In a moment I’m going to say something that could be taken as critical of the Pink Stinks campaign, and that would be a shame because I both support Pink Stinks’ assault on the gender segregation of childhood and have huge admiration for how much they’ve achieved. So: Pink Stinks is brilliant, except for the name, which I hate.
The tag line for the campaign is “there’s more than one way to be a girl”. Perfect, if the name of the campaign didn’t make it clear that one of those ways completely sucks. Ending the remorseless pinkification of girlhood? Excellent. I am down with that like you wouldn’t believe. Telling girls who have already given their tiny souls over to pink that the things they like are horrible? That’s just mean. Like, make-a-child-weep mean.
When she was four, my daughter started to be interested in magazines, so I began to let her choose one each weekend. To my great aggravation, the magazines she wanted were inevitably pink. I urged her to pick “normal” magazines – Cbeebies licences, Doctor Who, that sort of thing. Things, incidentally, which have much higher internal production values than the glut of “girl” titles such as Katie (no, not the Price one) and Sparkle World, marginally less crappy cover mounts, and not many girls in starring roles.
Not that I noticed that last part as I stood at the newsstand, fuming at my daughter’s wilful embrace of stereotype. “No you don’t want this magazine,” I snapped. “It’s rubbish.” Of course, she cried, because she didn’t care that the editorial content was woeful and she couldn’t see past her overwhelming desire for the little pot of lipgloss and plastic playphone to imagine the moment two days later when I would pick up the broken, sticky bits and put them in the bin. She just knew that this was the magazine for her, and mummy didn’t like the magazine, and by extension mummy didn’t seem to like her much right now either.
There’s a lot to pick out of this: where does the affiliation for pinkness come from, why are magazines aimed at girls so horrifically shit for the most part, and why are kids’ magazines gendered anyway? But the lesson for me right then – the be-a-better-mum, raise-a-happier daughter lesson – was that demolishing the things your children like is a pretty poor way of encouraging them to explore the world and discover who they are. She likes The Beano now. It’s funny and well put-together, and the only active female character is Minnie The Minx, a sideline in a world of boy. I’m not going to fight her about it – but really, is it better than Sparkle World just because it isn’t pink?