Pink for a Girl


    jane3It was a shock to the senses, when I looked for a ‘Baby Shower’ gift recently, and found that the world had suddenly become divided into pale pink and powder blue – gender stereotyping clearly begins at birth. Clothes, toys and accessories were all sorted by colour into male and female, thus moulding genders into traditional roles, and limiting choices. The dolls houses were pink and the tractors were blue because girls are little home-making princesses and boys are action heroes.

    Imagine my shock when I went to buy a new trowel from my local garden Centre and found virtually the same situation. Seemingly overnight, a tide of pastels had appeared, where before there had been earthy, gender – neutral colours. There were whole stands of pale pink, blue and mauve essentials like trowels and secateurs, as well as things I have never, ever needed, such as gardening aprons, bags and kneelers. All feminised just for me, made chintzy, fluffy and soft, just how the Marketing Managers imagine I want them.

    Jane1Surprisingly, I have managed to dig the garden passably well for many years, without reaching for a sugar pink spade. I have used secateurs successfully, even when they only came in red. My feeling is that these new pastel products trivialise me as a gardener, and somehow imply that I garden in a lesser way than a man. Now, gardening is what I am passionate about and I go out there and shake it by the throat.  I don’t go all frilly and floral. It’s hard, muddy work, best done in jeans with holes in, wellies and thorn-proof gloves. I go out there and I chop and I dig and I sweat. A pink axe ? I don’t think so. A mauve mattock ? Never. Because only men use those tools, right ? Those sugar pink tools imply that I do little but prettify the odd planter now and then, nothing more serious than that.

    So, sisters, let’s boycott the pink and floral ! Let’s chant  “Real tools for real women” as we picket the sliding glass doors of the local garden centre. Here’s what we do instead … we go down to our local garage sale and rummage in the baskets and boxes. I promise you that hidden in there will be glorious garden tools, with wooden handles polished by blood, sweat and tears. The patina upon that wood is made from pure toil. Those old, well-used tools have a proud gender-free history, and we can only imagine what it may be. They may have been used for decades by the same gardener, lovingly tending the same plot, and you can link hands with that person, male or female, across the divide of the generations. These beautiful tools will cost a fraction of the price of the pink monstrosities in the garden centre  and though they may need oiling or sharpening, you will jane2know that you hold an eloquent piece of equality in your hands.

    Jane Scorer likes to garden like she eats cake … compulsively, greedily and frequently. When she’s not gardening, she’s writing about it , and you can find her blog at HoeHoeGrow.


    1. Spouse got me a cutsy set of hand tools. They were chintzy, couldn’t cut, trowel bent whenever you tried to dig. I don’t care what color things are just so they work. Oh and John Deere makes a pink peddle tractor for kids. And the carhart pink girl stuff is made as well as the guys.

      • I agree completely that whatever colour you buy, it has to be fit for purpose, and we know from bitter experience that only well made garden tools stand up to the rigours of gardening.

        I wonder who the John Deere pink tractors are bought for ? 🙂

    2. I know a woman who painted the handles of all her tools (hammers, etc.) pink in order to keep the men she worked with from borrowing them. Apparently it worked well, which I do find funny.

    3. When my wife and I were choosing a paint color for our yet-to-be-conceived chile a few years back we picked green for the simple reason that it was neither pink nor blue. We also made the conscious decision to avoid buying our now three year old girl anything pink on the basis that she would receive plenty of pink from everybody else. Sure enough, we were spot on and she has plenty of pink in the closet.

      Interestingly, if I remember correctly, the pink/blue gender divide is a relatively recent phenomenon. with pink being a boys color through the 1930s (-ish). Pink was actively marketed as a girls color starting in the 50s. (Granted, it’s been a while since I read that article, so the facts may have drifted a bit in my head).

      As for the color of tools, I’ve bought (non-pink) crap that appeared to be quality and used cheap-looking pink tools at the office (“Her Toolset”) for years. So long as it gets the job done the color makes no difference to me!

    4. I am no lover of pink but I think this is a great idea especially for us who work in the male dominated business of landscape construction.

      Based on my experience , men on the job site will probably never walk away with a pink shovel, surveying transit, wheelbarrow or measuring tape.

      Many years ago I painted my contractor size wheelbarrow with polka dots. You wouldn’t believe the snickers and laughs that I got from the manly macho crew of construction men . Some of the guys would make fun of the others who had to use it. It was hilarious and from that point on I have painted my tools with a variety of colorful motifs. I never have my tools mistakenly or intentionally loaded up onto another subcontractors truck at the end of the job – they’d die of embarrassment .

