Come to the Pink Side, We Have Tutus

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Photo Ella Rose: Melody Mooney

This is Ella Rose; she is three. Her favorite day of the week is Tuesday, which is ballet class day. She loves pink and she loves tutus.

Ella was born into a very geek-centric family, so her girly-girl behavior came as a bit of a surprise to her father and me. “Pink” was never a big-bad four-letter word in our home, but we also knew how influenced she would be by the popularity of Disney Princesses among her schoolmates. We wanted to give her options, so we practiced a huge amount of “geek balance” right from the start.

She learned her alphabet from the Star Wars ABC book. Her first eight-inch dolls were Anakin Skywalker and Qui-Gon Jinn, not Barbies. I shopped in the boys’ section of Target for all of her shirts, which had superheroes on them, not Mini Mouse. We bought her Doctor Who hair clips and a teddy bear companion at local craft fairs. My husband even joined in and donated to the Goldieblox Kickstarter campaign, which created toys to get girls interested in engineering.We were content with the Jedi training of our little geekling. Maybe, though, we were smug. We might even have been presumptuous.

As Ella grew, she began to exert her own personality, she chose what she wanted to wear and play with. That’s when the tide of pink and tutus began to rise. Questions regarding negative gender influence and threats to her developing mighty girl power began to plague me. Would my GeekMom card get revoked if it were revealed that Snow White was her favorite princess and not Leia?

Yoda Potty Trained Jedi for 900 years Photo: Melody Mooney

Yoda was always perched on Ella’s pink princess potty as she trained in the bathroom. But looking him in the eye became uncomfortable.  I felt a great disturbance in our family force.

I felt a strange sense of guilt about all of this. Were we not, after all, huge advocates for choice? It seemed to me that we were restricting her play and imagination to things that fit our ideology. Even stranger was that her male playmates were getting praised for putting on a crown and fairy wings. Why was it so wrong for Ella? I realize the important groundwork that has been laid and the awareness that is growing when it comes to young girls, role models, career and life choices. Frozen and the wonderful message it provides was one of her first movie theater experiences. It is truly exciting to think of Ella’s nearly unlimited future as a woman. We could be looking at a future engineer, a future NASA pilot, or world leader. What if her future includes studying ballet at Juilliard and wearing tutus for a living? Would limiting those first experimental choices because they are viewed as damaging be playing god with her future? As parents—even geekling-parents—we need to guide, educate, and support her in whatever path she chooses. Yes, we must accept and brace ourselves that she may even find A New Hope, Dungeons and Dragons, and comic books terribly boring and lame.

Time moves so quickly. Why not let her dance in whatever color makes her happy now? There are very serious challenges just around her future’s corner. Flights of fancy, glitter, and princess dresses will give way to other stages. Letting go, we are trusting that we will all find balance in this exploration.  Leaving today for her ballet class, I smiled at her and surrendered to the Pink Side. After all, they do have seriously cute tutus.

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17 thoughts on “Come to the Pink Side, We Have Tutus

  1. She doesn’t have to be a geek about the same things you are. She can geek out about anything she wants. Geek is more about the behavior. Let her geek out about Disney princesses!

  2. Good point Christine. After speaking with several Moms in my Geeklings and Parental Units Meetup group and beyond, there is a sort of fatigue growing regarding the ‘correct’ things to be educating daughters about. There has even been a few sideways looks by seemingly more evolved Moms who wouldn’t let their daughters where a princess dress. It made me wonder if the important message of choices for girls is getting muddied by popular appearance and agenda.

  3. As long as she is happy and enjoying the things she has around her in whatever way she wants, that’s the important thing!

    I think that you’ve given her a choice of things other than Barbies and Disney is great. You’ve already set her up to not be influenced by gender stereotyping of clothes and toys because it’s normal to her to like a wide variety of things no matter who they are intended for, that’s much more than some parents do.

    From a sci-fi and fantasy loving, ballet dancing scientist 🙂 I geek out about all of them.

  4. I love this! We have the same thing with our boy who loves princesses actually. We want him to love what he loves and to encourage him to just be happy!

  5. Delurking to say thank you! I’ve actually been contemplating writing a Defense of Pink essay. I hate the color, and my three year old loves it. The more I listen to all the rants about the evils of princess culture and making superhero costumes pink with tutus, however, the more I want to strike back. Why is it empowering if she wants to play Batman, but it’s the triumph of materialism/ hypersexualization/ the marginalization of women/ whatever it is this week if she wants to wear a tutu and look like a girl doing it?

    Part of the problem is how tangled a lot of the issues get– it’s hard to separate the original fairy tales from the Disney versions from the Disney Princess brand in most discussions, for example. But I grew up wanting to be Belle AND Luke Skywalker. And more and more I want to defend my daughter’s right to want both, too.

