Pinkwashed Preschool

I had some parents share their experiences with me on Facebook, and wanted to share them here.

“My daughter’s pre-school just repainted their rooms this weekend and in the two’s bathroom they had removed the Elmo potty pictures and put a princess (guessing) and Dora over one potty and spiderman and a dinosaur over the other. My daughter asked where’d Elmo go, and then was super excited about the dinosaur. I am worried she will be discouraged from using the toilet with the dinosaur because now it is for boys.” -Natalie

” I picked up my 4 1/2 year old twin daughters from pre-school today & they were both carrying pink plastic firefighter helmets. Their teachers told me that they had had a visit from the local fire dept. & got to check out a firetruck. While I was buckling them in their seatbelts, I casually said, “Cool hats. You both chose pink ones?” The response I got was “Mom, we’re girls so we get pink hats. Th…e boys get black hats.” My heart sank but I mustered up an upbeat tone & said, “Well, you can always choose whichever color you like best. Some girls might like a black hat & some boys might like a pink hat. Its your choice.” One of my daughters said matter of factly, “A boy is not gonna want a pink hat.” I said, “Some boys might & thats perfectly ok. Everyone has his or her own choice, their own likes & dislikes and thats cool.”
Arrrgh, have you ever seen a real firefighter wearing a pink helmet? Would a firefighter in a pink helmet be taken as seriously or viewed to be as competent & experienced or be paid as well as a firefighter in a black helmet? Why the heck do they even make toy fire helmets in pink? Arent actual firefighter helmets either black, red or yellow? I guess I’ll never know whether the girls were given the pink hats or if they chose pink…but sure felt that the pinkification process was bearing down on us hard today.”  -Diane

And on the way to preschool:

“I’m writing you about is your choice of morning commercials. See, we don’t teach about dieting in our house or about when people are “fat” or “skinny”. We try to teach our daughter to respect everyone regardless of what they may look like. We teach her to love and respect her body, eat healthy foods to power her awesome brain, and exercise her strong muscles. We teach her to be proud of the body that she has and remind her of all the amazing things that she does and can do with her body. This morning on the way to her school, after listening to endless commercials about diet pills and filling shakes and ugly fat, she pinched whatever bit of extra she could find on her 4 year old, 30 lb body and said,”Mom, this makes me ugly??”. My stomach dropped. I wanted to cry for the ideas that had just invaded my daughter’s head. For the girl in her class I saw a few weeks ago when I volunteered who pinched her very own precious cheeks and said,”These are just too fat”. I know that your commercials are set to earn money for your show, I am not ignorant to the ways of advertising. But commercializing this constant need for perfection, to be pretty, to fit the norm… it’s doing a great disservice to our children and to ourselves. I pulled the car over in the school parking lot today and reminded my daughter how beautiful she is. How smart and funny and full of awesome. I made sure she understood that she is BEAUTIFUL because of her kindness and her gentle heart and her amazing sense of humor. I reminded her of all the outstanding things that her body is able to do. And I changed the radio station.”  -Stephanie

And around town:

“My going on 5-year-old daughter have an on-going conversation about the colour pink. And the last few months she has been espcially focused on the idea that pink and princesses are for girls, therefore, she loves pink and princesses b/c she is a girl. Today at a playground, in response to me asking, “But aren’t colours for everyone?” she said, “Yes.” (And I silently breathed a sigh a relief for the breakthough.) Then she continued, “Except for boys. Colours aren’t for boys.”   -Laura
“Today we took our 2yr. old to buy some hiking shoes for our summer camping and the salesperson said “ummmm, this is all we have.” One pair (and yes they had pink on them) . We went straight to the boys section to see a variety. Obviously girls don’t hike. We did pick out a great pair with fish on them ! She was so happy with them she wore them home and for the rest of the day!”  -Marney


  1. My family is so used to me saying “colors aren’t boys or girls, colors are for everyone” that if a color is even mentioned before I can say anything they say, “I know, I know, colors are for everyone.” So they may still be getting the message, but they hear me fighting it every sing day.

  2. Michele says:

    This is just in response to the fire fighters helmets and the color pink. There are some places that a pink helmet can be bought and worn to show support of breast cancer. Breast Cancer awareness is very big in the FD and there is a tour of pink fire trucks, police cars etc. Once a year most departments even have a day that the crews all wear pink shirts on duty. I know this because my husband is a FF/PM and my oldest daughter will start fire school in just over a year and a half.

    • Michele –
      I think supporting Breast Cancer research is great. I don’t think the preschool pink helmets had anything to do with that.

      Wishing your daughter all the best on her new venture!

