Laurie Toby Edison

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What Color Is Your Piggy Bank?

Debbie says:

Sociological Images posted this photograph of two piggy banks.

piggy banks in a store window. The blue one is wearing a graduation hat and "School Fund" is written on its side in letters that look like block hand printing. The pink one has a hairbow and "Shoe Fund" is written on its side in a cursive (handwriting) font

On the face of it, this is another in the never-ending stream of commercial images which remind us of who we’re supposed to be and what is supposed to be important to us: if you’re a boy, you are saving your money for college; if you’re a girl, you’re saving it for shoes. Sociological Images reports on these messages frequently, and you can see them everywhere you go.

This one struck me, though, because of the ongoing furor and worry among educators and advocates for boys in college. In the U.S. at least, more women than men go to college, and more women than men finish college (roughly 57% to 43%). In an attempt to close the gap, colleges are making choices that may violate women’s rights.

These piggy banks don’t say “Football Fund” and “Shoe Fund,” but instead they contrast a behavior which has been consistently proven to affect income level and some aspects of “quality of life” with a frivolity. (Yes, everyone needs shoes, but not the kind of shoes which are implied by the pink piggy bank.) So the image is that boys or (as Sociological Images points out at the link) “neutral people” who are somehow not girls have a future and a purpose while girls care how they look.

Second, while this is in line with most pressure on girls, it is not in line with most pressure on boys. In these times, the pressure on boys is not to be serious, not to think about anything but fun, while the pressure on girls is to look perfect. While clothes and make-up are marketed mostly to girls and women, the products marketed to men are usually not books or classes but things like beer, video games, and spectator sports gear. So, the piggy banks are in fact not reinforcing the most popular social pressures on boys; instead, they are bringing a different pressure to bear. Was someone worrying about the gender gap in colleges when they designed these?

2 Responses to “What Color Is Your Piggy Bank?”

  1. Nolly Says:

    Datapointing: As someone who views very little advertising, I have no idea what the original context of this image is. My reading of it, on first sight, was that all the banks belong to one person, probably a woman or girl, and I wondered what funds the smaller ones were for. I do not personally see that shade of blue as exclusively male-indicating; I’ve seen a number of obviously-female-targeted items using it. They usually have flowers involved, which is what makes them read female to me, but it’s enough to break the link in my head. Thus, I read blue without other indicators as more neutral than masculine. Mileage can and will vary, of course, and I have no idea what the creators of the image were thinking.

  2. Debbie Says:

    Thanks, Nolly,

    I thought the image was piggy banks on sale rather than in someone’s possession. And yes, that shade of blue can be seen as neutral (Sociological Images addresses this in their post), but it’s still “not girl,” especially next to the shoes and hair bow pink one. (And I always have to mention that as recently as the 1940s, pink was the boy color and blue was the girl color.) And I have no idea what the creators of the piggy banks were thinking.

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