October 31, 2005

Pottery Barn Kids Girls & Boys

First, I need to apologize to J-Mo. I kind of flew off the toy vacuum handle in the comments when she posted about the cool red/silver Pottery Barn Kids toy vacuum. All I saw online was the pink/pink/pink vacuum, though. And these two splash screens for boys/girls gifts.

And I got pissed. They are so unbelievably gender-stereotyped, you'd think the last fifty years didn't happen, and Rosie the Riveter'd just been sent back to her kitchen. Her all-pink kitchen. [Well, it IS called the "retro"...]

pbk_blue.jpg pbk_pink.jpg

Who is responsible here? Why does Pottery Barn, in 2005, think and feel that pink is the best and only color for selling toy household appliances and that they are only for girls? Where are the kitchens "for boys?" Is it sheer lack of imagination or brains on the retailers' part? Or have all the children born and raised during the last 40 years--and I'm pretty sure that includes me and you--signed on to Martha Stewart's plan for celebrating National Uh-oh, Dad Stepped Into The Kitchen Day?

My kitchen is not pink; my kitchen is white and wood and has stainless steel counters. I don't want a pink kitchen, and even though she's recently started "helping out," neither does my daughter.

Pottery Barn Kids ideal [sic] gifts for girls and boys [potterybarnkids]
Meanwhile: Sarah asks why Nick Jr hates Dora's little boy fans so bad [bloggingbaby]

28 Comments

Yeah, and my daughter would adore that remote controlled dino. Alas, if only it came in pink, and maybe, I don't know, meowed instead of roared...

[I didn't even get started on that. My kid'd love all that "boy stuff," too. -ed.]

Well, it's pretty obvious that they are selling to the parents who would like for their children to fit right into those stereotypes, not the kids. Think about your typical Pottery Barn Kids family - WASP central.

It's the same reason people will buy those freaking obnoxious outfits for little girls that say "Princess" and "Spoiled!". Those things make me want to puke.

[But I live on WASP Central Lane, and if any of those "Princess" clones came around here, we'd call social services... -ed.]

sing it, greg.

and hanna andersson, if you and your wee swedish elves are reading this: how come only boys can have the awesome gray bug-print underpants and girls are stuck with the sickly pastels and roses and hearts? WE WANT BUGS!

[?]

And why do all boys clothes have dogs and girls have kitties. Are boys not allowed to like cats?

(Though I will note that the "Metro kitchen" at PBK is blue.)

[point taken. blue and steel, in fact. -ed.]

1. Don't shop there
2. Tell them WHY you don't shop there

I recently went to a maternity fitting thing for babystyle - their downtown LA office is where they cook up all their new clothes (maternity and baby) and toys/gear.

Anyway, in their office they had this awesome wood toy kitchen painted in really great distressed primary colors - all the (pregnant) moms there really loved it. But they mentioned that they were selling it now in pink and purple rather than the cool primary colors. And they kept saying that they wished we had been there when they were testing the product.

They seemed genuinly dissapointed that they had to sell it in pink. These folks genuinely listen to their customers and I guess their customers thought primary was icky and had to go, and they must have girly pink or they wouldn't buy it. So...if you want a great (girl) kitchen go ahead to babystyle.com. Or send them an email to see if they'll produce in primary colors. It's a cool company, they really do listen.

[or not, if I'm reading the story right. "Muted primary colors" could describe a bunch of their toys. Helps take the edge off the living room clutter. -ed.]

The contrast between those screenshots is astonishing. Hopefully somebody at PBK will see this and realize how smallminded and silly they look with this kind of marketing campaign in 2005.

Related:
As a mom-to-be of a daughter, I would love to see more girl baby clothes that do not contain some varying shade of pink. I've been told that the gals have cuter clothes and more options, but as far as I can see, that's only true if you're content to have your she-infant swaddled in pink at all times. Why do boys seem to own all the other colors??

I live in what I think of as a pretty progressive area, but then you head down to the playground and it's the attack of the pink clones when you see the little girls. Everyone thinks my daughter is a boy bc I gasp! dress her in darker colors--funnily enough these are all "girls" clothes that I bought her when we used to live in Belgium.

Step 2 has kitchens in colors other than pink, and shows boys as well as girls in the ads. However, their stuff is all plastic, and given your site, you probably want wood.

Not trying to defend the pink kitchen or anything, but gender biasing is deeply rooted in our culture. Case in point: there is a section in this blog entitled "Recommended, if you're a girl". Which lists celebrity blogs and shopping sites. Continuing the sterotype that all mothers must love to shop and keep up on Britney's pregnancy. So ponder that while you're painting your son's kitchen a gender neutral color, we all are suspect.

