The ‘Pink Plague’
By Bernice Hurst, Managing Partner, Fine Food Network
Pink has always been associated with girls who have also liked, and had access to, other colors. Now, according to a story in the UK’s Daily Telegraph, a proliferation of pink is affecting their personalities. Expressions such as "pink plague, "brainwashing and "hooked" are being used to describe a pattern that is allegedly "reinforcing gender stereotypes."
The "experts" quoted include the author of a book called Toxic Childhood and vague, unnamed but indignant bloggers and website subscribers who believe that an "insidious" spread of pink in toy shops and children’s clothing outlets is making girls easier prey to marketing stunts. One claims that girls over three are rejecting anything that doesn’t come in pink.
While peer pressure has probably existed as long as people have, viral discussions such as those on website Mumsnet inevitably attract a relatively small minority of contributors.
In retaliation, mother, singer and television presenter Myleene Klass recently joined forces with retailer, Mothercare, to introduce a children’s line that is all black. She has explained that although people were initially nervous at her suggestion, it is a common color in Europe because of its practicality and stain resistance.
Scientists also disagree about reasons for the color’s popularity with some blaming conditioning and others believing that it is "hard-wired." Researchers Anya Hurlbert and Yazhu Ling’s study, published in 2008, of volunteers at Newcastle University who were shown various combinations of colors were apparently split by gender. The Telegraph report said, "Female participants showed a marked preference for pink or red shades while men were more likely to opt for blue, suggesting a possible in-bred preference." However the article goes on to say that as the volunteers were all adults, the possibility of conditioning could not be discounted.
Discussion questions: Are you seeing any backlash to retailers and marketers targeting pink for girls? Does such marketing reinforce stereotypes? How can consumers get their demand for non-pink products across to retailers and manufacturers?
[Author’s commentary] As a new grandmother, I have to dispute this hypothesis. From Fisher Price’s bright primary colored toys to clothes, rattles and furnishings, I have found plenty of choice in both British and American stores. Neither my daughter nor any of her friends have had any serious difficulty in making non gender-specific purchases. I don’t think my granddaughter or any of her friends will become overly-feminized simply because retailers and a few authors with books to sell say so.