Why Making Something Pink Doesn’t Make It Perfect for Grown Women
I stumbled across these earplugs at Walgreen’s. I’m a connoisseur of earplugs; I can’t sleep without them and keep a small stockpile around the house. I saw this package and thought, “these are ‘women’s earplugs’ because…they’re pink?”
I took a closer look at the package. Maybe there was some other special feature I was missing? Maybe, for instance, they were sized just a tiny bit smaller for the potentially smaller female ear canal? Nope, on closer inspection, these earplugs looked just as over-large and scratchy as the earplugs that I suppose might be labeled ‘men’s earplugs’ that come in safety orange, tan, and blue.
So yeah, these are women’s earplugs because they’re pink. Which I find annoying, in part because I haven’t counted pink as a favorite color since I was ten. But what really got my goat is that I do have someone in my life who really likes pink, and he is my six-year-old son. He also likes purple and green; any kind of truck, train or boat; fairies; kittens; bunny rabbits; building with Legos; and getting really dirty. He is a boy who doesn’t like being told what he should or shouldn’t like or play with, but I can tell he’s having a hard time reconciling his tastes with what he’s being told by his peers and some of the adults in his life. For instance, he has known for years now that pink is a “girl color” despite us telling him it’s really for anyone who likes it. Thankfully, he continues to claim it as a favorite.
In my opinion, taking what is an otherwise universal product and dyeing it pink doesn’t make it “for women.” But I started thinking about what would make a really great earplug for women, if some inventor out there wanted to give it a go.
Truly great earplugs for women would screen out comments about what we wear, how we look with or without makeup, whether or not we’ve gained weight, or whether we look like we’re getting on in years. A fantastic women’s earplug would filter out comments about our choice to or not to become mothers or to breast or bottle feed. A revolutionary women’s earplug would screen out commentary on or our decisions to work outside the home or work at home raising kids, or whether our gender makes us unsuited for some kind of career or another. If someone could invent an earplug that blocked all that useless noise out, I’d be over the moon.
And while we’re at it, let’s get some next generation earplugs for kids, too, such as earplugs that screen out messages about what boys and girls are allowed to do, feel, or dress. Recently, I had to let my son know that calling someone a “girl” should not be considered, under any circumstances, an insult. Can we get an earplug that blocks out whatever message he got that told him that was okay in the first place?
As long as we are going to market things to particular demographic groups, we need to make the case that the product solves a unique issue that demographic has. In my book, Walgreens failed that test: it’s the same stuff, dyed pink. So, Walgreens, can we just call these what they really are? It’s a just big box of pink earplugs. Nothing more.