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Pink Is For Boys And Blue Is For Girls

Girl Boy logo created from Celtic Tiger Knotwork drawing

Celtic Knot Tiger
Marker and paint

    That’s right folks, why do you think I have it backwards.  Any colour can be used to represent either gender.  There is no reason that pink needs to represent girls and blue to represent boys.  Yes, it is one way to easily tell the sex of a baby, but creating this stereotype right from birth may not be the best of ideas.  Colours can represent ideas and effect moods so why over-saturate a baby with one colour.  Why indoctrinate colour stereotypes starting at birth and on through childhood.  Besides, when Western Society first started differentiating gender with colour it really was pink for boys and blue for girls.

In the 1800’s babies were clothed in white dresses; both girls and boys.  It wasn’t until around 1920 when colour was used to mark a baby’s gender.  Pink, being a pale red which is considered a bold and fierce colour, was for boys.  Blue, being elegant and refined, was for girls.  Blue has also been associated with the Virgin Mary so it was considered the perfect colour for girls. This colour representation may not have been definitive but it was a popular idea.  The Ladies Home Journal wrote in 1918, “There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger color is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”  So how did this paradigm get flipped on its head?

There is no clear answer as to how it came to be that pink is for girls and blue is for boys.  It could be related to the extensive use of blue in men’s uniforms after WWI.  It could also be related to the Nazis use of a pink triangle pointing down to identify homosexuals.  It’s possible that after this association of pink and homosexuality was made the homophobic men of the day started avoiding pink for this reason.  In the modern day pink is still associated with the gay community and the pink triangle pointed up has been embraced as a symbol of pride.  If pink is worn to show gay pride and stand up to those who are prejudiced against them is that not brave and bold?  A variety of names using the colour pink have been used to symbolize the gay community.  Pink News is an online gay newspaper and the Pink Paper is a publication covering gay and lesbian issues.  Pink money is the purchasing power of the gay community.   But don’t forget that pink stems from red, the bold, fierce male colour.  Can’t pink be an occasional colour for everyone?  The modern day tradition of pink for girls and blue for boys can be negative.

Pink is fed to our little girls in their clothing and toys.  Pink is the toy pony, the stuffed kitty cat, the doll.  One doll in particular is the queen of pink.  Pink outfits, pink accessories, and pink packaging.  If this popular doll was a real woman she would be 6 feet tall and 100 pounds; which is to say completely anorexic.  Her measurements would be 39"/21"/33" (bust, waist, hips) compared to the average real 5’4” woman who is closer to 36"/30"/41".  A real woman may need to surgically remove a few ribs, increase a few cup sizes, and liposuction down to the bone of her hips to measure up to the standards of these pink packaged paradigms.  Can’t we give our little girls a lovely well proportioned doll if we have to give them a doll at all? 

The stereotypical girl is supposed to play princess in their pink dress and stay out of the dirt.  To refuse is to become like a boy and dubbed a “Tom-boy;” a girl who has stereotypical masculine behaviours including liking the "rough" outdoors and sports.  At least in the modern world we no longer frown upon the Tom-boy.  I’ve heard many I woman say with a smile “I was always such a Tom-boy as a child”.  Good for her, she is strong, athletic and tough like a “man”.  The modern world often sees this as a positive trait.  Boys however, have not yet been welcomed to switch into the stereotypical female role.  There is no cute name for a boy who has stereotypical feminine qualities, such as liking pink.  The names are very derogatory, such as a sissy boy, or a Nancy.  It’s easy to see that sissy comes from the word sister and Nancy from the woman’s name Nancy.  Please note that the name not only is used to humiliate the boy, but the insult is that they are like a woman.  Being a woman is still negative in this context.

Blue for boys in itself doesn’t seem to contain the same derogatory nature as pink for girls.  Superman, who wears a lot of blue, is rather well muscled to be compared to the average adult male but superheroes and action figures for boys come in a variety of colours.  The Flash is in red, the Hulk is green, and Wolverine is in yellow.  Although the muscles are out of human proportion, the superhero’s connection to blue is lost.  Blue is still used for other toys, but again it is not as stringent as pink for girls toys.  Toy cars, building blocks, and dinosaurs come in a wide variety of colours.  The only problem here is the avoidance of pink for boy’s toys.  The only pink male character I’ve seen is in He-Man, and it’s the colour of his outfit when he has to pretend to be the weak Prince Adam.  Boys seem to be taught that pink is girly, dainty, unmanly, and definitely not a fun colour to play with.  In my generation a boy wearing pink or liking the colour pink was maliciously teased.  If pink is the colour that symbolizes women then what are we really teaching little boys?  In recent years pink has become a more popular colour for men.  Go for it; pink is only what we make of it.

The saying goes, “she’s pretty in pink.”  If “she” is not in pink is she not pretty? Sure it’s nice alliteration but do we have to force feed girls the colour pink until she hates it?  A lot of women hate pink.  Pink has been associated with all the horrendous female stereotypes.  Many women rebel against pink.  They don’t want to be seen as girly, or frilly, or delicate.  If you use an internet search engine for the phrase “I hate _________ (name of colour,) every colour but pink brings up a variety of matters mostly not involving hating a particular pigment of colour.  If you type, “I hate pink” you will find multiple sites ranting about the stereotypical anti-feminist evils of pink.  And the same it true of an image search, with a particularly interesting image of a stick figure stabbing the word “pink” with a sword.  Nearly 4000 people have marked “like” to a social media site entitled “I hate pink.”  Poor pink, it was just a colour until we made it a monster. 

 A recent scientific study (2007) has worsened matters by trying to prove girls genetically love pink; at least that is how the media warped it.  The study was done by neuroscientists Dr Anya Hurlbert and Dr. Yazhu Ling was about colour selection.  There were 171 participants of mostly British Caucasian decent, but also 37 of Chinese decent to see if there were any cultural differences in the equation.  The actual results were that most people, men and women prefer blue.  The study showed that women more often prefer redder shade of blue, by which they meant reddish and purple hues.  Men preferred blue or green.  Both Caucasian and Chinese women had this preference toward reddish and purple hues so it was remarked that as the preference was cross cultural that is was potentially genetic.  Dr. Ling went as far as to speculate that such a preference may be caused by the division of labour theory in which women were gathers who distinguished ripe red berries or fruit as well as caregivers who marked the flush of skin as a sign of fever.  The media warped this to girls may prefer pink on a biological level!  <Sigh>

 What the media left out was the participants of Chinese decent did not have much of a difference in colour preference results between men and women.  The favourite colour for Chinese men was red, not blue.  Red is a favourable colour in Chinese culture.  So perhaps this is not a nature, but a nurture issue after all.  Also, what about fruit that isn’t red: blueberries, bananas, oranges?  And if red represented a face flushed with fever wouldn’t we dislike that colour?  Why did the media create such a tizzy over pink when the studies results, whether factual or opinionated, were more focused on reddish and purple!  It may have been yellow journalism.

Pink and blue are just colours.  Pink can be bold and blue can be delicate but only if one thinks that they are.  The world is full of colours there is no need to limit a child to only one.  Why pile on one colour until it means something negative and has to be rebelled against.  Although there is statistical evidence that blue is the most favoured colour by men and women in Western society, there is no proof that girls are generically inclined to favour pink.  Give your baby the gift of all colours.  Maybe as a child they will be more able to pick their true favourite instead of what they think their supposed to like.

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