that it was bad to have any “girl” or “boy” traits, that homemaking was “bad” or anything like that. The key is that no child should be forced or expected to comply with society’s gender roles or definitions. Kids eat up advertising and too many toys are marketed to only one sex. By only making certain toys in certain colors you are setting the expectation that only girls play with kitchen sets and only boys play with matchbox cars. Personally I’d just like to see more integration of toys, put GI Joe and Barbie side by side. Make more toy cars pink and purple. Use more gender neutral packaging on science kits. We do a disservice to our kids if we don’t push them out of their comfort zone and give them a variety of things to play with and enjoy. We especially need to get our girls into science. You don’t have to like bugs to get into science. I’m not a fan of bugs and my career has been all science all the time! We certainly don’t want to sell our kids short!

  8. I think we ought not forget the other, more subtle gender-reinforcement means out there. It isn’t all the marketing industry. Even board books, for the most part, use certain color palettes for girl and boys. It might not be striking because it’s like background white noise to us adults, but children have that way of drinking in everything they encounter. They get their message from books, from the way we role model and interact with others, and even from music. I get annoyed when people swear their “boy likes cars even though no one told him he should.” Unless that boy grew up in an isolation tank, I’m not surprised! Gender colors our world. The good thing about feminism, in my opinion, is that it aims to liberate people to a higher level of consciousness, to enable them to reflect on, and model their own, gender identities. It ought not be about degrading traditional gender roles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *