Saturday, 13 October 2007

Should ponies be pink?

Many thanks to Susanna for sending me the link to this article in The Guardian.

It's interesting. As the owner of a girl, I've looked at the sort of covers that are prevalent now on books aimed at girls, and thought "hmmmm" to myself. Aiming books at one sex or the other of course isn't new: in the 1920s to 1940s if you saw a book with girls thundering down a hockey field on the cover you'd be pretty sure boys weren't its target audience. And publishers after all do need to sell the books, and badging them means people who like that sort of book know in advance they're getting something they'll probably like. I do it myself when bookhunting - I can spot a 1970s and older Puffin paperback at 20 paces.

And covers do make a difference. My daughter still hasn't read Ballet Shoes, as despite my having several lovely early Puffins, she wants to read the one with the funky new cover. Never mind the fact what's inside is (probably) identical; that doesn't matter to her. And we still haven't resolved that one as I've refused to buy her the new one when we have several perfectly good albeit "old fashioned" ones at home.

As a much younger girl she was a huge fan of all things pink, and, I shudder to say, that vile parody of a pony My Little Pony. It's almost impossible to steer clear of pink because even if you don't buy it for them, someone else will, and I'm not hardhearted enough to take things away from her. With the princess thing, I don't mind so much its swathing in pink and glitter, because it is a fantasy: 99.999% of the population are never going to see a princess, much less be one. I do very much more mind roping ponies into this fantasy world.

Ponies are living, breathing things: they may be cuddly, but they also kick, bite, have worms, escape, refuse to do what they're told: in short, they're real. Owning a pony is of course a fantasy for many of us, but we can still have the odd lesson, and there are ponies generally around in the world, unlike princesses. Treating a pony as a bit of cuddly cutesomeness does seem to me to be the most dreadful bit of cynicism.

I asked if ponies should be pink - the argument Jordan's publishers use is that her books will encourage young girls to go on and read pony books. The amount of people who already read the immensely successful Heartland and Chestnut Hill books without ever having read a Jordan because after all they've only just been published, does rather give the lie to that.

5 comments:

mutterings and meanderings said...

I am not a pink person. I can do - and do do - raspberry but not pink.

My Grey Mare has one raspberry coloured rug. (SU avatar)

However, a lot of the wee 'uns at the stables are swathed in pink.

Jane said...

I've never liked pink much myself but now that I'm older alas pale pink is one of the few colours that suits me.

Yes, I've noticed a lot of pink about ponies these days, to say nothing of polka dots, and even leopard print....

Do hope Grey Mare is better - I've been thinking of you both.

Vanessa said...

Poor old M - I'll send her a copy of Ballet Shoes with the new covers!

Jane said...

V - thanks! But will she read it? I'll tell her you will have something severe to say to her if she doesn't.

Susan in Boston said...

The pink explosion is tragic....not the least because really great books (like Ballet Shoes) are indistiguishable from truely awful ones...I hadn't read Ballet Shoes as a child, and the bubble-gum pink edition currently on the shelves in the US wasn't exactly shouting "read me"..it took quite a raving review from someone who's opinion I trusted to make me finally pick it up.

The pink ponies with multicolor manes are particularly galling, I agree, but I suppose no more unnatural than a Barbie doll. Somehow they are more annoying though....