Growing up in the "Pink Princess" Culture

It happened to me, my sister, and every friend I made growing up. Between the ages of 1-8, every birthday party I attended had a princess theme. Pink and purple balloons, a Disney princess piñata, and even a princess impersonator. It was the early 90s and Disney had complete control of what movies girls watched. Aurora, Belle, and Snow White were the first role models I had. My favorite toy was a pink broom that I used to happily sweep my room.

“Trouble”   by contributing artist, Manahil Palla

“Trouble”

by contributing artist, Manahil Palla

Everything I was gifted was pink, everything was decorated with hearts, flowers, kisses and it all sat in my playroom; a space filled with pretty pink decorations and life-size barbie dolls. It didn’t take long before I realized I wasn’t that into my easy bake oven and that Barbie dolls were stiff and limited my imagination; animal plush toys soon became my toy of choice. However, the gifts and barbies still came and soon after my sister started getting into fake makeup kits and I suddenly had someone to play house with. We played with cupcakes and cookies, served it on a pink dining set, inside our tiny pink playhouse with its tiny pink kitchen. PINK PINK PINK! That was how the girls of my generation were taught our gender identity, femininity was one-dimensional.

We were taught to play quietly and politely, delicately.  It wasn’t that our mothers wanted to stifle our spatial skills or limit our curiosity, it was just that modern marketing got too good at pushing a certain type of toy to better sell. If my bike wasn’t pink, it wasn’t a girl bike and it was something that caused conversation within my friend group. Why did I have a yellow bike and a green helmet? I definitely noticed how tomboyish that look was as I was strolling with the rest of the neighborhood girls. 

As I grew up though, I started embracing the colors blue, green and yellow as I strived to find my personality and establish my individuality from the rest of the group. It wasn’t until I pushed against the typical dress and the matching sister dresses that I grew personally. Now, writing about pink I reminisce and can’t help but wonder how much about my psychology and sexuality was already established for me in the development years.

After doing some research I discovered plenty of studies and theories that prove a connection between playing and your future career interests. Countless studies argue that while boy toys cultivate problem solving, math skills and building, girls’ toys increase care taking and nurturing abilities. While this isn’t a rule of thumb it has definably raised speculations with parents and researchers.

Most theories, however, rely on current working force statistics so the discrepancies seem higher when considering that 3 generations before us women were still taught to value family and care taking before professional growth. What we can do now is ensure that as women, our hobbies and topics of conversation involve activities that require problem solving and strategic thinking. Even more important, future generations need to be exposed to countless personalities, group dates, toys and sports to avoid any premature gender stereotyping. When considering that a child doesn’t understand its own gender assignation and “correct” expression until the ages of 2-3 it is crucial that they are given as many opportunities to explore their personality and how they act in relation to another. In today’s society girls can be masculine and boys can be feminine and they can venture out beyond the brave hero and delicate princess categories. A rocket can be sold in pink and a playhouse can have flames on the side. In the exploration of oneself there shouldn’t be any social limitation; so let’s give pink back to both genders.