How to shatter the ‘pink is for girls, blue is for boys’ stereotype
Struggling to find clothes for a daughter who prefers pirates over princesses?
When it comes to choosing clothes for your kids what do you look for?
An item that’s comfortable and practical. Or are you more of a pink frills and bows for the girls and dino and digger prints for the boys kind of parent?
Struggling to find clothes for a daughter who preferred pirates over princesses, UK-based mum Cheryl Rickman decided to do something about it.
“We were frustrated with stereotypical clothing designed for little girls and, having struggled for years to find clothes in the girls’ aisle that my dinosaur-loving football-fanatic daughter loved, we decided to launch our own range together featuring the things that were once exclusive to boys' clothing,” she explains.
Featuring cute dinosaurs carrying flowers, female robots and a feisty girl robot, Cheryl says it’s not her intention to ‘rid the world of hearts, flowers and pink.’
She says: “We just want to flip the gender stereotypes on their head to provide girls with a choice not previously offered to them.
“As seventies kids we wore mostly brown and orange. Lego was only produced in primary colours and bikes were generally red. We played with whatever we wanted and pink was just another colour. Boys often sported long hair, girls often didn’t; we were free to be ourselves.
Fast-forward some decades and pink has become the epitome of femininity, used to market everything. It’s a commercial no-brainer for retailers to offer best-selling clothes and pink outsells other pastels. But perhaps this is because of the lack of alternative choice?
“Why not add other colors and represent the full spectrum of what it means to be a child, without limitations? Some children like stuff that fits the stereotype but some don’t.”
It’s something that BBC broadcaster and mum to three-year-old Dora, Nicola Walmsley wholeheartedly agrees with.
She says: “Why do t-shirts designed for girls only display pictures of flowers and princesses? Yes my daughter likes dolls and teddies, but she also likes trains and rockets! I really think this matters. It's about more than just clothes. When we choose for our girls gentle, flowery fabrics, while dressing our boys in strong, bold styles, we are sending them a subliminal message about the adults we expect them to become.
“Don’t get me wrong, sometimes my daughter likes to dress up as a princess, but she also knows how to rock a Spiderman onesie and a Star Wars t-shirt. Stereotypes are lazy and limit our kids' options and we need the big stores to take notice and, as parents, we need to give our children more opportunities to be colourful and unique.”
It’s a view echoed by trainee doctor and mum of two, Vivienne Birch. Explaining that she ‘goes straight for the dinosaur stuff in the shops’, Vivienne says: “I don’t want my girls being princesses. I deliberately steer away from tutus because I don’t want them growing up thinking everything is going to work out wonderful, like you’re a Disney princess.”
While some may argue that clothes are irrelevant, Vivienne believes they play a part in influencing how your child thinks.
She adds: “I want masculine influences in my daughter’s lives. I make a point of showing them dinosaurs in the museum and would like them to wear more clothes that are stereotypically for boys. It goes as far as presents too, I buy diggers and fire engines.”
Not all mums feel the same as Nicola and Vivienne though.
For telecommunications manager Lauren Reilly, dressing her 18 month old daughter in shades of pink is less about trying to influence the adult she will become and more about styling her in a similar way to her.
She explains: “I tend to opt for girlier clothes simply because she is a girl so I dress her how I dress - jeans and a nice pretty top or nice dress and tights.
“I wouldn’t be drawn to pirate and dinosaur-themed clothes. Even if it was a girls range I don’t think it would look right, unless the dinosaur had a pretty bow and the item of clothing looked pretty and girly.”
Cheryl is quick to add that she doesn’t want to make retailers abolish pinks and princesses. Indeed her intention is to encourage stores to offer more choice not less.
She adds: “There’s nothing wrong with pink princesses, but there’s so much more to girls than that. Equally, there’s nothing wrong with snarling Marvel characters, but there’s so much more to boys than that.
“All we ask is that pink and blue are not the predominant colors and that these colors and motifs are not split into ‘for girls’ and ‘for boys’. Let clothes be clothes and kids be kids – give them all the colors of the rainbow to choose from. Because ungendered shouldn’t mean drab. All colors should be for everyone.”