      • Michele says:

        I do agree in this instance that it wasn’t in awareness of Breast Cancer however in that part it was asked do real fire fighters wear pink helmets? Would they be taken seriously, paid the same, etc and the answer is YES! Male and female Fire Fighters can and do wear pink helmets if their department allows them to.
        Thank you in regards to my daughters she’s been a Explorer with our Fire Department for 2 yrs now and loves every moment of it. Though my girls hunt, fish, do beauty pageants, ride horses, and play in the mud. I have even told people that with my oldest it was like getting a boy and a girl in the same body.

  3. StephanieW says:

    My daughter (who is 7) loves all colors, but really does not like all the princess stuff for girls. We often go shopping in the boys section for shoes and shirts. My son (who is 3 and developmentally delayed) is attracted to very bright colors.

    I agree too, colors are for everyone, but, the pink doesn’t stop at just girls. There are quite a few pink items aimed at women and it just bugs me. There is a tool sale event that some hardware stores put on that focus on women and the theme is pink. Why do I want pink tools? My favorite color is green.

  4. Any time a commercial comes on that is advertising just to boys or just to girls I remind my 4 year old how that is wrong and that anybody can do anything regardless of gender. So the other day a commercial came on for some video games with only boys in it and mind you my daughter loves playing skylanders and she was standing on the couch and says “this commercial is awful and if i have to watch it one more minute i am just going to die” and then fell very dramatically on the couch. I thought i was going to die i was laughing so hard. Very proud!! Oh and her favorite colors are red blue and green in that order!!

  5. Kristin says:

    Speaking of pinkwashed preschoolers…this week I had the very frustrating experience of trying to find a new bike helmet for my 4yo. Her old infant size helmet was a cute gender neutral chicken design, and we were looking for something similar. Out of a sea of Bell and Giro helmets in her size at retails stores and online, I found only TWO that weren’t dripping in pink and/or princesses. There was one that was plain white and one with red ladybugs. Both of those were available online only. The rest were so stereotypical–princesses/pink/flowers for girls, flames/monsters/scary-looking designs for boys–I wanted to scream. Especially at the one in Target that had a freaking GIANT TIARA attached to the top. I kid you not. I totally wouldn’t mind if there was a rainbow of helmet offerings and pink (even princesses) was an option, but seeing nothing but pink and Disney in the helmet aisle very clearly sends girls a message. I am writing both of the manufacturers to express my opinion.

    • Kristin –
      I’ve been in your shoes. It really is so frustrating. Please let me know how your letters are received and if you get a response. Good for you for contacting the manufacturers! You can also reach out to the store manager with a letter to him/her, and a copy to be passed up the chain asking that their buyers bring in a more diverse selection next year.

  6. Jennifer, the phrase I tell my kids is bit more crass, but it amuses me when adults gave my toddlers funny looks when they say it, and it stuck with them when they were older, “The only things that are boy stuff and girl stuff are tampons and jock straps.”

    • Hey Amy,
      Believe it or not they’ve got Jock straps for girls too! My family competes in Martial Arts and the girls have to be protected as well. I think they’re called “Groin Protectors”.

      (I’m pretty sure Tampons are still just a girl thing though)

  7. It’s INFURIATING that people still feel the need to tell us what WE like and what WE want and then expect us to pass those messages on to our kids!

    Do NOT tell my kids what colors they can like!
    Do NOT tell my kids what toys they can play with!
    Do Not tell my kids what they can be when they grow up!
    Do NOT tell my kids that they’re too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too pale or too dark!
    Do NOT put limits on their dreams and what they can achieve!

    Make your money somewhere else…we’re not buying your manipulation here!

  8. I discovered your blog tonight and I absolutely love it. Thanks so much for writing all that you do.

    I did want to comment though, about the child that heard the radio advertisement. I completely agree that advertising has gone nuts. But I did want to point out that as parents of young children we can help control the amount of advertising that reaches them. And I think we should.

    I also fully understand that kids being exposed to advertising can be a learning experience. And should be. However, I think cutting down on the amount they are exposed to, whenever possible, is beneficial. Yes, talk to your child about the ads they see and hear. But please be more conscious of the media your children are watching and listening to, as well as the media you are watching and listening to around your children.

    • Hi Joyce –
      Glad you found us here. This entire blog is dedicated to educating parents and families about the media their children take in, so to your last point, I think most families here are very conscious of what their kids are watching and listening to. Our culture is saturated with the stuff we’d rather keep away, so even the most vigilant parent can be taken by surprise. And we talk quite a bit about turning media into teachable moments and not sheltering kids. Hope you continue to be a reader!

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