Tell me, honestly, if you ever caught a male friend “pink-handed”, pun intended, with a pink lighter or a pink shirt, wouldn’t the word ‘feminine’ come to your mind even if you didn’t snigger or jeer at him?
From the day that babies are brought home and cradled in their pink or blue blankets, implications have been made about gender and color. Walk into any newborn’s room and you can almost always tell the gender of the child based on the colors of its blankets, toys, bedding, walls and so much more. As we grow up, gender color preferences are visible in everything from wardrobes to cars (though nowadays the line is thinning). The study from 2003 by Joe Hallock polling from 232 people from 22 countries all over the world showed 23% of females chose purple as their favorite. No males chose purple as their favorite. But let me tell you, there are actually no concrete rules about what colors are exclusively masculine or feminine.
A group study conducted on subjects in the age range of 7 months up to 5 years, (both boys and girls), had the subjects pick objects of different colors. It was noted that only girls above the age of 2 years picked pink objects while boys over 2.5 years avoided the pink ones. It is evident from this study that: only through everyday observation are children more prone to becoming aware of ‘gender and colors’ stereotyping of this sort.
Color coding is also applied to other gendered conceptions of girls’ and boys’ interests. For example, in a study conducted with 40 children aged between 5 and 15 months, researchers found that adults gave boys sports equipment, cars, tools and blue clothing while the females were given dolls, furniture and pink clothing.
In essence we are limiting the choices of children. Our focus on the color of children’s clothing is so ingrained that it may seem like a law of nature. It can be really hard to defy gender norms, even when one is aware that the bias exists and disagree with it.
Worrying about what colors boys and girls wear may seem like a classic first-world problem. Some may not even consider it an issue at all, considering that boys and girls ARE undeniably biologically different. But children are not genetically predisposed to prefer pink or blue based on their gender; that’s a behavior that they’re cultured into.
Given the prevalence and rigidity of the “pink is for girls, blue is for boys” school of thought today, it’s difficult to imagine things being any other way. However, some evidence suggests that these color lines actually weren’t drawn until the middle of the twentieth century. But by the 1940s, the tables had turned, and society’s equating of pink with femininity and blue with masculinity has remained intact since then. And no matter how the color designations for male and female children have evolved through the ages, the current incarnations appear to be here for the long haul.
Colors, it seems, influence our behavior much more than we realize. There is a growing movement back towards promoting gender neutrality. Even though we’ve made big strides in closing the gender gap in recent years, we have a long way to go. Pink and blue is not just about clothing options for babies. It creates clearly demarcated spaces for little boys and girls, establishing gender stereotypes and carving out spaces within the home and the outside world.
And it is THE time that we rise above the strides of color coding and create safe spaces to practice any rainbow color a person covets, no matter which gender they belong to.