Learning to love pink.

Or, lessons from my daughter.

Heartbreaking conversations in my house, part one:

Daughter: I’m not cool

Me: Yes, you are!

Daughter: No, I’m not, I’m pretty.

Me: raw

Heartbreaking conversations in my house, part two:

Husband to son: Would you prefer your teacher to be a man or a woman?

Son: A man. Men are better than women

Me: image 2

I was never the kind of person who was dying to have a daughter. My first born was a boy, and I was more than happy. When I was pregnant with my second, we found out the sex (because what kind of monster can carry a baby for nine months without knowing ?) It was a girl – I was happy in as much as I thought it was nice to have ‘one of each.’

And so she came, this girl.

Rachel dress

I thought I could mould her in my image. I’m not ‘girly’ and neither would my daughter be. No princess dresses here, thank you.

As the picture attests, two and a half years later my daughter has laughed at my misplaced ideals and thrown them back in my face.  Pink is the only colour in town. She goes everywhere with a pink handbag strapped across her little body; the handbag is filled with little plastic, pink, necklaces. She watches me intently as I apply my make-up and shouts, ‘me, me, me’ for her turn at my Urban Decay palette. (My son saw me carry out the same rituals, but paid no heed.)

I am conscious of applying make up in front of her and how I can explain it. What should I tell her when she asks me , ‘Why you do that Mammy?’

‘To look prettier than I do without it’, ‘to make my self feel better, more confident’, ‘for fun’ ‘because I am performing gender as dictated by our patriarchal society’ ?

Who knows why I do it. The reasons are impossible to separate between what I do for myself and what I do because it is what society expects of me, as a woman. I think mostly I do it because I want to. Its something I have really only started to take an interest in post the birth of my second child. A way of pampering myself, a kind of self-care. It’s fun; a red lipstick cheers me up. And yes, the days I am made up I do feel more confident. And this is where I think its impossible to separate self and societal expectations – the fuzzy link between confidence and altering my appearance.

Gender is a social construct. We are all performing our gender to a degree, and it is almost impossible to determine what is ‘us’ and what is our culture, what we are doing because society expects us to do these things as women, or as men. How quickly those expectations make themselves known.  Living in a house with a small person of each sex (boy,6, girl, 2), it is impossible not to see differences between them. Mostly the toys my daughter played with in her first year, at home, were hand-me-downs of her brothers; mostly gender neutral, some cars, some dinosaurs. Yet very quickly she started asking for dolls; her imaginative play is way more developed than his at the same age. She often plays ‘mammy’. And so , despite my ideologies, my children have fallen into typical gender roles. She the pink loving princess obsessive, he the dinosaur obsessing, Star Wars fanatic.

All of my feminist being wants to fight against this. To make her wear a pair of jeans and trainers. To stop her watching Frozen and carrying a handbag. The Let Toys Be Toys campaign wants to stop toys being targeted at one sex or the other, which I wholeheartedly agree with. By providing Lego marketed to girls, you are sending out the message that the Star Wars Lego or the Batman Lego is for boys only. This is ultimately damaging and just adds to the many layers of gender expectation which restrict us all. But equally if my girl wants to play with dolls wouldn’t it be crazy of me to rip it out of her hand and give her a dinosaur ? It would be forced, and imposing my adult sensibilities on her childish sense of fun. It would be as prescriptive too, in its own way. You can only be a certain kind of girl if you don’t play with dolls?

What is my anti-pink stance saying about how I view women? Is my fight against it worse than promoting it?  It goes without saying you can love wearing pink dresses and be smart and strong and funny. It’s the same rationale that allows ‘male’ interests, such as football, to take over pages upon pages of newspaper coverage, where ‘female’ interests are allocated a single column, or devoted only to women’s magazines.

Let’s open out the playing field.  You can wear make up and be a feminist. You can play with dinosaurs and like watching My Little Pony. You can play football and do gymnastics. We need to relax our ideas of gender, stop polarising,  and recognise that the colours you like or the activities you prefer don’t dictate who you are.

