Wednesday, February 24, 2010

White Girls Can Use Microscopes if they’re Pink

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Isn’t it wonderful everyone?  Now girls can be into science too and we know this because everything is a wonderful shade of pink. Yep, pink just screams girl.  I suppose I should see this as a leap forward because these sorts of toys are usually aimed at boys, but it irritates me that the creators felt that simply having girls on the package was enough to signify femininity. 

I would remiss if I did not point out that though these two little girls are cute, they are White and blonde.  It seems that it is okay to encourage girls to succeed, only if they fall within certain criteria.  White women are oppressed due to sexism but their race privilege often opens doors that are closed to little girls of colour.  No matter how much we claim to value children, socially not all children are equal.

When we talk about toy departments as womanists/feminists, we always take note of the gender differences.  Boys aisles are always blue and girls aisles are always pink.  In the girls aisle, you will find baby dolls and toys that generally reinforce the idea that girls are to nurture or be concerned about their appearance.  Very seldom will you see commentary about the races on the boxes because Whiteness subsumes all other races, thereby creating POC as invisible. 

Toys that denote a lower class status are targeted at children of colour, thereby teaching them what role society expects of them in the future.  Race and class play very distinct roles in how we socialize children and yet we see this as naturally occurring forces.  We don’t equip children for excellence and then reinforce this idea by never encouraging them to dream about making positive gains in their social status. 

There is more at stake then simply seeing gender disparity and the pinkification of everything female.  Even the lack of pink and its association with girls of colour teaches them at a very early age that they will eventually grow into the ultimate “umwoman” that has come to signify Black femininity.  When we talk about issues facing girls and children, what we really mean are White girls and White children.  When we consider the poverty that many children of colour are growing in, the social myth about respecting childhood is revealed to be mendacious and truly scurrilous.

Unless a parent of colour has enough class privilege to force integration, a child will forever be excluded from opportunities that will enrich the mind.  In my sons dojo, there are three children of colour and two of them are my kids.  On Destructions hockey team last season, there were ten kids and two of them were of colour.   I am sure when the boys start music classes this fall, the ratio will be the same.  The absence of children of colour in his activities is not indicative of population, it is directly related to class position. 

Class and race constantly intersect in the life of a child of colour and therefore; focusing the conversation solely on the basis of nurture vs nature, serves to erase their experiences and their struggles.  Gender can never be the sole site of integration because it privileges Whiteness and leads to a myopic understanding of social phenomenon.  It is not enough to fight for the inclusion of girls in areas that have been historically  considered masculine, unless that inclusion is for ALL girls.  White girls succeeding, while Black girls flounder is not a positive step for womanhood unless one believes that children of colour do not matter.

H/T Feminist Philosophers