Why pinkification is still such a big problem

A T-shirt with the slogan "I can change the world" written in pink sparkly lettering. An example of how pinkification is a problem.

At the start of the summer holidays, we went clothes shopping. The hardest thing to find were shorts for our two-year-old daughter.

To cut a long story short, we didn’t think hotpants were appropriate so came home empty-handed. While we were looking in one store, though, I spotted a T-shirt which really annoyed me.

“I can change the world” proclaimed the slogan. In pink, sparkly lettering with a heart and star thrown in for good measure. The design had missed the point and, indeed, a good opportunity.

Pinkification. Yuck. It was basically like creating a slogan extolling the virtues of vegetarianism out of sausages.

I’ve never been a fan of the idea of blue for boys and pink for girls. As far as I’m concerned, it’s stuck in the 1950s and doesn’t do either gender any favours.

I don’t have a problem with pink or blue in themselves, you understand. It’s the almost-enforced identity that is often attributed to them that I have issue with.

It’s because of pinkification that there is a gender gap in STEM jobs. Which, of course, is just plain wrong.

I’m proud to say that we’ve always encouraged our kids to choose clothes in terms of comfort and toys based on how fun or educational they are. I hate the idea of gender exclusivity. Clothes should be clothes and toys should be toys.

We should be encouraging kids to be the best versions of themselves – not steering them towards stereotypical roles in life.

Since youngest was born, I’ve become more aware of how damaging pinkification can be. Sadly, society is still very sexist and, as things stand, I doubt it will treat her the same as her brothers in adult life.

With that in mind, we’ve redoubled our efforts. But I’ve noticed that she’s drawn to things like the aforementioned T-shirt. The thing that intrigues and frustrates me in equal measure is that this seems to be innate.

We have obviously never pushed things generally considered ‘girly’ on her. Neither has she picked it up from other kids – she doesn’t start nursery until next month and the Rhymetime sessions we take her to every week are obviously focussed on music.

For my part, I’ve always politely declined offers to review toys that are obviously targetted at one gender.

Adverts on TV will have reinforced her apparent interest in conforming to stereotype, of course, but she rarely talks about them so I think the leaning was already there.

Has pinkification become so ingrained that it’s hard-wired into kids these days? Or is it just endemic and imparted via osmosis? Certainly, having gender-specific aisles packed with things like said T-shirt can’t help.

Whatever the explanation, it’s not good news. And pink, sparkly lettering is never going to change the world.


  1. Ross

    I agree with some of what you’re saying. I don’t have a problem with the colours pink or blue, and to be honest we just dress our daughter in whatever. She’s as likely to end up in a pink frilly dress as she is some weird mis-matched multicoloured number. But I’d disagree with the notion that “It’s because of pinkification that there is a gender gap in STEM jobs.”

    It’s way more complicated than that and some of it might just come down to the fact that men and women are just a little bit different at times. Of course that’s not the same for everyone, and there will always be exceptions. Just out of curiosity, if she was drawn to that T-shirt and others like it, then why not buy it? Aren’t you just allowing her to make her own choice?

    Obviously I could be wrong on all of this too. I do think more people need to think about what they’re buying and about giving their child equality opportunities to choose what they want to do. Always like a post that at least gets me to think about where I stand on issues.

    1. Post

      Thanks Ross. Fair enough, there are certainly other factors at play but it strikes me as one of the bigger ones. I’ve also seen others better placed than me point to it as an issue.

      Luckily, my daughter didn’t see that particular shirt but I would never have bought it as I think it contradicts itself and sends out the wrong message as a result. Speaking more generally though we do, of course, let her choose some things for herself. It’s important that there’s a balance between choice and guidance though as I do feel that pinkification needs to be challenged.

      1. Ross

        I’m probably in a place at the moment where a lot of my take on it comes from the outskirts of the issue. My daughter is 16 months old, so this hasn’t been an issue of us of late. It’s not like I’ve seen her shy away from something as she might see it as a boy thing. I dare say this will change when she gets older and I’ll be even more conscious of what she consumes in terms of content and clothing.

        I do think sometimes people a slight bit more of a deal out of it though. I get the ones where the girl clothes are more about looks and the boy ones are about being smart. But then I just wouldn’t buy them. I guess the market is always dictated by the consumers, so we just have to stop buying them. Although that’s kind of your point!

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