As for my pink princess, she is expressing herself. My job is to open her mind and show her the possibilities open to her, but to always let her be herself. Whatever that might be.

rachel style

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14 comments

  1. It’s nuts how little girls are so hypnotised by plastic pink stuff. When it didn’t exist (when I was a kid), you just didn’t want it. There isn’t some innate magnet in us that draws us to pink tat – I wanted a Playmobil ambulance at that age. I liked brown stuff. I suppose it’s the evil Disney Princesses franchise-thing that did it.

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    1. Yes it’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. Basically we should all chill out about what colour Lego is.

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  2. sequinist · · Reply

    I’m very similar to you; I enjoy my clothes and makeup immensely, but I’ve always hated pink, frills, lace, ruffles, and anything overtly feminine and girls. Yes, I’m sure you can be clever and wear that nonsense, but I still hate it. I had a boy, and I’m relieved in a way, because the narrative path for them is so much easier. When I was pregnant, I sent an email to everyone I knew saying, “IF this is a girl, there will not be a single pink item of clothing or a single pink nursery decoration. I’m just letting you know now, because pink will not be tolerated.” I’m sure your daughter will grow out of this Disney princess phase with a mother like you to show her another path. There is so much more to be than just ‘pretty.’ xx

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    1. It is just so difficult to stop other people buying them that stuff isn’t it ? And of course once they see it they love it

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  3. This is something I often think about – when I was pregnant, I told myself I wouldn’t buy too much pink and I didn’t want her to be the typical girly girl so young. However now she’s here, my views have changed a bit and I just want her to be happy – whatever that may be. So at the moment, aged 1, she wants to play with her London bus all day long and thinks dolls are quite strange. But I know that may soon change and I’ll have to roll with it a bit. Fantastic post, very thought-provoking. Thanks for linking with #stayclassymama

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading – I think it’s all a bit more complex than it seems ! There’s a lot going on .

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds to me like you have this all figured out already. My littles are two of the girliest littles ever. Dresses every day, PINK, PINK, PINK…we let them choose, we choose our battles. And now, every once in a while, an actual t-shirt is worn with shorties, or leggins. By no means pants, but definitely not twirly. And, this just in, Little’s favorite color moved from purple to blue. Big still prefers pink, but has loosened up a lot. Glitter is her signature color #stayclassy

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  5. I really enjoyed this – I have a son but I am very keen that he is given dolls and kitchens as he gets older as well as the typical ‘boys toys’. But as you say, I won’t force things on him as it’s just as bad to coerce them into playing with gender stereotype defying toys as it is the other way round, isn’t it?! I think having the options and opportunities to feel they can do as they choose is what’s important and it sounds like you already do that. #StayClassyMama

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  6. […] co-hosted last week and loved the Learning to Love Pink post from The Mother Hub. She agrees we should just let our kids be who they […]

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  7. The Pramshed · · Reply

    This is a really interesting post, I have a daughter she’s 11 months old and we knew during the pregnancy that we were having a girl. I told people that I didn’t want loads of pink clothing, as I really hate all the twee girls clothing that’s baby pink with lace and frills etc. Luckily we didn’t get any (many one or two), which she looks ridiculous in, they really don’t suit her. So for now she’s in leggings, t shirts and denim – all of which are far more practical for nursery, and they actually suit her. I am waiting for the day that she wants to wear pink, and be girly. At some point it will happen but for now, I am trying to keep her away from it, and Disney too! Thanks so much for linking up at #fortheloveofBLOG. Claire x

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  8. I think the pink phase is unavoidable – especially when they get to nursery and there’s all the dressing up etc #ablogginggoodtime

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    1. Certainly seems that way ! Everything has to pink – it’s quite mad really

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I was worried when pregnant that I would be too pink for my own little girl. I count myself very fortunate that she seems to like it too. If at any point she changes her mind… that will be okay too!
    Thanks for linking to #ablogginggoodtime

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Yes to all of this – as a mum of two girls and one boy, as a person who loves lipstick and has more than one pink item of clothing, and as someone who keeps telling all her kids they can do anything they want to do. I see a mix of things all the time – my boy wants a Barbie house for Christmas, my girls love makeup, my eldest’s favourite colour is blue, my son’s favourite colour is “rainbowish.” I think it’s OK to accept that lots of things are down to society but it’s OK to enjoy them. Like lipstick.

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