Dear Tesco, girls don’t HAVE to like pink.

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?

Tesco's display of Mitre sports balls
Tesco’s display of sports balls

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.

The only netballs in Tesco are pink

Not a football - a netball

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:

A Tesco Direct search for netball gives only 3 results

A Tesco Direct search for "netball" gives only 3 results

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.

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17 responses to “Dear Tesco, girls don’t HAVE to like pink.

  1. You don’t have to buy it if it’s in pink, I’m sure many other stockists sell netballs in many other colours. There has obv been a demand for it someone.

    • Of course not. But it’s a shame that when someone sat and did the ordering and felt that selling netballs was a service they could and should provide, and despite the wealth of colours offered by their stockist, they felt that when providing sports equipment for the girly sport of netball it would be best if it was pink. It’s just a shame that we are still being divided by gender.

  2. My son, who will turn three this week, always veered towards pink. At first it was clear that this was because the majority of toys in our house were pink (and fluffy and sparkly) as our daughter adores anything pink and princessy. However even when the house began to fill with a variety of colour schemes, pink remained the favourite. More recently, green has become the colour of choice and he even now terms pink as ‘being for girls’. To be fair I feel neither here or there about it it but it is indeed a very interesting observation that you point out that children under 2 show no gender colour divide.

    Oh, and I just love “veritable cornucopia”

    J

    • My wee boy has always liked pink – he has picked out lots of pink clothes for himself in the past, but now he tells me they’re too girly. He also picks out pink toys and suggests them for his sister because, “pink is for girls.”

      This isn’t something I regularly get on my soap box about. To be honest, I didn’t even realise I HAD a soap box. It was just something that had been niggling away at me now for a few days so I though I’d get it off my chest.

      And I love that phrase, too.

  3. Hi Slummy
    I’m a pink lover too but it is something that I have grown-into loving rather than grown-up loving. I’m late thirties now but i certainly don’t remember only having things in pink whereas I find the choice for my daughter seems to be partly made for her by manufacturers. Somewhere between the 1990s and now the pink and blue brigade got their marketing degrees and have been awfully busy ever since. Myself and many of my ‘mummy’ friends are now making a conscious move to not only buy pink things (which like you show in your example of the pink netball) is sometimes not easy. I expect this will grow as more people become annoyed by lack of choice and too much direction from manufacturers. Interestingly despite there being a huge amount of blue stuff my son is not into blue and his favourite colour is yellow. Is marketing not so targeted/colour biased towards boys??

    • Just walk into the ELC – The baby girl section (eg dollies, tea sets etc) is a sea of pink, but the boys’ section tends to involve a greater range of colours, though not a lot of pastel/pinks & purples.

      Obviously, we can shop about and find alternatives for most things, and girls are can choose to play with a toy farm or a Tower of Doom but what grates with me is the manufacturers expectation that girls want pinks.

      My son has a LeapPad and loves it. He has it in their standard green. My daughter also loves it so with a birthday coming up we thought we’d get one for her but a different colour would help quickly identify whose is whose – this is what Leapfrog have to say about their alternative on their website:
      “Also Available in Pink
      If green’s not pretty enough, find out more about the Leappad Explorer in this lovely shade of pink.”

      Why do girls electronic toys have to be “pretty?” Why couldn’t they have used red, purple, yellow? My daughter will doubtless love it in pink and I’m sure it won’t scar her for life, I just wish there was a greater choice on offer.

  4. The Tinkerous Toddler ( girl, just turned two) always makes a beeline for purple, crayons, clothes, whatever… is it her inner goth coming out I wonder?!

    I like pink, but I am not a huge fan of little girls – or their living spaces – being decked out in varying shades of pink. Not because I have any major issues with it, it just doesn’t do it for me.

    I have also made sure that TT has an array of toys, including cars, trains and tools as well as dolls and girlie things. She plays with them all, though as she marches on into her twos she is increasingly cuddling her teddy or dollies like babies and treating them as such – well if you count cuddling them, giving them a bottle then chucking them over your shoulder when you’re bored and want to move onto the next thing…

    Anyway, to end, it does seem a bit ridiculous to only have a pink netball stocked, come on Tesco, sort it out!!

    • Yup, that’s how I feel. The Minx plays with all her brother’s toys so we know they’re both playing with a mix, and her room is pink but that’s mostly because I love pink rather than because it’s “girly.” And yes, it wouldn’t have killed them to have had a second colour of netball.

  5. Pink Netballs balls to that! There would be a meltdown on our lawn if I bought that, as my 2 are the only kids for miles(we are out in the sticks), I have a boy and a girl, no that would never work!

    Take care

    Denise

  6. Pingback: 10 things that make me cringe as a new parent – Sixtine and The Little Things·

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