I've just started shopping for my baby-girl-to-be (coming this Feb!) and the pink thing truly is annoying. I mostly appreciate any retailer who lumps all the baby stuff into one section, rather than segregating it by gender. There's no law that says I can't dress her in the blue stuff (or green, or ornage, etc.), is there?

point taken, to a point, Sarah. First off, I totally agree with you that gender stereotypes persist throughout our culture; as a dad, I'm on the receiving end of them all the time.

That "if you're a girl" language dates back to the starting point of this site, when there was next to nothing. at. all. for dads online. The paradigm in operation then was not "all women love to shop," but "no men give a damn about parenting unless their kid has starting potential as a quarterback." Has that attitude changed in a year and a half?

Now I respect babystyle a lot, but I defy you to show me how theirs is a dad-focused site. It's not. It's not dad-hating, of course, but it is targeted at moms first, "parents" second, and dads hardly at all. Likewise CBB and 99.9% of the "celebrity parent" gossip/media industry. Show me a media kit that touts the male readership of People Magazine. Or Us Weekly.

Just as this site is a dad site, those sites are chick sites, by their own design and plan. So while I think you're right that we're all on the hook for perpetuating gender stereotypes, I would hope I'm doing more that helps challenge and change them. And pretending that a chicksite is not a chicksite doesn't do that.

Another solution would be to buy a wooden kitchen in whatever lovely color they sell it in and paint it whatever color you want. Like black. Doesn't change the world, but at least you'll score a small victory in raising your kid gender-stereotyped free. I'm thinking orange...

The gender-typing of kids' toys and accessories is upsetting to this feminist mum, and I have to say that the UK is even worse than the US on this front. I'd love to argue that it's a plot to force a societal reversal of the progress to gender equality made in the 70s (we feminist love to get angry about something!) ... but I have actually concluded that it's simply a clever retail ploy to increase consumer demand. Toys/furniture/clothing that is obviously gender-specific is 50% less likely to be handed down to a younger sibling than non-gender-specific stuff. It's as simple as that.

Greg you make me laugh. It's all good, no worries. But can i mention that when i took my son for his first haircut at a place here in toronto, he had all the different choices in the world. you see he got to choose which seat to sit in...there was a horse, a rhino, a race car, an elephant and my son gracefully climbed up into the pink cadillac. But there was nothing I could do; to him it was a car. [Yes I know I went to a glorified child beauty parlor - yikes never again! terrible cheesy experience.]
Itís just like his little cousins pink kitchen he plays with; he's just making eggs or pizza like we do in our kitchen.

Anyway, isn't hot pink all the rage now?

Forget the pink and blue; there's an arguably more disturbing implication behind the objects themselves - robots, cars (science and technology) for boys and cooking, laundry, and ironing for girls.

I got an email ad from Target last week pimping early holiday shopping (yes, before Halloween - but the prostitution of Christmas is a whole different issue). Same thing with their suggestions. For boys, a truck. For girls, a play washer/dryer set.

My husband and I both work. We both pick up around the house. I cook, he doesn't. He does dishes, I don't. The dry cleaner does our ironing (and our laundry for that matter, for a dollar a pound). Our baby boy is not going to see or recognize his life in these kinds of ads. But their aim is to create a desire to fit in; that's what I worry about for him.

amen, brother. just for the record, my son made me pizza with mustard AND ketchup today in his non-gender-specific thrift store kitchen. and he served on the cutest little japanese plates.

he says to me, today, "let me just watch this princess commercial, really quick!"

and then he went to get his bat and ball.

I don't get all the pink bashing here? There is no reason in the world a girl can't be progressive and smart and like the color pink. It's a lovely color. Just because you're a modern woman doesn't mean you have to hate all girly stuff and shun pink. I consider myself a liberal, I work, and I love the princess onesies and the color pink for girls. And I don't think it's very "progressive" to tell a young girl that she shouldn't like a certain type of toy or it's color because she won't be considered a smart woman of the 20th century if she does.

Pottery Barn Kids is not for everyone. Some people want their kid's room to look like a tiny adult's room. Other parents want a nursery that looks like it's for a baby. It's all what you prefer, but that doesn't make it bad if it's not your choice.

[Who's doing the telling, Patty? Parents or Pottery Barn? I'm all for pink-for-girls if you can tell me how great pink-for-boys is, too. I have some pink shirts that I think are pretty awesome, thank you, but when will you see a major national retailer fill the intro to their "ideal gifts for boys" page with pink kitchen appliances? Not in my lifetime, I bet. Your phrase "Hating girly stuff" sounds to me like you already consider pink and kitchens and cooking and domestic activity to be "girly." I'm sure you're not alone in that POV, but I find that attitude narrow and depressing, and I don't see why I'd want to start circumscribing my kid's life so definitively so early on. And this is a kid with a pink down parka (reversible to chocolate brown). -ed.]

