Image credit: PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain
In the period leading up to Christmas, I saw a remarkable new item about a new campaign that was started by two British women, sisters Abi and Emma Moore: Pink Stinks. Their goal is to boycott pink toys for little girls and make them aware of female gender patterns.
On their website they rage against stereotyping and how they want to provide ‘alternative’ role models: successful female writers and scientists. Both women seem to have the idea that all little girls who dress up like a princess, like pink and dream about marrying a famous, rich man for the rest of their lives, wanting to emulate Paris Hilton. A quote from their website:
PinkStinks aims to counteract the slurry of media obsession on women who are ‘famous’, ‘thin’ ‘rich’ or ‘married to famous men’, by celebrating those women that we see as inspirational, important, ground-breaking and motivating. On these pages we’ll point you in the direction of some of those women … some from history, some just starting out, from all walks of life. It’s amazing how great they are, and when they’re brought together in a list like this there’s a real power to them, that can only serve as an uplifting inspiration.
Pink Princesses Stink
Apparently the Moore sisters find the phenomenon of little girls dressing up in pink ‘princess’ clothes disturbing. They think those little girls are forced in this behavioral pattern by their parents and by society as a whole. According to the sisters, toy manufacturers offer pink toys for girls only. Moreover, society is planning to imprint old-fashioned (and therefore bad) ideas in the little girls’ poor heads. That kind of indoctrination is wrong: girls should be free to do whatever they want without being forced to play with pink toys.
Ironically, the sisters don’t seem to realize that they do exactly the same thing. By launching a campaign to change female role patterns, they convey the message that it’s wrong to like pink toys and wanting to dress up like a princess. Are they forcing girls to be different, in the same way they see toy manufacturers ‘forcing’ girls to play with pink and dress in pink. If you rage against stereotyping, is the answer reverse stereotyping? How is this different from what you raging against? What drives these women?
What if girls like pink?
I really wonder if both women are mothers. And if they ever had a little daughter. Because every single little girl I know of, myself included, has a lot of favorite colors: pink, pink and more pink. They want to wear everything, as long as it is pink. Every girl has a princess phase. Even I, the eternal tomboy, went through that as a little girl. I hate to admit it, but I was all into Barbies and pink stuff as a little girl. Nowadays, there’s hardly any girly behavior left. The same can be said for most of the successful women I see around me: doctors and scientists. They all had their pink Barbie stuff to play with, which didn’t stop them from being successful later in life. Even Paris Hilton, despised by these two women, turns out to be quite successful launching perfumes and fashion lines. I don’t believe we get to see the real Paris Hilton, what she shows us is a carefully crafted image which she uses for her business.
I have the sneaking suspicion that we are dealing with two feminists here, who have their own ideas on successful women. A very successful woman in their eyes emulates a lot of male behavior. Pink Stinks is their way of forcing those artificial ideas on little girls. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that a lot of women behave according to ‘old-fashioned’ role patterns because they like that life style. And since we live in a free society, why don’t you let them be who they want to be? Why project your issues on other people?
The idea that gender and gender-related role patterns are a product of society and upbringing was popular in the sixties. In psychology there was this ongoing discussion whether things were caused by the environment (nurture) or whether they are innate (nature). There were two sides, one defending the nurture idea, the other the nature idea. Nowadays we know it’s a bit of both. In other words, this whole campaign is old-fashioned and it says more about the people who launched it than it says about girls in our modern society.
Is our society guilty of stereotyping?
Back to the campaign. Is society to ‘blame’ for the current stereotypes involving women? Do we force young girls to behave in a stereotypical way? According to a lot of research done by social psychologists women do behave in a stereotypical way not because they are forced to, but because they like to do it. Even today, most of the caretakers are women. Women behave in a more caring way than men do, even those women with a ‘unisex’ upbringing. Men are more adventurous than women, display more risky behavior and choose different professions than women. Men and women are different. That’s not a new insight. But that doesn’t imply that the one is better than the other. Even while both sexes are different, they are still equal.
Campaigns like this undermine this sense of both genders being equal. By paying attention to this phenomenon, of girls wanting to emulate Paris Hilton, you basically tell them that their choice is inferior. That behaving like a woman is inferior to behaving like a man. The result is that women and woman-like behavior is valued less than male behavior, which is exactly what feminism is fighting. It’s like a self-for filling prophecy. I think the most important reason there’s still this inequality between genders is… feminism.