Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Does pink go with green?

In preparation for today's appearance (and I use that term in the virtual sense) on the Kojo Nnamdi Show, I am bathing in articles about pink, princessity and gender rules. I found a provocative blog post (and lively comment thread!) about Creeping Pinkification and am now starting to think more seriously about unisex design as a sustainable strategy. After all, if gender-branding does nothing more than double the number of products sold, doesn't that qualify as wasteful? I would be curious to hear from readers about whether I should Go There.


Anonymous said...

Great topic. I submitted to "pink for girls," on the grounds that clothes are clothes. On the other hand, I grew up with unisex, plain clothing, so I also provide my kids with more unisex, "boyish," clothes, such as pairs of plain black or navy pants, from time to time. I am raising two girls, aged 4 and 7. I want them to recognize good clothing, and I want them to know how to wear it appropriately. "No princess costumes on the playground!" "Yes, wear whatever you want at dress-up time!" I think this kind of practical thought is at the heart my method of showing the world of clothing to my kids.

Laurie said...

Go There. Please. Besides being wasteful, the rampant (sp?) gendering of kid's clothes just reinforces the whole "boys like trucks and playing rough and girls like dolls and playing quietly" nonsense. And all the attendant sexist muck that goes with it that follows people their whole lives. :P As a child of the relatively gender free 70s, it pretty much brings on an instantaneous rant from me.

So please -- Go There. Analyze and give strong opinions. For all the girls that don't like pink and playing Princess, but would rather wear blue and play Pirates. :)

Laurie in Mpls.

Jo Paoletti said...

Let's hear it for the pirates and cowboys in all of us!

maria said...

i thought the show was great, and peggy orenstein even beat you to the punch in mentioning what a total money-making racket gendered baby/children's products are. pink leapsters indeed!

of course, the logical next question, then, is my pet sub-issue: why is it at least marginally okay for girls to wear their older brothers' hand-me-downs (even if it makes them seem "tomboyish") but pretty much not okay for boys to wear their sisters' hand-me-downs? why could people use a baby-blue crib bumper with sailboats for their daughter but not a pink one with butterflies for their son? i thought boys were supposed to like bugs.

for every girl who would rather wear blue and play pirates, there is a boy who would rather play with baby dolls and wear a tiara. the boys are just terrified to admit it.

i'm also glad that a caller asked how this relates to transgender issues. although i think that our rigid definitions of gender are confining for everyone, they can be downright traumatic for a trans child.
it's important to distinguish between sex (which is an objective, biological quality, and includes the less common but nonetheless legitimate spectrum of intersex karyotypes) and gender (which is a subjective social construct). moreover, it's important to distinguish between transgender (a broader term referring to anyone who may feel that their gender identity does not correspond to their sex in one way or another) and transsexual (specifically those who feel that they are the wrong sex, some of whom may choose sex reassignment therapy).
that being said, apart from transsexualism, the concept of "transgender" might not seem so strange (indeed, there might not be a need to define it at all) if gender weren't such a rigid and largely arbitrary dichotomy in the first place.

Jo Paoletti said...

All points very well taken. I had been mulling over how to introduce the issue of intersex and trans children, and was delighted/relieved when a caller did it for me. Those are real issues for many children and parents. In fact, I'd venture to hypothesize that the present rigid dichotomy makes more children transgendered, since most are unlikely to fully occupy the opposite poles of stereotypical gender roles.

As for the tomboy question, the simple answer is because being a sissy is a Very Bad Thing for a boy. It carries the double whammy of homophobia and misogyny.

Laurie said...

As for the tomboy question, the simple answer is because being a sissy is a Very Bad Thing for a boy. It carries the double whammy of homophobia and misogyny.

(Let's see if my formatting worked...)

Oh, poo on that noise!! How many unbelievably "great" men in history would have been discounted today because they weren't sufficiently "manly" enough? That all is enough to make my blood boil, especially as I have a very artistic nephew who grew up in a VERY rigid household. I'm amazed he still does art, although he has put some of his schooling on indefinite hold.... :(

And yes, please -- for all the boys who want to play with baby dolls and wear sparkly things, too. :) I adore pink shirts on men, too, child of the 80s that I am. Heck, lace used to be considered a *masculine* accessory more than a feminine one (at one point in time), and if you really want to make heads explode, mention the time periods in which (upper class) men wore as much makeup as the women. *grin!*

Hmmmm, I may have to see if I can download this talk somehow. It sounds like you kicked some butt! :)

Annie said...

I love this idea! I never thought of buying highly gendered clothing as a wasteful approach to dressing kiddos but you are absolutely right.