    5. Y’know, if the tools work I don’t care what the color is (though I might have to cut my own family if they have other color choices and still give me pink anything). If we’re allowed to express ourselves through our tool/glove/garden clothing color choices, why not have some out there for the women who simply like pink? It’s only “girl-y” because it has been associated with women. It’s not as if picking up a pink tool or wearing a mauve garden hat is suddenly going to make you faint at the sight of compost on your boots or dirt under your nails. Why has pink become – by way of being tagged “feminine” – code for soft, weak, delicate ? I say if you like pink & like working, then ask for good tools in the color. Demand that the tools stand up to what you ask of them & look good doing it! And for those of us women who prefer anything but pink – we are eternally linked to pink in society’s mind. Stop curling your lips & snickering about how soft colors must mean soft work. We all know it’s not about how the tool looks that matter, but whether or not it is fit for the job we will ask of it.

    6. I love color as long as it’s not pastels! I actually own a set of hot pink loppers. In my experience, those hot pink tools don’t sell well, so they go on sale and you can find reasonably good tools for a good price. When I lay my tools on the ground, the hot pink loppers are as easy to find as my orange Corona pruners, or my magenta Dramm pruners. I chose those magenta pruners on purpose because it’s my favorite color and because it’s easier to keep track of than the other choice, dark green (worst color choice for garden tools: those are the ones that get lost in the garden).

      I expect we’ll never see a line of Baby Blue tools “for him.”

      If you want to read some excellent satire about this marketing trend, look at the Amazon reviews of Bic Cristal (sic) For Her ballpoint pens. (There was a similar outbreak of office-supply satire on Amazon for the “folders of women” episode.)

    7. It’s not only gardening tools. I wanted to buy a rain jacket from REI but the only colors available for women were pastels: yellow, pale blue, pink. I bought a man’s model in dark green even though the fit wasn’t as good. Pale colors don’t work too well in my muddy world. I wish manufacturers would make women’s gear and clothes in something other than pastels–we are not all princesses (and I dislike pink in general)

    8. I’m not a pink lover, other than in flowers, but I did buy myself a pink tape measure so that all the men in the family wouldn’t walk off with it. It worked really well.

      There would be no way my boyfriend would ever take off with my tools if they were pink. But they do have to be the same quality as the “big boy” tools. I do appreciate when things are reduced to my hand size.

    9. I never have my garden tools bothered, but the maintenance guys (and they are all guys) have “borrowed” my general purpose tools more than once and not returned them. I decided to spray paint them a bright color to make them easier to find when I go hunting them. Having heard that most men won’t be seen dead with a pink tool, I used fluorescent pink paint. Seems to work.

      As to pink tools in general, working for a non-profit, many of my tools are donated. If it’s pink and it’s works, I’ll use it. I’m a guy, but having good tools, and having them where they belong when I need them, is worth a few odd looks.

    10. I tend to wear black when I garden, and I prefer my tools with some sort of custom bedazzling. It goes with my manicure. If someone likes to fly a pink flag, WHY NOT? And I wouldn’t assume that a gender bias of marketers is always working the way they think, there are other reasons one might want to use a pink trowel – Breast Cancer awareness being one (since pink has ling been associated with the movement to eradicate breast cancer), and giving the whole gender thing the finger being another. How fabulous for a flamboyantly gay man to have a whole line of pink garden tools to use when working in the garden! I say if you love a color – do it. REPRESENT! Gardening isn’t always about rusty, earthy, gritty work. It can be many things to many people!

    11. My sons went fishing with their new fancy fishing rod and gear.
      Our little cousin was visiting us, and for the sake of joining her big cousins, we bought her the cheapest rod available, which was a purple/pink barbie plastic child ‘rod’
      Who caught the first and only fish? You guessed right!

    12. In addition to the practical, hands-off-my-stuff reasons mentioned above, the pink thing might have originated as a “take back pink” idea, like queer culture reclaimed the word “queer” for themselves. That pink construction gear which appeared a few years ago was an in-your-face way of having women stand out proudly in a male-dominated profession.

      Pink has also come to stand for the fight against breast cancer, from the pink ribbon to a whole manner of pink merchandise. Naturally, less-political merchandisers and marketers leap on the pink bandwagon, because it sells.

      Then, of course, some people just like pink! And, to quote Canada’s slogan for International Women’s Year (waaaaaaaaaaay back in 1975), Why not?

    13. Oh the Tyranny of Pink. Just another aspect of society’s anti-woman backlash. It’s a way of colour coding the user as insignificant. But then you can’t really expect marketing people to think deeper than sexist shorthand.

      Me? I prefer lime green where possible, with the exception of my Stanley knife, which is fluoro orange.

    14. I despise pink in most cases, though I thought that I could get around losing my tools by doing the froofy coloring. WRONG! My late husband was red-green colorblind! From the day I learned that the man I wanted to marry was colorblind I gave up on the color coding. Luckily he took good care of all our tools, and I will cherish the memories of him using my hot pink hammer with no clue why his best friend was giggling maniacally at him.

      Now if only we can convince the manufacturers that different colors do not give them an excuse to use different product qualities! (And any child I have or give gifts to will end up with green)


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