I never thought of myself as a feminist. I had always considered myself more of an egalitarian. Feminist is such a loaded title, that it repelled me. I don’t feel like we should be talking about women’s rights so much as we should be talking about human rights. I am grateful for the feminists that went before me, paving the way to my education and vast array of career choices. None the less, even today, here in the good old U.S. of A. we seem to have some more work to do with regards to equality between the sexes. (Wage inequities and sexual harassment come to mind as I write this.)
So what does color have to do with anything? People, feminists and parents of girls in particular, have been buzzing about the new line of Lego Friends. Lots of people and news organizations like Business Week reported on how Lego spent four years researching how girls play and what they like. The result is a line of mostly soft pink, purple, and blue blocks and figurines. Many people are crying out about this as another way of promoting girl vs. boy thinking and a regression of the gains women have made over the past few years.
I won’t disagree with the research about how girls play versus boys. I was exactly how they described when it came to Legos in particular. The object on the box was never my ultimate goal. I rarely completed it. Whenever I got a new set of the little blocks, I would make a stab at assembling the spaceship or building pictured on the box, but rarely had the patience or drive to complete it. Instead, I would inevitably add the new blocks to the existing collection my sister and I had. Then we (my sister and our friends) would build our houses and castles and our own versions of space ships and airplanes and use our figurines for role-playing.
But what about the colors? Did we care that we were playing with primary colors and shades of gray? Did we want pinks and purples and softer colored bricks to create our buildings? I won’t presume to speak for my sister, though she has always enjoyed the color pink. It certainly didn’t matter to me other than I would have loved to have had more choices in general. When it came to crayons, I didn’t like the small boxes. I wanted the big box. So I could have more shades of pink? No. So I could have more shades of everything. Nothing pleased me as much as having lots of colors to choose from when it came to making things. I loved my mother’s collection of colored pencils. She had lots and lots and lots of colors.
Thirty years later, has this changed? Do all girls want pink and its color cousins? If you walk down the aisles of Toys R us or many other toy stores, you will see aisles full of pink and other aisles full of primary colors. Guess which aisle is for which gender? According to marketers males like certain colors and females like certain colors. Is this wrong? I think that associating colors with genders is wrong. Do I think this is reversing gains in women’s rights? I couldn’t say. Do I think girls should steer clear of pink? No. Do I think Lego should stop marketing to girls? No. I do think that we all need to rethink how we market products to girls and boys.
Why should girls be told they ought to buy pink and boys be told they ought not to buy pink? My three year old son loved pink until he got to preschool and someone told him that pink is for girls. Why is pink for girls? Who decided this? What if my son gets into Legos and wants to have some of the Lego Friends sets so he can have a complete town? Is he supposed to steer clear and make sure his town is populated by men and boys who hate the color pink? That is ridiculous! What if my niece gets into Legos and wants to have a complete town? Am I supposed to say no to buying her the boy sets and force her into a town full of women and girls who only use pastel colors? That is also ridiculous!
How about we stop assigning colors to genders and just let kids play with any toy of any color they like? Why is that so wrong? It might even sell a few more toys if the boys aren’t afraid of playing with dolls and girls aren’t afraid of playing with cars and trucks.
Where would Pablo Picasso have been if he had been told he couldn’t use pink because it was a girl’s color? What if he had been told the couple in this picture needed to be clothed differently? After all, shouldn’t the woman be in pink and the man in blue? (And let’s not get started on body image here. Look at the painting! She is fat by today’s standards.) He and a lot of other artists would not have been able to produce the celebrated works we enjoy today.
What if every parent takes their son down the pink aisles in the toy stores? What if every parent takes their daughters down the blue aisles? We might move towards a more egalitarian world. And if we are all equals in terms of opportunity, then we might find ourselves a little happier and a little more satisfied with life. And who knows what that might lead to? World Peace? Dare I hope?
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