Help! I’m a feminist but my daughter wears pink

Alice | Letters to my DaughterBlog, Feminism & Gender Issues, Parenting & Family2 Comments

Pink owl themed baby booties sit on a pile of folded pink and white baby clothes and blankets behind a headin that says Help! I'm a feminist but my daughter wears pink - Letters to my Daughter

Gender stereotyping really grinds my gears. I celebrated when John Lewis released a line of gender neutral clothes, and looked for forward thinking children’s clothing brands who didn’t make every pair of girls’ shorts the shortest things ever.

During pregnancy I swore that my daughter would very rarely wear pink. She would be a tiny bastion of feminism and shirk the shackles of pink, frilly dresses. She wouldn’t be a pretty little flower, she would be a wonderful, wild, wilful child with grass stains on her knees and muddy warpaint streaking her cheeks.

But then she was born, and gosh darn it she looked adorable in baby pink!

Pink clothes in abundance!

We were also very fortunate to have received bags upon bags of clothes from her cousins meaning we needed to buy pretty much nothing.

The clothes we were given weren’t all pink, but there was a definite ‘feminine’ theme, so she ended up wearing a lot of pink, a lot of frills, a lot of floral prints. And she was a baby so grass stains didn’t really happen and mud on the face was mostly frowned upon.

She was often a picture perfect baby girl. She looked cute, I felt like a bad feminist, but I did it anyway.

It’s not that I don’t like pink, I’m partial to a good magenta. I just think it can be a bit over done on little girls and doesn’t do much for disrupting gender stereotypes. 

So whenever I did need to by her something, it would nearly always be from the boys section – a blue hoody, or grey joggers (with pockets!), that looked equally adorable.

Is it feminist to care so much about aesthetics?

So, my feminist journey is still ongoing, and my views evolve almost daily, but…

At the time, it felt wrong to dress her in so many ‘pretty’ clothes.  At the same time, she had a lot of beautiful, free clothes, and I wasn’t going to dress her in a sack just to make a point. As long as they were comfy and practical, who cares what they look like. I also figured that if I worried about aesthetics too much then I would be a massive hypocrite. 

I also fully support everyone’s choice to dress their children however they want to (within reason/weather permitting!) And would never think badly of someone else dressing their daughter in pink, so why should I?

My concerns about what my daughter wears come from the wider issues surrounding gender stereotyping. I didn’t, and still don’t want her to think that only ‘girl things’ are for her.

I want her to know that she can wear any colour she wants to, that she can play with any toy, do any job, or have any opinion she wants to.

But before she can understand all the complexities of our patriarchal world, she can understand colour. She can see that lots of girls wear pink and lots of boys wear blue. The pink toys in pink boxes have girls on them and the blue toys in blue boxes have boys on them. The pink toys are nurses uniforms and fashion dolls, and the blue toys are doctor’s outfits and superhero figures.

A blue box with a doctors outfit sits on a shelf on the left, next to a pink box with a nurse's outfit. The blu box has a picture of a boy and a girl on it, and the pink box just has a picture of a girl. Help! I'm a feminist but my daughter wears pink - Letters to my Daughter
So much wrong with this picture…*face palm*

So, I think, if she sees herself wearing pink AND blue, maybe, just maybe, she’ll believe that all these things are for her, regardless of the colour of the box.

Gender equality begins at home – but ends pretty abruptly outside

Being careful about the clothes and toys I buy her is one thing. But there’s a whole world full of gender stereotypes that it’s hard to shield a child from without keeping them locked away. 

At 2 years old, Dee saw a Spiderman toy and told me it was for boys so she couldn’t have it. That drilled home just how impressionable children can be.

And what messages are we sending them? That girls can’t have what boys have and boys can’t have what girls have? There are so many wonderful things that are typically for boys or girls – colours are just the beginning. Why does our society insist on limiting our children’s experiences because of their gender? (I’m pretty sure the answer is money and greed but that’s another post.)

I can and do talk to her in very simple terms about how she can wear / play / be whoever she wants to be. And I’m her mum so I have a pretty powerful influence… But is it enough to combat the relentlessness of toy marketers and a society so entrenched in patriarchy that it’s ingrained in us all to some degree?

Fast forward to now

Now, Dee is three, and she has her own opinions about what she wants to wear. She frequently asks to wear “that beautiful dress” and covets her tops with flower prints. 

She loves handbags, and LOL dolls that make me cringe with their baby faces drinking out of coffee cups and tiny, grown up outfits clinging to their chubby baby tummies.

But on the flip side, she now loves Spiderman, and Batman, and Pokemon, and likes playing with tools and performing death-defying gymnastic feats with her dad.

3 year old girl kneels on a patio next to a toy lawn mower and a selection of toy tools. She is holding a toy screwdriver and pretending to fix the lawnmower. Help! I'm a feminist but my daughter wears pink - Letters to my Daughter

Pink is sometimes her favourite colour, but blue has had the top spot at least a couple of times, along with all the colours of the rainbow.

She’s gentle and sweet, and cheeky and daring, and most definitely wilful. 

The goal was never to stop her wearing pink, but to let her know that she has just as much right to wear every other colour. The choice is hers alone, and no one can tell her otherwise.

How do you feel about the pink / blue divide in children’s clothing and toys? Have you overthought it as much as me or do you not give it much thought? What do you think now you’ve read my internal dialogue on the subject?

Can you call yourself a feminist if you fress your baby head to toe in pink? What if your daughter chooses pink? Help! I'm a feminist but my daughter wears pink - Letters to my Daughter

2 Comments on “Help! I’m a feminist but my daughter wears pink”

  1. Good post! I think we can only try to lay good foundations for them to form their opinions. Their perspective on pink or blue are their own conclusions drawn from your foundations and also outside influences.
    I never once encouraged a like for pink or princesses. I didn’t not introduce them but I also didn’t do it exclusively – I’d give as much weight to batman as the little mermaid, for example.
    However, my eldest (now soon to be 9 :0) developed a love for all things pink and rapunzel as a toddler, regardless. Thankfully rapunzel has a bit about her in Tangled (see not afraid to defend herself with a frying pan haha).
    Whilst it was a little overly girly (for my liking) for a short while, there is balance. She loves long flowing dresses but is equally in her element to put trackies on and practically swim in puddles!
    I prohibited Barbies until she presented me with the following argument; ‘mummy, I know Barbie can make girls think they have to wear dresses and pink, do housework and just be mummies but I can play with Barbie and know that I can grow up to be whatever I want to be’.
    And with that comment I knew I’d done ok.
    In contrast, my youngest protests all things pink and will very rarely choose something of this colour or even wear a dress!

  2. It’s a tricky one but I do think things have moved on a massive amount since my daughter (now 12) was that age – it was hardly even addressed as an issue a decade ago. I think you’re right to be aware of it but it does all work itself out, Now my daughter wouldn’t be seen dead in pink, or a dress – and that actually goes for most of them. If you’re interested, this is a post of mine from before xmas.

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