Why Can’t Barbie Drive a Blue Car?

Just an ordinary day at a local department store, shopping for my niece, who happens to be turning three this summer. Walking into the Young Girls area, I am suddenly smacked with an onslaught of PINK – pink T-shirts, pink shorts, pink socks, underwear, dresses and sneakers.

Really? Pink sneakers? As clothing designers and retail executives are sitting around conference tables discussing next season’s go-to-color for young girls, are there any actual women in the room?! Do products aimed at girls ALWAYS have to be pink? While we’re telling young girls that they can be ANYTHING they want to be in life, can we pause for a moment and tell them that they can also wear blue – or green, or red.

Whether you’re walking down the so called Girls aisle at Meijer, Target or Toys R Us, the look is the same…pink, pink and more PINK. We can all blame the marketers of toys and clothes for taking the lazy way out when targeting young girls and their mothers, but the simple truth is, when parents stop buying pink toys and clothes, retailers will stop stocking them in their stores. Retailers only mirror what the public is asking for, and what is flying off the shelves.

A young mother recently lamented that her 2-year-old daughter would only wear pinks clothes, leaving the child’s dresser and closet full of never-worn beautiful sweaters, dresses and shorts that had the unfortunate luck of being red, blue, yellow or green. This mother laughs it off and chalks it up to her daughter being bull-headed. This rambunctious and clever toddler may be that, but she is also the product of her upbringing. And it all starts innocently enough at the baby shower when the mother-to-be is showered with a rainfall of incredibly cute outfits, toys and necessary baby stuff. And if it’s going to be a girl, it’s all pink, with the exception of that rogue lavender outfit. And new parents build on that color scheme so the cycle never stops, and young girls and boys learn from the very beginning that colors are a gender thing.

So after stumbling out of the department store in a pink-induced haze, I made my way to a wonderful, small store in the downtown area, and purchased an adorable t-shirt for my niece – a little shirt that championed our city with “Kalamazoo” splashed across the front. The color? Beautiful bright yellow!

Stereotypes and preconceived notions of what girls should wear, and what girls should be when they grow up are the side-effects of a world that tells us that, pink is for girls. Here’s a thought… While we’re telling young girls that they should embrace who they are, and that they can be whatever they want to be, and whoever they want to be – let’s also tell them they’ll look fabulous in orange sneakers. Or red, or blue…

Heidi McCrary / Author