Pink for Girls, Blue for Boys?

‘Good News’ in India is celebrated with such enthusiasm that the happy couple are surrounded by so many well wishers from family to friends. The next step in this, ‘Good News’ saga is to buy everything under the sun for the new baby in the family. However, that sends us down another road of what gender is the baby going to be? For generations we have been informed that blue is for boys and pink for girls. It’s tradition really, and we do not mess with tradition.

How did this tradition actually set in though?

This leads us back to the world history of how this gender specific colour formed. From the early 1800s white was the norm for babies to toddlers. White dresses to be specific. It was easier to lift to clean dirty diapers {cloth diapers in those days} and far far easier to bleach when those dirty diapers exploded.

The fashion changed to different shades later when colours were introduced, however, it was still dresses – because of the ease of changing diapers. In fact, around 1918, in the US a statement was made about how, ‘Pink was a strong colour and hence for boys and blue was a softer, fragile colour, hence it was for girls.’ There doesn’t seem to be much backing for this story though and has hence been dubbed as an urban legend.

Ladies’ Home Journal article in June 1918 said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. 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.” Other sources said blue was flattering for blonds, pink for brunettes; or blue was for blue-eyed babies, pink for brown-eyed babies, according to Paoletti.

In 1927, Time magazine printed a chart showing sex-appropriate colors for girls and boys according to leading U.S. stores. In Boston, Filene’s told parents to dress boys in pink. So did Best & Co. in New York City, Halle’s in Cleveland and Marshall Field in Chicago.

What did get recorded as fact, was a graphical representation on a map in the US of what colours departmental stores used for boys and girls, in the Time magazine in 1927. Even then, pink was subscribed for boys and blue for girls.

When did this trend change? 

The shift to pink for girls and blue for boys happened just right after World War II, during a time when mass marketing was just starting. Gender specific became the norm, because it was easier to market it as thus. In a time when the fear of the wars had bled into everyone’s psyche, society inadvertently built a structure of what was normal and what wasn’t. Marketing managed to weave a ploy around this.

What cemented the notion though was France, the leader in fashion. Traditional French fashion had girls in pink and boys in blue, however, the rest of Europe had the opposite. Early 20th century, tradition and marketing built the notion that gender specific colours were pink and blue and that has stuck since then.

Gender specific for the win

Mass producing for the baby industries became easier and they raked in more money because of this. They sold a concept that just wasn’t true. Science has found that while men and women do register on different regions of the colour spectrum, it has not found that they identify to pink or blue respectively.

How about here in India?

In the Indian context, the gender specific notion is a fairly new phenomena, considering the vast economic growth of this developing nation. Buying gender specific colours before the baby is born is also a tricky concept considering our laws are against finding out the sex of the baby – due to our female infanticide rates. However, we have been buying into the trend of how babies need to be dressed in one specific colour and not. Our shopping malls and baby centred shops have very specific colours for a boy and a girl. Another aspect that could be perpetuating this notion could be our culture as well, where girls have to be in glittery frills and boys in sober pants.

In Conclusion . . . 

Traditionally, girls are dressed in brighter, fun shades, while boys have sober, darker shades. Boys get dirtier, girls do not. Boys run around, girls do not. Girls only identify being a princess, boys love dragons. Stereotypical norms have been set in place, have been for centuries and messing with it as expected creates friction. Whatever the current scenario, it is interesting to mull over the fact that neutral dresses were the norm and pink was subscribed for boys than girls.

 

 

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