Can We All Calm Down About Pink, Please?

Esther Walker

These days if you let your 3 year old daughter go out dressed like a bottle of Pepto Bismol, people will act like you are somehow wrecking her life and betraying the sisterhood. Esther Walker says it’s time to get over it.

Dress her in pink and she’ll never get a proper job. Dress her in pink and she’ll pursue a pathetic doormat existence, living only to please men. Dress her in pink and she’ll sit about sighing waiting to be rescued. Dress her in pink and she’ll never ask for a payrise and allow herself to be sexualised and patronised forever until she dies unnoticed, while doing someone else’s laundry.

Get real! Have more respect for your child’s individuality than that. Hello? Repeat after me: It’s. Just. A. Phase.

And for a lot of little girls, pink comes out of nowhere. I know mothers whose daughters were not exposed to any ‘pink’ media – not the Disney Channel nor CBeebies – their houses were decorated in tasteful muted shades. Their mothers wore a lot of navy, had first class degrees in Physics. And the girls picked up pink seemingly out of nowhere.

It’s like particles of pink crystallised out of thin air around them. Given the chance they would ideally dress head to toe in fondant pink sparkles and want to play with dollies (pink) and ride around on bicycles (pink) wearing fairy wings (white. And pink).

It’s the same for boys. Nobody taught my son, who is 2, how to do that thing where he brrrrms a car along the floor, shuffling after it in that knee-sliding sideways crouch they do. Nobody suggested that driving his “fire-nee-naw” all over the walls, floor and the kitchen table might be fun. He just did it.

We must teach our daughters to be confident, canny and brave by example. Or by sitting them down and literally telling them how to ask their boss for more money, or that apologising all the time is pointless and feeble, or that real men do chores, or whatever feminist litany floats your boat.

We don’t teach our daughters those things by arbitrarily banning a colour that is very popular with little girls in Reception class.

You ban pink at your peril: the lure of the forbidden will mean that your kid will probably end up a Barbie impersonator. And anyway, it will disappear as quickly as it arrived, firmly dismissed as babyish by around Year 2.

And my daughter? Ha, I wish Kitty (4) would wear pink sometimes. Her lack of interest in clothes, glitter, pink and princesses is at times a bit worrying. She just wants to play in mud and beat up boys. The other night she cut all of her hair off herself with a pair of nail scissors because it was “annoying my face”.

But, really, who cares? The kindest thing you can do for your kids is let go. Allow them to be themselves – pink glittery fairy wings, muddy faces and all.

Esther Walker is a journalist and author. She writes the blog Recipe Rifle and lives in London with her husband, the writer and broadcaster Giles Coren, and their two children.

2 Comments

  • whitneyhoiberg says:

    Colours only have the associations we attach to them! My 6yr old son is a super active boy who climbs trees, plays with dinosaurs and loves pink and purple and leopard print clothes. He is totally at ease in whatever clothes appeal to him because we have never bothered judging. And the other kids sometimes say “that’s a girls shirt/boots/etc” and he replies “i know – I like it” and then they play together without any further discussion.

  • Anna Yona says:

    Perfectly put! We have two daughters and they dress whichever way they like – a princess today and Ronja Robber’s Daughter the next. I find that more difficult for our son, though. He liked glitter and pink when he was small, but was taught very quickly – by other kids mostly – that that wasn’t suitable for little boys…

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