Viv Groksop writes an interesting article in this morning’s Guardian, regarding pink toys for girls and how, with Christmas 2010 swiftly approaching, it appears that toymakers may finally be changing their assumptions about what little boys and girls really want from Santa.
The article comes on the back of a report this week from campaign group Pink Stinks, who reported that, one year on …
… from their anti-pink crusade against UK toy shop chain the Early Learning Centre (ELC), the pink tide would seem to be receding (to a degree). At the same time, reports have recently come from Disney that they are considering pulling the plug on production of princess toys. Interesting stuff – but what do we take from this? Is this is a sign that children’s ‘pester power’ is finally being replaced by what Groksop dubs ‘parent power’? That the ‘feminist parenting’ movement is finally enjoying some success? Or simply that the pink princess was never right all along?
Abi Moore, co-founder of Pink Stinks, has said publicly that her organisation, which is ‘a campaign and social enterprise that challenges the culture of pink which invades every aspect of girls’ lives’, has been practically inundated with messages from parents ‘all over the world.’ Pink Stinks’ campaigning last year covered 43 countries across the world and, Moore states, ‘Parents of girls and boys alike are sick of the marketing messages and, especially, the gender assumptions [that] children are forced to lap up.’
Pink Stinks last year criticised the ELC’s ‘pink obsession’, which in the Christmas 2009 catalogue included a pink globe of the world and an array of gender-specific dressing-up costumes and clothes. A year on, they believe that there is a ‘small but significant’ improvement in the range of toys for sale this Christmas, saying:
‘There are now more girls than boys in the costume section, with girls dressed as policewomen or doctors. There’s a bigger mix, which we think is great. The pink globe is not pictured in the catalogue, although it’s still available. The Early Learning Centre will never admit it has made any changes to its catalogue but we are going to claim a little victory.’
A spokesman for the ELC said in response that:
‘The Early Learning Centre believes in helping children to be happy and confident individuals. We consistently offer a huge selection of toys to suit all need and to help children be all they can be.’
Groksop uses this recent debate to question, in her article, whether the views of parents are finally being heard by marketing corporations. Many parents, whether it be openly or loosely, can be seen to identify themselves with a movement known as ‘feminist parenting.’ In the UK, a prevalent feminist parenting organisation, CRAP (child rearing against patriarchy), sets out their philosophy by stating that:
‘We demand a feminist upbringing for the next generation. We want to actively challenge the tirade of sexist racist capitalist classist homophobic transphobic and ageist toys, media and literature produced for children; to empower and inspire the role of parenting caring and educating and to combat patriarchy in all its forms within our children’s lives. We would like to create networks to support and discuss feminist childrearing issues and push childrearing issues in feminist activist circles.’
And there are many similar organisations in the UK and the US that campaign for similar goals. And, personally, I think these groups, and their goals, are great. Children are exposed to gender-specific toys, media and marketing from very early in their lives, and anything that aims to remove such pressure can only be a good thing, I think. If more parents move against gender-specific marketing geared at children, this should have an effect, just as Pink Stinks claim to have made a difference already.
Children are miniature consumers at a very young age, that’s a fact. But it is a child’s parents that can make a difference in terms of what their children are exposed to or allowed to have. Parents should support their child’s choices in terms of the toys their really like, but should try to ensure that their children’s choices are genuine, rather than tainted by the Disney machine.