Sometimes I think I have no idea how to raise our girl to be a woman.

Sure, I’ve witnessed my parents do so with my sisters two. But then it’s only “I have an idea how to raise a girl to be a woman.” Not our girl to be a woman of my union with Erin. Because lo this is to be the girl who will grow to cure cancer, slay vampires, bring peace to the Middle East and will one day best monetize the websites of newspapers and magazines throughout the land.

She is to be The Chosen One.

Or so I’ve built it up in my mind.

In reality, she is but one more young woman who will be brought into the world by well-educated, over-read, liberal parents who are trying to steer their daughter clear of sexist influences and give her every choice in the world…except Pink.


Last week, Erin and I were discussing colors for the nursery and I said “Anything but pink!” Because, of course, this will prevent…I don’t know.


It’s just too easy. Accepting pink as the default color for a girl is the equivalent of saying you liked The Joshua Tree when I was in high school: doing so raises far fewer questions about your personal point of view and allows you to get through a stressful situation without a bunch of weird looks.

In my mind, Pink is the pastel specter that hangs over our pregnancy. A threat far greater than any other, leading our daughter down the path of various princess-branded toys, which as everyone knows are the gateway drug to playing dumb to get boys to like her. And here thar be dragons!


A couple weeks before we learned we were having a girl, one of Erin’s relatives told us she hoped we were having a boy as she – owing largely to my fascination with all things Kryptonian – had bought us a few Superman onesies. Not missing a beat, Erin and I said our unborn child’s gender wasn’t an issue in this case as ours was a child destined to wear the shield.

Yet even Erin – a woman quite contrary – said to me at lunch last week “Our daughter might like pink and Barbies” in a tone that left unsaid the words “and that’s OK” as well as “and you might just have to suck it up and deal.”

My wife said these things after I expressed concern over exposing our daughter to – of all things – Phineas and Ferb as none of the female characters were women I’d want her to aspire to be:

* Candace – tattletale
* Isabella – boy-crazy (or Phineas-crazy, as it were)
* Mom – unobservant
* Vanessa – the child of an evil, if largely unsuccessful, mad scientist

My wife is more intelligent in these matters and reminded me that our daughter would likely want to model herself after Phineas and Ferb, the resourceful, charismatic, unstoppable heroes of the show. This brought me some measure of calm.

None of this should suggest I’m set on Turning Our Girl Into A Boy.* I want my daughter to be free to form her own identity, irrespective of the expectations of others, including – or especially – her father. After all, it’s not like I’m a typical male: I fake it pretty well but I know jack about sports, avoid dude culture at all costs and have preferred cocktails over beer since college. I’m far more Oscar Wilde than Oscar Madison.

My wish for our daughter is that she would be the human equivalent of an order in a Chinese restaurant: a little from column A and a little from Column B, becoming a well-rounded, thoughtful, multi-talented individual who’s sees nothing – even the color pink – in terms of gender and everything in terms of territory to explore at will.

* Let it be noted here that there’s an incredibly nuanced discussion to be had about gender constructs. Let it also be noted here that I’ve had a few glasses of wine and am unable to fully explore said discussion in the above but am aware of the issues surrounding it.

6 comments for “Pink

  1. Sara
    August 24, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Well, as the mother of 3 girls, I can tell you that you are both right. There is a very good chance that your daughter will like pink and barbies…or she might be like one of mine and like purple, barbies, superheroes, and star wars…or godzilla. I see daily that there are just some things that most girls seem to be attracted to with little help from us and others that we can introduce to add the spice – you know – like A-Team or Greatest American Hero or Super Friends on a Friday night instead of children's drivel.
    The best thing that you can give as a Dad, something that Erin can direct her to, but can't give, is your unequivocal love and the example of how men should treat women…really, how women should expect to be treated. That will stick with her when she is long past pink and doesn't get why you don't think it's a smart business decision to pierce her nose. I truly believe that a dad in a girl's life can really shape her adolescence and adulthood – her very dreams and goals for herself.
    The bonus here? I think that you are more than up to the task…if a bit liberal ;D

  2. Anonymous
    August 26, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    I liked blue. And barbies, and baseball, and those play makeup kits, and I had an obsession with He-Man (not She-ra). And I worshiped my dad, who was and still is always there for me. My parents taught me that you do not have to pretend to be a man to be smart, or to know about everything from Napoleon's tactics to hockey, and that one of the most powerful things a woman can do is to be an intelligent woman.

  3. joy
    August 29, 2010 at 1:17 am

    I think what you expose or teach your children is more important than the color you choose for their room. I have two boys, and yes, blue has been the color of their room. But, there was a time when my son would choose the pink balloon at Chik-fil-a when offered. I remember the lady looking at me for approval. I was a bit offended that she didn't just give him the pink balloon. What is the problem? It's a balloon. It's pink. So what? It doesn't shape who he is or who he will be. My son loves yellow now. Not sure why. But I'm okay with whatever color he likes. My dad liked the color pink. It didn't color my opinion of him. So whether you choose to go with pink or the non-traditional girl colors of greens and yellows, it will be what you offer your child that will make the most impact. Who knows? She might love the traditional girl stuff or decide she likes the “boy” stuff. Or she might like the best of both worlds! The best thing to do is expose her and give her choices to like whatever she does.

  4. August 29, 2010 at 1:51 am

    I think all three of you have expressed what I'm getting at in the last graf: exposure to many things with the free will to choose for herself. I want my girl to know options and not have her parents or her parents' friends and family make those choices for her either directly or through overexposure.

  5. August 29, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Anna became rather philosophical when I noted that I'm more likely to wear a pink shirt or tie than mommy is to wear a pink anything.

    She thought about it and said, “So you can like whatever color you like,” and then finished off with her lord only knows where she got it tendency to add syllables where they do not exist, “Ry-i-eet>?!”

  6. September 7, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    What no one has mentioned is that Pink, both the color and the word, can be used as a tool of empowerment. Two examples are the Elle Woods character in Legally Blonde and the singer Pink who is sexy, confident, but could not be less stereotypically female. What we shy away from really, when we worry our girls will like pink and Barbies, are the symbols that these things carry for us over-read, over-educated adults :) By contrast, they mean very little to kids. Frankly, I think a pink room and Barbies are a great deal more benign than most of the stuff on TV. Keep that in mind Dad :)

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