  6. So well said Lylassandra. I too was one of the girls who loved The Empire Strikes Back. More than her brothers. I cant recall such a huge fuss being made about gender then or may be I was just 10 and all us kids loved it.

    Taking into consideration all the positive strides made in the area of girls believing that they can be anything , I think the ‘anything’ part got forgotten and the focus became about the activism.

    I would love to read what you write and welcome an ongoing dialogue about all things pink. ☺

  7. Love this discussion! Great post Mel!
    When I was a kid, very few toys were gender specific. My Easy Bake Oven was olive green, just like the one in the kitchen. Soccer balls were black and white, and at the toy store, the barbies were next to the dump trucks. Unlike today, where the toystore is basically cut in half. Blue on one side, pink on the other. Pink lego for girls, blue for boys! At our last visit I noticed, that in the science section, they now have gender colour coded the microscopes and there are pink nerf guns/bows and arrows. My daughter (who is 8) was totally confused by this, and noticeably pissed off. “Why is this pink Mum? why can’t it just be brown like a real bow and arrow?” When I explained that it was ALL about money, and the companies trying to make more, her answer was typical for her age group, “Well thats dumb!” Yup. It is.
    So I get it. And she and I have wonderful conversations about it. Its a teaching moment for sure. I have drilled in into her brain that what kind of job you want, how you dress, or who you love, should really have nothing to do with what kind of genitals you were born with. But most pop culture says differently, so what as parents are we to do? I spend my money wisely, and on products that stay gender specific as much as possible. And when she went through her Disney Princess phase, I let her go through it. I encouraged her to enjoy it! I danced around with a home made tiara on my head and a feather boa around my neck and loved it. Sparkles and ruffles and pink are fun. Just as fun are mud pies, soccer, catching frogs, shooting nerd guns and getting dirty. Balance at home, cuz the stores and pop culture have anything but.

  8. Beautiful story. My own 4-year-old daughter loves pink tutus, but also lightsabers and Jedi battles.
    I’ve learned pink isn’t an “agenda,” but rather just a pretty color that appeals to many young girls and boys.

    Wonderful story.

  9. Thank you for sharing the real world examples. Susie!! I have noticed that color division in the big Toy Stores. It seems uninspired and lazy to me.

  10. That’s my daughter, too! But I have no worries. She’s so self-confident and stubborn and tough that the idea of her Pink and Frilly tastes damaging her is utterly laughable (also, she wouldn’t let anyone say NO to her tastes!). And I love the way she’s free to combine “types”– she dresses her dinosaurs in sparkly pink fabric scraps and turns her Barbies into pirates. BECAUSE WHY NOT.

    When she says something like, “I like that character because they have a pretty purple dress,” I ask, “Is that all? What if they change their clothes? Is there anything you like about how they BEHAVE?” And that’s the only concern I have but I think I’m doing all right there. As long as she understands that pretty things are nice but it’s the inside that counts. But the inside counting doesn’t have to negate the niceness of pretty.

    On the opposite side, my son identifies strongly with Fluttershy from My Little Pony. I had my suspicions, but asked him anyway: “What is it about Fluttershy that you identify with?” and I thought I might have to explain what “identify with” meant, but he immediately replied, “We both are afraid of a lot of things.” Which IS what I suspected, and I was kind of amazed that I didn’t even have to dig. So we ended up having a really good, important discussion about what it’s like to feel afraid and what you can do with your fear. I thought how some people might immediately jump to “WHY DOES HE IDENTIFY WITH A GIRL FROM A GIRLY SHOW,” but I was glad I could see beyond that to what was really going on. Overfocus on genderization too often misses the point.

  11. RockinLibrarian, those are beautiful examples and discussions. Thank you for sharing your families experiences and your wisdom!

  12. I don’t think anyone says it’s damaging to play with pink or princesses, what’s damaging is when that’s the only or overwhelming choice offered to girls and that those girls who do not fit the stereotypes are pressured to do fit in with it. There’s nothing to feel guilty about or be defensive about if your child likes those things, it’s a wide range of choice that is desirable. It’s not pink that’s under attack it’s the limitation of only pink. It’s the way pink toys/clothes etc are off-limits to those boys who also don’t fit the stereotypes. As long as children can choose freely there’s no problem. This issue gets confused when people become defensive over pink, it’s really not about saying girls shouldn’t like pink.

  13. Tricia, I have actually had Moms who have directly, without confusion tell me that Disney Princesses are damaging and should not be a part of my 3 year olds world. One of them wore the ban of anything pink with great political pride. As a first time parent, seeing this the level of activism is interesting but also fell a little on the fad to be more enlightened side. Pink is the new blavk for girls and boys 🙂

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