Maybe Pottery Barn has tried to have their children's kitchen furniture resemble what is popular in real appliances right now which is Pink...There have been LOTS of appliances ect being sold in special edition pink to support Breast Cancer Awareness in the stores in the past several months...everything from Kitchen Aid mixers to blenders to you name it.

Taryn

We just bought the PBK Metro fridge and island (would have bought the dishwasher too, but wasn't in stock at our local PBK). I too was bummed that the most accessories at PBK for the kitchens are all in pink. They do have a silver toaster and microwave, but the washer/dryer combo, ironing board (my husband does all the ironing in this house!), washbasket with clothesline, vacuum, coffee maker, blender, etc., all look like they've been doused with Pepto. My son races for the play kitchens whenever they're in sight, so getting a kitchen for him for the holidays was a no brainer. I just wish there were more options. And I spent way more than I planned to, just to get something neutral and well made. *sigh*

The roles are reversed in our house. My husband helps out the most with our daughter as I work crazy hours currently. My husband is a great dad. On a separate topic, we do not let our daughter wear pink or have pink, frilly, fru-fru things. If she wants them when she is older that is fine. Conversely we do not push boyish stuff on her either. For now we are gender- neutral colored in red, yellow, blue, green, etc. We do not push either way and we will let her decide. And whatever she wants is fine.

Hey, if you look at Pottery Barn Kids website, you will find that the Retro Kitchens also come in RED. Along with a RED washer and dryer. And as someone else mentioned the Metro set is BLUE. Let's count. 1 Pink set.... 1 Red set.... and 1 Blue set....(they also have all the appliances in red if you can find them they are sold out)hmmmmm.... It looks to me like the girly pink is in the minority.

[great, mission accomplished. -ed.]

Just wanted to add my two cents. A little late, I know, but I stumbled on this post while I was looking for the pbk retro kitchen in red. There are definitely reasons for gender stereotyping, whether you like it or not. I have four children, two girls and two boys. I started out saying I would never dress my girls in pink. Guess what? Both of my girls LOVED pink and frills and dolls and all things "girly" from a very early age without any outside influence. My older girl only started to dislike pink and all things "girly" when she got older, because of PEER PRESSURE. Both of my boys LOVED balls and cars and monsters and action figures and all things "masculine" from a very early age without outside influence. My older boy did lean more towards primary colors, but his favorite color was for a long time purple. My youngest, a boy, does really like pink. All of my children love to cook. The problem only begins when you try to hold people to the stereotypes and label people as abnormal who don't fit the stereotype. I think it's a bit extreme to say that PBK is trying to throw us back into the dark ages, I think it's merely market research. They also happen to have it in red now, as somebody mentioned. And their newest kitchen is the "Pro Chef" in "stainless" which is fabulous but I still just love the lines of the retro kitchen and salivate every time I look at it. Which brings me to my second point-I think they have more options now because of parents, NOT because of kids. For instance, there are many "gender neutral" kitchens out there that are much cheaper that my kids would probably be just as happy with, but I WANT the retro kitchen. I think the pink is adorable, and my two children who would play with it most would be perfectly happy with pink. My five year old girl would think she had died and gone to heaven, and my two year old boy, who just loves to cook, wouldn't care. But I WANT the kitchen in red, to fit my decor better, and I'M very disappointed that it is catalog only (because I would have to pay exorbitant shipping charges), and I WOULD probably be willing to pay more for a toy kitchen that we don't really need just because I CARE about the design. I think most of us in this forum are probably thinking more about what we want than about what kind of message we are sending to our children. Who cares if the kitchen is pink? Not my kids (at least not the ones who would play with it most). I do!

FOR THOSE WHO HATE THE PINK RETRO KITCHEN!

Get over it. I use to despise pink until I had my little girl who LOVES it. Now I love it because I know she does. I even decorated her room Blue and green before she was born and now wish I would have gone with pink. I even have a whole pink load of laundry now, something no one would believe who knew me 5 years ago. There is just no way around it, most young girls love pink. I've bought my daughter the pink retro kitchen for Christmas and she is going to be in 7th heaven when she sees that on Christmas morning. I live in a cold climate, so instead of spending a whole lot of money on outside equipment I'm buying the kitchen set which we will love. It's great for imaginary play and motor skill development.

She loves sports too, thus proving she can be a girly girl and a spunky sports lover too.

