Pink Shovels

I bought my daughter a snow shovel recently. She loves playing with the real one even though it’s taller than she is by at least a foot, and since she’s young enough to think it’s fun, why the heck wouldn’t I put her to work? Except I had to face the annoying decision of whether or not to buy her the pink one.

Amanda Seyfriend in Mean Girls. She is smiling and the text reads "On Wednesdays we wear pink"
And on Thursdays we wear a gender-neutral color!

If she had been with me, I obviously would have asked if she wanted the pink or blue one, but on this shopping trip, I’d mercifully gotten out of the house by myself. She used to hate all things pink, which made it easier, but now she’s come around to where she likes it but it isn’t necessarily her super favorite color. When I have to make the decision for her, I start overthinking. Buying the pink shovel sends the message that girls want to do the same things boys do. But it also somewhat reinforces the notion that things haveto be pink for girl to be interested in them. Right or wrong, the people who design and buy products will look at sales numbers and largely assume that pink items are being bought for girls, while blue or “gender-neutral” versions of the same items are being bought mostly for boys and probably for some girls too.

It gets even more frustrating when the same toys are priced differently depending on what color you buy (which fortunately wasn’t the case with the shovels). A few years ago I got involved in a minor tussle in Groupthink at that other ladyblog over computer-generated pricing differences between virtually identical block sets that came in pink or primary color versions. (Sadly, the thread can’t be found by the Googles.) The pink version not only came with a slightly fewer pieces, it wasn’t discounted nearly as heavily as the other. While many attributed this to sexism at Amazon, a closer look showed that since the items were listed separately instead of as alternate versions of the same product, they were being priced differently because of how they sold. The primary version was much higher on the best-seller list (but still not terribly high), so it was likely discounted more in the hopes that parents searching specifically for that set would not only choose to buy it at Amazon since it undercut the competition, they’d buy other toys there as well. It was acting as a loss leader. Sales on the pink set were abysmal, so there was no point in discounting it; it wasn’t as likely to draw people in. This wasn’t sexism on the part of Amazon. If any sexism was involved, it was customers being less likely to buy blocks for girls, being less likely to buy pink blocks if a boy and girl were sharing them (or if the dad didn’t want to play with pink, or in case the girl later might get a little brother!), or being less likely to buy pink blocks for boys. Coincidentally, as of Cyber Monday a similar set is priced lower in pink (ranked #608 in Toys & Games) than primary colors (#163). Maybe it sells so well that the computer doesn’t have to discount it as much to bring in sales? Retail pricing has all kinds of complicated peaks and valleys.

In the end, I decided to get the pink shovel. She loves it, though I still don’t think she particularly cares what color it is. In the end, I decided I care more about sending the message that girls want this sort of item than I care about it having to be fucking pink.

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[E] Hillary

Hillary is a giant nerd and former Mathlete. She once read large swaths of "Why Evolution is True" and a geology book aloud to her infant daughter, in the hopes of a) instilling a love of science in her from a very young age and b) boring her to sleep. After escaping the wilds of Waco, Texas and spending the next decade in NYC, she currently lives in upstate New York, where she misses being able to get decent pizza and Chinese takeout delivered to her house. She lost on Jeopardy.

12 thoughts on “Pink Shovels”

  1. If she uses it well the pink might wear off :) I love pink and all things typically girly. My thought would have been, “how cute a pink shovel.” Some how though, my daughter’s garden tools are blue and my son’s are green. So I don’t have pink tools. I did find a miniature rake that was yellow. I find it sad though that there is this must be pink or blue attitude. What about purple or green??

  2. It would be lovely to have something better to say than, “How interesting!” But I really do find this interesting. Given Juniper Junior is a boy, there isn’t the same “pink pressure” as it were but, oh goodness, Mr. Juniper and I have found it very hard at times to get toys/items that are more neutral. A rather bizarre example of this recently was in trying to find a light shade for his bedroom, when in the children’s category, it was a case of there very definitely being “girl” designs or “boy” designs with little in between.

  3. Ugh, I had a similar series of feels when shopping for gifts for BF’s god-daughter recently, except I was confronted with a pepto-pink wall of child-sized home care items (it was not countered by a wall of navy-blue child-sized home care items, duh, because how ridiculous would a little boy look with his own ironing board?).

    I wish I had taken pictures, but I was just too flabbergasted.

    http://fissionerror.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/lady-parts-where-are-the-hot-pink-stethoscopes/

    1. I’ve seen blue cleaning sets at Toys R Us, but I’m pretty sure there was only one blue version and probably a dozen different pink ones. We were at a friend’s daughter’s third birthday party a couple years ago when she was given one of those and bless him, I thought my husband was gonna lose his shit.

      In reference to your post, I actually dressed Lexie up as a doctor last year for Halloween when she was 2 1/2. Her hair was still pretty short, so everyone thought she was a boy. I was highly irritated. And she still plays with the stethoscope, thought it’s (gasp) green.

  4. I know of the blocks of which you speak! This is going to be a block Christmas for us, so my daguther is getting a pink tub and my son the blue. I do wonder why there are a few more pieces in the blue box? Very weird, and I’m going to have some explaining to do. ANYWAY.

    Pink as girls only drives me batty- there are so many things that are “girl toys” and “boy toys” based on their color.

    What’s funny to me is that both of my kids really like the color green. If green is choice, they’ll always go for it.

      1. I was just going to post my own story about Mega Blocks. I was at Aldi and they had the primary Mega Blocks and the Pink Mega Blocks for the same price. Since the recommended age is 1+ I was considering getting some for La Monita except that I began overthinking too!

        If I get her the pink ones am I sending that message to advertisers? Am I reinforcing the idea that she needs pink toys? But I genuinely like pink!

        If I get her the primary colors am I saying that she has to reject pink?

        Anyways, in the end I didn’t get either because she has 5 million toys already.

        So take that Mega Blocks! No money for you!

  5. My daughter’s not big into pink either, unless it’s more of the magenta variety, which goes better with her red-Merida hair anyway. Truthfully, I wish the more common “girl” color was purple because I think there are more kids of both genders who would rather have something in purple rather than pink. Not that there’s anything wrong with liking pink, of course.

    But then, I’m that mother who says to her son when he says something like “Pink is for girls,” that “If you don’t like pink, fine, but it has nothing to do with you being a boy.”

    1. It’s hard to find purple toys! Lexie loves purple and it’s rarely an option.

      Mercifully I haven’t yet heard her divide things into girl vs boy toys or activities. I’m very careful not to describe things that way, and it helps that there have always been boys in her gymnastics classes (though not in dance class). Her male best friend doesn’t like girl things, and while his mom swears she isn’t the one telling him there’s a difference, he’s learning it somewhere.

      1. My son rarely made comments like that until he started kindergarten, so I imagine he’s getting it from other kids. He’s young enough that he doesn’t quite have the social skills to say anything back to them about that.

        My daughter’s friends are primarily boys because they seem to enjoy that she likes the same things they like (Pokemon, Bakugon, or whatever other plastic Japanese game things…) but I know she’s had some girls ask her why she likes “boy” things. She’s good at repeating my line of, “There’s no such thing as girl toys and boy toys, just toys that are more commonly liked by girls or boys” — and she seems to believe it, which is nice.

        What is annoying about some pink products, of course, is when they veer into “Lady Bic” territory. Or if it’s something like say…. craft tools? … the large percentage of items available in a store like Michael’s are pink and pink only. You know, I wasn’t aware I needed a pink exacto knife, haha.

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