PinkStinks and the Early Learning Centre

You may recall my post a while back showing “girl” globes–remember? Pink ocean for the little ladies? Well, I’m very pleased to take another look at this PinkStinks website and find that their Christmas campaign is aimed and getting the Early Learning Centre (retailer of the girl globe and other fine needlessly gendered items) to stop the pinkification!:

Early Learning Centre or Early Learning Emergency? is our Christmas campaign calling for the ELC to stop its pinkification and gender-stereotyping of children’s toys.

We know the ELC is not the only toy retailer involved in this practice but we believe that by styling its stores as centres of learning the company is making our children a promise it has an absolute duty to live up to.

In our opinion, by stocking toys which can send narrow and damaging messages to children about what it is to be a girl or a boy, the company is not delivering on that promise.
Please help us by boycotting the ELC or its ‘pink’ products; complain to your local ELC branch manager or email or write to ELC headquarters and your local MP.

Well put! Check their site for details on how you can get involved!

25 thoughts on “PinkStinks and the Early Learning Centre

  1. When I click on the hyperlink, the URL for me (as well as other readers, if I am correct) is “https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2009/12/08/pinkstinks-and-the-early-learning-centre/www.pinkstinks.co.uk”. This is a relative URL and not an absolute one. Which means it will work for you – I am assuming you are logged in to your WordPress account when you click the hyperlink – but not for others. The solution would be to replace the relative URL with an absolute one, which in this case would simply be “www.pinkstinks.co.uk”.

  2. Annoying complication: My version of Firefox still reads the URL as though it’s supposed to be relative; it typically wants all absolute URLs to be prefixed with “http://”. If instead of “www.pinkstinks.co.uk”, you type the target as “http://www.pinkstinks.co.uk”, then it will be happy.

    Thank you for pointing me in their direction, though.

  3. Didn’t some British research from the last couple of years suggest that girls’ preference for pink is at least partially innate?

  4. That is an interesting critique, albeit not exactly peer review (it’s a non-academic writing somewhat outside his field). Definitely a rich line of inquiry for future research though!

    I’m intrigued by the PinkStinks campaign, and its general gist seems very positive. I confess I’m not sure assertions such as “by styling its stores as centres of learning the company is making our children a promise it has an absolute duty to live up to” are strictly defensible. (And if pink colour preference is truly learned, there’s an irony in that accusation somewhere.) But are pink toys qua pink just casualties of guilt by association? It’s one thing to point out a dearth of certain kinds of toys aimed at girls (such as ones that encourage certain endeavours or interests), and another thing to attack a pink monopoly set or a pink globe for being pink.

  5. I have problems with the ‘styling’ of the campaign (though not its intent) because it seems to assume that pink only represents the femininity that is marketed to young girls, forgetting the other things that pink symbolises in anglophone culture, such as campaigns for gay rights and breast cancer awareness, and its subversion in the riotgrrl movement. I actually love that globe (as an object, not in the context of the advert)- not just because I like the colour pink! – because it could be a kitsch representation of the feminising and queering of the world.

  6. monkey & anna, do either of you (and i ask this in an investigative sort of way, not a challenging way) shop for children regularly? i wonder if it’s maybe easy to think of the pinkness and the detrimentally-genderedness as neatly separable when the pink you normally see is a sort of semi-ironic, pro-woman pink? because it strikes me that if you see the pink in the toy shop, it’s very tightly bound up with narrow gender. it’s paired with a very limited range of toy types (dolls, play kitchens, dolls…), and so neatly visually delineates this set of toys that girls may have that i suspect, psychologically, it’s pretty much impossible for the average consumer to buy a girl anything outside the pink section. i agree with you two that the pink, per se, isn’t *the* problem, but i do think the pink is doing work–setting visual boundaries, or something like that.

  7. I don’t shop for children regularly, and I can see that when faced with the phenomenon you describe, pink looks problematic. I guess I’m attracted by the idea of reclaiming the colour. Anyway, for me at least, it wasn’t a big objection. I fully agree with the intent of the campaign. It was more a comment on the marketing of the campaign. If you see what I mean.

  8. yep. but since it’s aimed (mostly) at parents, i bet it’s a good angle for them to take. i agree totally about reclaiming pink, tho. well…or maybe i do…no, maybe i don’t. i think i prefer the idea of diffusing pink. so, put boys and men in pink, and so on; divorce it from its gender. but maybe that’s what you meant by reclaiming…

  9. That is what I meant by reclaiming.

    Interestingly, I once read somewhere – I think it was in the New York Times – that pink used to be regarded as a masculine colour. A pastel version of masculine red that was suitable for baby boys.

  10. sorry nemo, i’ve just noticed your worry:

    “That is an interesting critique, albeit not exactly peer review (it’s a non-academic writing somewhat outside his field).”

    -fyi, that actually is an academic writing very much *in* *her* field (her field being critical thinking). so, you can stop worrying about that one. cheers.

  11. Extendedlp – I think Nemo was probably referring to Ben Goldacre’s critique, not Jender’s post which references the critique. (At least that’s how I read it.)

  12. ah, right. i see. but then, again it’s not outside his field. methodological critique/critical thinking about methodology is surely goldacre’s field. and he’s adept at it. and it’s sort of disingenuous to call him a non-academic; it’s not as if he’s a lay-person. hmm. anyway, yes, i see.

  13. Monkey, I was indeed referring to Goldacre, not to present company. I realize that he is a medical doctor. No offence intended to anyone.

    My understanding is that while you can find references, say in old magazine articles, to pink being a boy’s colour, you’ll also find roughly contemporaneous pieces espousing a contrary view (I think Snopes or a similar site once had something on this). Thus – if memory serves – what we can draw from that is that there hasn’t always been an adult consensus on the issue. Not that any of that resolves the question of whether there are sex-based innate colour preferences and whether pink/girl or blue/boy are among them, of course.

    But I’m curious to know what people here think the ramifications, if any, for the whole “pink toy” debate would be if (hypothetically) girls did have a biologically-based innate preference for the colour.

  14. Here’s the reply I got when I sent a letter as part of the campaign:

    Thank you for your recent e-mail relating to the colour of children’s toys. We welcome all customer feedback and take concerns such as this very seriously.

    At the Early Learning Centre we believe in helping children to be all they can be, to be happy and confident individuals.

    We offer anyone who wants to buy toys so much to choose from that no one should feel disappointed when they walk into our stores.

    We have a huge range of toys in an assortment of colours. Customers can choose a red kitchen, a blue kitchen, a blue cash register, a yellow dolls house or a gorgeous multi-coloured farm.

    Our photography features boys ironing, girls playing with space aliens, boys playing with dolls, boys cooking and pushing buggies, girls building and playing with remote control insects.

    We strive to offer our customers a vast and varied range and we constantly review our packaging, catalogue, website and marketing messages.

    I hope we have been able to reassure you of the diversity and choice provided by our toy ranges, irrespective of the child’s gender or age.

    Kind regards

    Lindsey Burton

    Customer Care Manager

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