When my son was born 5 1/2 years ago, we were pretty committed to gender-neutrality. But no matter what we offered him, he gravitated to all things boy -- cars/trucks/tractors, etc. The dolls would become experiments, although when our daughter came along when he was 1 1/2, he was seen breast-feeding a doll once or twice. Same thing happened with our daughter. My conclusion is that this stuff is pretty hard-wired, and I agree with the other poster that what gets merchandised is based on what kids want. I don't think it's a big deal -- kids learn more from how they see the adults around them behaving than by the color of their toys. Stressing out about it just passes on the neuroses...

It amazes me that you are all so worried about gender-stereotyping because of the color pink. Who says PINK can't be for BOYS...Is it not alright for boys to play in a pink kitchen? I'd say that you're the ones that are behind times not PB. Maybe PB is just too ahead of times for people like you who think that pink is just for girls.

I use to hate pink before my daughter came along, but the more she grows to become a more independent little lady I've noticed myself loving it! I would always by anything not pink while I was pregnant because I believed like many of you that it was stereotypical and pressed a closed minded view upon them. Although, I see your views kids and kids and they like what they like. I do not press pink on my daughter, in fact I buy things in every color and steer towards gender neutral toys but she goes for the baby dolls instead of the cars as well as the pink over the blue so it is already instilled in their minds. Men and women's minds are wired totally different and we just have to accept that no matter how hard we try to instill different ways of thinking, kids are kids. They will play with whatever they want dispite the adults who wish other wise pink or not pink. I am like many of you, I do want my daughter to be a tomboy and not so foo-foo but she will choose her path!

[i still don't believe it's hardwired; just that the gender coding in society is so pervasive on so many fronts, it's not possible to counteract it all. And trying to do so will probably only increase a parent's own neurotic attitude, which will end up affecting the kid, too. The choice isn't pink or no pink; it's some pink or anti-pink freak who's turning his kid into a basketcase. Or something like that. -ed.]

I found this site while specifically looking for a pink kitchen set for my two daughters. This coming from the woman who painted my first daughter's bedroom periwinkle and dressed her all in blue and green. She didn't have anything pink at all until she was at least 2. Now the girl's bedroom still isn't pink (although they did have a pink bedroom for a little while), it's green with splashes of aqua and hot pink. It's fun, modern and uber-girlie.

Anyway... I just felt the need to throw my two cents in here. In speaking about pervasive gender messages, I suggest that you google the studies that have been done about gender-neutrality on kids. I've done a bit of reading on the subject over the years, and it's pretty interesting stuff. Basically, most of those studies have proven that people are pretty much hard wired to gravitate toward certain things according to their gender. Of course, it's not true in EVERY case, but as a general rule, girls gravitate toward the more emotional play (bathing, feeding, and caring for their baby dolls), while boys tend to gravitate toward more physical play (driving cars, building cities, etc...).

I personally just don't understand how someone can wish to promote gender-neutrality so strongly... Whether man or woman, we should enjoy our roles and teach our children to do the same. I'm not talking let's go back to the dark ages where the cave men dragged the cave women around by their hair, but come on - let her be a girl! Paint her nails pink, and teach her that she can be anything she wants to as a strong 21st Century woman. And as a man, teach her what to look for in a strong, 21st Century man (which I'm sure you're doing).

Personally, I am PROUD to be a woman, and PROUD that I live in an age where I can curl my hair and paint my nails and go out there and get an education and work my way to the top of my chosen career. But you know what, if I wanted to stay home with my kids and cook and be June Cleaver, who's to look down on me for doing it? What would you say if THAT was what your daughter wants to do with her life when she's an adult? You seem to be living outside the box in a lot of ways and investing in your child in a manner that many men today don't...

But why can't there be a happy medium there? Why can't this little girl have her father fully invested in her and be left happy to play her tea parties and PINK fairy tales and grow up to still believe in things like chivalry and honor, rather than (as I feel the subconscious suggestion is), to grow up NOT knowing that her true strength lies in her femininity (not in the perverse self-hating and abusive way, but in the accepting and life-affirming way) and NOT knowing what she should be expecting out of the opposite gender? You may not put it that way, but that's how it looks to me.

Be the great Dad you are. Enjoy your daughter to the fullest. But don't worry so much about gender. You are the Dad, the man - live it up! She is the daughter, the girl - let her live it up! And see what you can learn from each other through it. It'll do nothing but make you both happier. :O)

PS - you're right though, there's not enough out there for men who want the level of involvement with their kids that you have... In that sense, I completely agree that there are stereotypes that need a LOT of work... Women have made great strides the last century, but men have been sort of left in the dust because of it. More power to you in trying to make change there! :O)

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