Sexism, Pinkification And Our Daughters

14/08/2014 16:52 | Updated 22 May 2015

Sexism, pinkification and our daughters

Until I gave birth to my daughter five years ago I thought sexism had died out along with the Burt Reynolds' films of the 70s. Boy, was I wrong. And I am enraged.

You see, since her birth my girl has been almost swallowed up by a tsunami of pink, princesses, dolls and body glitter. Worse, she doesn't seem to have any choice in the matter and neither do I. That's because toys, clothes and baby equipment are increasingly being divvied up into sections 'for boys' and 'for girls'.

So, in 2013, is sexism towards children more prevalent than ever?

Hell, yes. At least it is for me. I am seriously boggled at how little girls are increasingly being forced to become a stereotype. Go on, nip into a supermarket and try to pick up a gift for a child. You can't unless you decide to go down the all-blue aisle, which contains building kits, science toys, race tracks and tiny plastic tools, or the all-pink aisle, which bursts with skinny dolls, body sparkles, flower crafts and dinky handbags. It's the same in clothes departments of stores.

When was the last time you saw a girl's T-shirt read 'cheeky monkey' and a boy's T-shirt read 'little cutie'?

And I'm not just furious that these distinctions exist but that these distinctions are forced upon boys and girls from the moment they are born. It's also these distinctions that tell girls they are wrong to enjoy science, for example, while boys are wrong to enjoy ballet. I'm not alone in my mortification either.

"When my daughter was five she had the pinkest lot of birthday presents I'd ever seen," says Deborah. "We have been inundated with pink toys, often by people we'd have expected to be more thoughtful. What bothers me most about this is that its ubiquity makes people blind to individual differences and forces children to conform. For example, pink Lego attracts my daughter but makes boys say, "I can't play with that because it's a girl's toy"."

In fact, this sexism and pinkification of little girls is the heart of such campaigning websites as,,uk, and, all of which are trying to end the trend of limiting children's interests by pushing toys as only suitable for a one gender.

And that's the nub of the problem. If your daughter genuinely enjoys the toys that are aimed at girls, fine. But what if your daughter enjoys sport, building or bug-catching? That's when the increasingly sexist influences of marketing start to make me foam at the mouth.

"The biggest battle for us has been ensuring our little boy and our little girl are treated the same," explains Phil. "It's been a constant battle. We had to make sure that our daughter could play football if she wanted and that wasn't easy. The expectation is intertwined with pressure on children to conform so it takes a strong will to stand out against the crowd."

And yes, if we don't like this stuff we don't have to buy it, yet isn't that missing the point? You see, even if a parent doesn't buy these nuggets of sexism the message is still writ large across the shelves and clothes racks, that girls aren't only different to boys, they don't belong in the male-dominated world.

Take for example, a recent trip I took to the National Gallery in London. Even though the place is stuffed with gender-mixed, inspirational art the books in the gift shop were labelled Art for Boys and Art for Girls.


A big internet stir at the moment are packs of word magnets for boys (which include the words 'money', 'running' and 'swimming') and for girls (which include the words 'shoes', 'bunnies' and 'fluff'). The only words these packs share are 'chocolate' and 'sweets'.


Even Weetabix is in on the act, recently pushing its product on children by depicting girls as pink-obsessed, diary-writing, doll-adoring harridans and boys as mud-rolling, death-defying, girl-scaring superheroes.

It's not just little girls who have a problem, though. Older girls are starting to feel marginalised too.

Celia remembers, "We recently went to a school open evening. I was talking to a physics teacher about girls doing science, while surrounded by experiments that had been set up. My daughter was looking with a little boy and when the boy asked a question the teacher answered him. When my daughter asked a question the teacher didn't even look and snipped "don't touch that!" before carrying on his conversation with the boy. She's now going to a girl's school in September."

So what can we, as parents, do about this? Phil says that, until his daughter got to an age where she went her own way, he bought boys' toys for her and Deborah says that she always talks to her children about all the options that are open to them, such as suggesting football as well as dance, and buys non-gender defined gifts.

Parents can also buy toys and clothes from websites which make a point of being gender-neutral as well as providing girls with positive messages about their bodies and place in society.

And me? I'll stick to avoiding pink like the plague, buying microscopes and cars, as well as glitter and dolls, and talking constantly to my daughter about the how she is better person that those messages tell her she should be.

I'm her first line of defence against 21st Century sexism and I don't intend to ever stop fighting.

Do you feel your daughters are being swallowed in a 'tsunami of pink'?

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