The Mommy Vortex: When You & Your Daughter Disagree Over Pink
When little Riley asked, “why do girls have to buy all the pink stuff” in the short video made by her father, many of us watched, nodding (or shaking?) our heads. Her dad replied, somewhat resigned, “Good question, Riley.”
It is a good question. And one I have often asked myself, especially after my daughter was born and my house suddenly looked like a bottle of Pepto Bismol had exploded in it. There was pink everywhere. And I don’t even like pink! But I had a girl, and the pink-frosted toys – mostly gifts – were ubiquitous.
Like me, Riley was pretty upset that the boys got to choose toys with all different colors, while the girls’ toys seemed so, well, pink. Her questions were spot on: What if the girls wanted superhero toys? And – gasp! – what if some boys wanted to play with princesses?
Riley’s exasperation at specific gender marketing not only showed an understanding beyond her years, but on some very basic level, it demonstrated that the marketing was working. Riley got the message loud and clear that there was some sort of separation between what girls and boys “should” have and want. And she didn’t want to be told that; she wanted to make her own decision. Good for her.
I had hoped before my daughter was born that she would be just like Riley (and me): exasperated by pink and all it represented. At six, I had happily traded in my bubble gum pink ballet slippers for soccer cleats and never looked back. I routinely asked my parents for a racing track and a BMX dirt bike. I wanted my daughter to be the same way . . . and that’s not going to happen. My daughter is a princess-loving diva who believes everything should be covered in “sprinkles” (her word for sparkles). And she loves pink.
In fact, when she was potty training, I had run out of the “girl” training pants, and had to use one leftover from a package I had used with my son (which was blue). My daughter threw a fit.
“That’s for BOYS!” she wailed. “It’s blue!” she cried in protest. I was mortified.
How could my daughter – MY daughter – refuse to wear something because it wasn’t pink? I hated pink, not just the color, but everything it represented to me: the inability to choose for myself because that’s what “they” told me I had to like, wear, and buy just because I had been born a girl. I had given my daughter a substantial number of non-gender based toys in glorious reds, yellows, greens and oranges. She even had a full line of race cars, superheroes, and dinosaurs at her disposal, thanks to my son’s arsenal of “boy” toys.
And yet, she still refused to wear a blue training diaper under her clothes, simply because she believed girls should wear pink over blue. Did the marketing companies win already? It took me days to digest what I viewed as a personal failure.
Eventually, I came to terms with my daughter’s position. Wasn’t the fact that my daughter felt the confidence to choose and share her choice with me proof enough that she was exercising her own mind, and wasn’t being brainwashed by others into what to think or do? She had different toys and colors all around her, every day since she was born. So why should I question her choice? Wouldn’t that, in itself, be employing some horrific, gender-based double standard?
At the very heart of the issue is the fact that these kids should be able to choose what toys, clothes, or colors they like best, without a gender-based judgment by their parents, peers, or society.
Giving my daughter the option to choose pink is really giving her the tools to make her own decisions, despite my own preconceived notions of what I think she should choose. Making decisions for her, or even grooming her to think she “should” (or shouldn’t!) like something based on her gender, isn’t going to make her confident or decisive, as she would just be doing what she thinks would please others.
I had to dig deep to be proud of my daughter for making her choice clearly heard, even when at some level she knew I didn’t agree. I want her to know and speak her own mind, and that means that she will sometimes not agree with me. And I have to be OK with that. Even if it means she chooses pink.
Not that I will stop giving her options that don’t include pink. Maybe, one day, she’ll voluntarily change her mind. Until then, she’ll be my first – and very favorite – pink, sprinkle-covered princess.
Rosemarie Coppola-Baldwin is a practicing attorney and a dedicated mother of a two children. A Georgetown University graduate, Rosemarie has practiced law at a major New York City law firm and for the City of New York. Rosemarie has been a guest lecturer on women’s civil rights and related legal issues at St. John’s University (New York), and offers pro bono legal services to a variety of entities.