Pink Oppression…

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Think about this before you buy that pink baseball bat or blue sippy cup for your child:

I get why manufacturers play to pink-it makes good business sense. A marketing executive I spoke with at LeapFrog, which is based in Emeryville, California, told me that her company even had a name for it: “the pink factor.” “If you make a pink baseball bat, parents will buy one for their daughter,” she explained. “Then, if they subsequently have a son, they’ll have to buy a second bat in a different color. Or, if they have a boy first and then a daughter, they’ll want to buy a pink one for their precious little girl. Either way, you double your sales.” But as a parent, I wonder what all that pinkness-the color, the dominance of the play pattern it signals-is teaching girls about who they are, what they should value, what it means to female?Orenstein, Cinderella Ate My Daughter

What effects do the “choices” marketing execs decide for our children have on who they think they are or who they could be? Who do our daughters want to be? Do our sons really want to be heroes, or do they want to be saved too? Marvel doesn’t think so.

Do our daughters want to be engineers? Some think we need to “pink” engineering to get them interested.

What kind of skills do we think they should have? Scholastic think its more important for girls to learn how to pick out a nice pair of sunglasses then to learn how to survive in the woods.

Also, lets think about the fact that companies are producing special products for women and girls, like we are some subset of humanity that can only hit a ball if it is with a pink bat.

What kind of messages are we sending our children? We completely ignore the fact that roughly 0.5-1% of children are born neither male or female and make no place for them in this world, and those who are male and female are severely limited in what they are allowed to do, who they are allowed to be. Why? Is it just to double sales? Or, are there darker reasons lurking behind these limits we put on our kids.

Last year I took a class on Researching Inequities. One of our assignments was to present photos that represented oppression and privilege to us. Here is my picture representing oppression:

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These are Lala’s winter boots from last year. She picked them out herself. They are warm and comfortable and they she loved them.

The second day she wore them to school, TWO of her FRIENDS told her that she was wearing boy boots. She told them there was no such thing, but having her friends say such things to her did not make her feel good. She was having her gender policed by her friends, fellow 6 year olds. It made me sick to my stomach. Were we supposed to take the boots back and buy pink ones? Is she not allowed to choose what she likes?

The same goes for boys. A little boy we know loves to wear pink and used to like wearing pig tails. Is this not allowed? Why do we put these barriers in front of our children? Why do we limit who they can be and what they should like?

Something to think about before you pick up that pink baseball mitt to go with that bat.

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About Theresa

Writer, sister, mother, human.