Tuesday, 25 May 2010
The Problem with Pink
Bags or shoes? Well? Which one do you prefer? And should you feel demeaned by the question?
Meg Rosoff has been sounding off on her blog about the Queen of Teen award - admittedly in a qualified fashion. Yes, she says, many of the books featured in the award are excellent and worthy and it’s great that there is an award honouring them. But why, she asks, must the award's website be so pink and glittery and determinedly trivial. She’s particularly upset by the Bags or Shoes question which was part of a questionnaire answered by last year’s winner Louise Rennison. ‘Why is so much marketing to girls swaddled in sparkly pink and demeaning language?’ she asks.
The comments that follow are well worth reading. Emily Gale makes the point that pink glittery covers are a marketing decision, the books themselves often turn out to be hard-hitting and feistier than one would expect. Anthony McGowan thinks that romances - including Jane Austen’s - shrivel the soul of the reader because they suggest that girls are only fulfilled by snogging/marriage - he suggests that Robert Muchamore is more of a feminist than most teen chicklit writers. The Queen of Teen contest organisers say the pink packaging is a shortcut to instantly engage their target readership - and it works, viz the 10,000 votes received last year.
So, how demeaning is that Bags or Shoes question? In a culture which makes a fuss over the Prime Minister’s answer to the searching question ‘What is your favourite biscuit?’ I can’t get too worked up about it. Surely what matters is the answer, not the question. Authors are free to talk about their walking boots, their laptop bags, their running shoes – they might even discuss the symbolically womb-like space of the bag, against the phallic quality of the high heel (Feminist art theory again….)
My daughter is 13 and slap bang in the middle of the Queen of Teen demographic. What does she think of pink covers and marketing, I asked. Does she feel they demean young readers? Well, she said, when you see a pink cover you do think it’s probably a book aimed at girls, you expect a romantic comedy. But you don’t just pick a book because it’s pink and glitzy. You read the title, you read the blurb. You look at the image on the cover.
‘Pink books aren’t a problem for girls,’ she said. ‘They just mean we have more choice. we know that all sorts of books have pink covers. They’re only a problem for boys - because they mean boys have less choice than girls.’