I love pink, in pretty much all of its shades. Generally, I choose pink clothes (when I can afford them) over any other, and even chose a pink wedding cake, complete with butterflies and feathers. I loved my wedding cake. I’m a fairly girly girl in that respect, even if I’m a little “slummy” when it comes to looking after my appearance. It hasn’t always been that way though. As a child in primary school my favourite colour was green, and in high school it was blue – for no particular reason other than the fact that they made me feel happy. So what I’m about to say does not come from a deep rooted dislike of pink. If anything it is what drew my eye in the first place
So, what is wrong with this picture?
At first glance it appears to be your average display of sports balls. There are balls in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours. There’s a mix of traditional basketballs and footballs, some rugby balls and even bright yellow volleyballs. It was, however, the collection of pink balls that drew me in. Initially I thought it was good that they had included a “girly” football in what is often considered to be a male sport, but then I got a bit annoyed that if they were making a “concession” for girls why did that concession have to be pink? My childish self would have been upset that there were no green ones. On closer inspection, it got worse rather than better.
It got worse because the ball in question wasn’t even a football. It was a netball. Netball, the sport dominated by women, and the only netball for sale in Tesco was pink. Because girls (and women) all like pink, don’t they?
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Tesco don’t sell a huge number of netballs so it probably doesn’t make a lot of commercial sense to stock a veritable cornucopia of colours in store. But couldn’t they have stocked a smaller selection of the same sort of neutral colours that they have in stock for footballs? After all, Mitre do offer a greater variety of netballs than simply pink. Yes, you can buy a more traditonally “feminine” (ie pink) netball but otherwise they don’t have an obvious gender divide. Indeed, including a pink ball amongst a variety is a good thing – this is not an anti-pink campaign. Yet it seems that Tesco feels that all netball players must also be pink lovers. Even their website only offers pink:
But where does this stereotyping come from? How did we arrive at the notion that pink, sparkly princesses and hair accessories are the domain of girls, and blue, sports, cars and action figures are the favourites of boys? After all, a century ago it was boys who would have been dressed in pink, not girls. Is it the result of fierce gender stereotyping or gender marketing? Or is it a natural tendency that dates back to our hunter-gatherer days with women searching for pink/red/purple berries, and men recognising that a blue sky indicated the best day and time to go out hunting?
There are certainly many studies out there that support this gender colour preference so perhaps the hunter-gatherer argument isn’t too far from the truth, but dig deeper and you will see that these studies use adults and where children are studied they are over the age of three so they have already been under the influence of stereotyping. It’s interesting to note that where children under the age of two are studied they show no colour preference gender divide. In fact, both sexes preferred pink. What they do show is a preference for the types of toys they like to play with. Boys naturally lean towards moving toys, like cars, and girls to dollies. So perhaps the colour preferences arise from their favoured toys largely being offered in a limited range of colours.
Who knows? Maybe girls really are drawn instinctively, naturally to pink, and by supplying their toys and sports equipments in sugary sweet pink manufacturers are simply meeting demand. But what I do know is that I don’t think that that’s what really matters. It’s not the fact that girls toys in general, and the netballs in this specific example, are available in pink. It’s the fact that often, they are only available in pink.
On the surface it may seem irrelevant. Who cares if girl things are pink? And maybe, ultimately, it doesn’t make a difference, but I can’t help but feel that continuing to offer toys in such a limited colour palette – regardless of what that colour is – can surely only lead to limited results. Perhaps it’s time to put pressure on manufacturers to offer a wider range of colours – including pink – to our children. Perhaps it’s time to remind companies like Tesco that girls don’t have to like pink.