Twin sisters Abi and Emma Moore noticed a few years ago how different their south London houses looked as Abi’s started filling up with her sons’ toy dinosaurs and trains and Emma’s turned pink and girly with her daughters’ playthings. Already frustrated by the barrage of pretty princesses and sparkly fairies marketed to girls, Emma says she reached a breaking point when she watched her daughter open a huge haul of presents at her sixth birthday party. Out of 40 gifts, Emma recalls, only three were items not designed solely for girls – two games and a set of colored pencils. Much of the rest, including several Barbies and a play-makeup set, ended up at a local charity shop, but the shock Emma felt stayed with her.
Not long afterward, she felt compelled to do something about it. In 2008, she and Abi, both 38, started an advocacy group called Pinkstinks, which they hope will spark a shift in a popular culture that they say puts girls “into a pretty little box” from birth, offering them toys that emphasize the importance of looking good and being feminine, while the boys are allowed to go exploring and get dirty. The sisters have launched campaigns to pressure retailers to move away from such stereotypes, like their recent effort to help persuade the British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s to repackage a doctor costume that was labeled for boys and a nurse’s outfit labeled for girls.