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.

 

 

Ringing the Warning Bell

We’ve heard about climate change. We’ve heard why it’s important to be vigilant. We some times prefer not to know, because we assume it does not affect us, but the future. However, the future is not so distant as we like to believe.

Leonardo Dicaprio’s film Before the Flood, is a documentary that meets with scientists, world leaders and activists to fully understand climate change, how we can change individual behaviour to protect the future and also, most importantly it promotes hope. Something, that most activists, environmentalists and climate change scientists forget to include in their discourse.

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picture credit: Pete McBride from National Geographic

In Iceland, land is rising as fast a 1.4 inches per year in certain areas as a result of climate change. The melting of the country’s glaciers reduces pressure on the land below and allows the surface to rise.

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picture credit: Thomas Peschak from National Geographic

While in Mexico, off the seas of La Paz, the Sea of Cortez has murky green rough waters, this year, the unusual climatic and oceanographic conditions resulted in ultra calm and clear waters.

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picture credit: Brian Skerry from National Geographic

In the High Arctic near Navy Board Inlet, Canada, the sea ice has been declining in recent years. It is predicted in a year or two, the North pole will be ice free in the summer, meaning the ships will be able to pass over the pole for the first time in recorded history.

Meanwhile, in Belize, they are celebrating 20 years of their world heritage site, the Belize Barrier System Reserve System. The country’s laws protect this large reef ecosystem in the Atlantic-Carribean region (the second largest in the world).

Which brings us around to, the burden to protect our planet, rests in our politicians hands. Which, was true for our Indian Tigers. In 1973, a political framework was put in place by Indira Gandhi to protect our tigers. A Wildlife Act that banned hunting of wildlife {mainly tigers}, that also allowed for creating sanctuaries and national parks with strict measures ensuring the safety of the land and the wildlife within.

However, the Tiger initiative has had its ups and downs till date, with more activists and celebrities backing the project. However, nothing ensures results when any initiative has complete political backing and that has fallen short over the years.

This does not mean that we as individuals still cannot do something to help. During the floods in Chennai, a group of people came together and over the weekends following the flood, they cleaned up the beach and a few areas of all the plastic and other debris washed in by the river Cooum.

Another initiative started by a social organisation Grow-Trees.com, identifies locations that need tree cover in India, that will enable the wildlife as well as the tribals in that area, while giving you the opportunity to donate an amount in your name or in another person’s name allowing for a ‘grove of trees’ to be planted.

There are many more programmes that are out there that depend on individual support, volunteering and effort. The bottom line however is very simple, climate change is real. Climate change is happening. Do watch ‘Before the Flood’, the documentary if you can, and share the information with all around you.

 

Stereotypes & Prejudice

Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible. – Maya Agelou

As little children, we have no notion of he, she, it, muslim, hindu, or any specific gender stereotype or any other prejudice for that matter. A child’s viewpoint is very clear cut, do I get fed this? Do I get my way? Do I get to sleep, or eat or play with this? Will this person give me what I want?

Growing up, things change. We know/identify another person based on the way they look, act or talk. We identify an object based on the colours, tastes, etc. in relation to our already formed concepts learned from society.

Blue is for girls, Pink for Boys?! 

Earlier, boys and girls would actually wear white. Before marketers tried to hard sell their wares to mom’s worldwide, little children would wear gender neutral patterns, colours and pinks, blues were never actively segregated. Come early 20th century, the marketers managed to convince the whole world that pink was for girls and blue for boys. Studies have not found any conclusive evidence to support that girls do prefer pink and boys blue. In fact, pink seems to be the most hated colour world over among adults. However, thanks to clothes manufacturers, pink is associated for girls and blue for boys.

Dresses for girls, and Pants for boys

Again, early 1900s and before, white dresses were the clothes that little boys and girls would wear. It was easier to clean (considering they had cloth diapers then). As the child grew older, gender neutral colours were introduced but it was still dresses that both boys and girls wore. Enter clothes manufacturers and their amazing marketing technique and we have dresses and pants introduced. However, early 20th century parents used either or to dress their little children in. Pants were also worn on little girls than just the dresses. Gender neutral seemed to be the theme, till the marketers managed to change things around to the world we know today.

Blocks for boys, Princesses for girls? 

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Those earlier concepts grew from abroad and have entered the Indian mindset as well. It’s become a general concept – pink for girls, blue for boys. It’s worked well for our marketing giants because they can sell you something gender specific and thus make you believe that boys only prefer cars and blocks, while your little girl only wants kitchen utensils and play princesses {oh the irony, because really, princesses don’t lift a finger in the kitchen!}. However, studies unfortunately do not support this claim either. Lego the building blocks giant was once asked by a little girl, that she would love to be an astronaut one day, but the dolls they created were only boys! New-parents worry that their sons discard their cars for the kitchen utensils that they take from their kitchen and start cooking, mimicking the mother. What will society think?!

A boy will become a man, and a girl a woman! 

Gender specific roles have bled into our daily lives. There’s no doubt about it. The manufacturers were geniuses and deserve a pat on their back for the way they have shaped the world. However, the gender specificity they have helped create is creating a world that is divided and more confused. Parents worry when their little boy plays dress up, it’s girl play they say. Most fashion designers are men. A girl plays dinosaur or sports more than cooking and dolls, parents worry. However, many famous anthropologists/zoologists were women. But let’s leave the future where it should be, in the future and look at the present.

Neil DeGrasse once explained to a little girl that while she banged a wooden spoon on a metal tin, her young mind was learning the different sounds she could make on that pot. She was curious and that curiosity would then lead her to more experiments in science. Children experiment in some form or the other, their imagination runs wild and honestly they don’t need too many toys to get them going. Cars could be getting cooked in a pot one day, to a game of dress up in mommy and daddy’s clothes another, to a baking experiment with a dinosaur in mom’s baking tin. Their minds are growing, they are learning – quicker than we give them credit. Giving them the freedom to explore, gives them the freedom to be more open and non-prejudiced.

India a land full of Prejudice?

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We as adults have notions from experience or from our parents/family/friends’ experiences. Despite the gender stereotypes, there are religious, political, national stereotypes as well. You’ve heard them:

  • Fair and tall is beautiful and handsome.
  • Red heads have wild tempers. 
  • Japanese are workaholics and have a stringent work culture. 
  • Brahmins are xenophobic, because they prefer their culture and ways.
  • Christians are drunks. 
  • Muslims are terrorists. 
  • India is the land of rape. 

In India we find we are more judgemental than other countries. Our caste, our religion, our culture, are all reasons for forming opinions without getting to know another person, religion, culture. The statements above we have heard them a time a many, but we don’t bother correcting these notions or learning to look beyond the preconceived notions.

Even dark skinned people are very striking and beautiful – however, our age old notions and cultures believe only a fair woman would make a lovely wife. After the horrific rapes reported in our country, we as a nation put ourselves down worldwide but accepting the tag ‘land of rape’ by perpetuating a notion that every low-socio economic man is a rapist.

Our pride in our country, is lacking. Education about learning about other cultures religions, other people, is lacking. Religious sentiments or respecting another’s religion, is lacking. Believing a prejudice to be true and not bothering to go beyond the prejudice, is appalling. That is the reason gender stereotypes and prejudices set in. We have become a closed group of people, unwilling to look out and learn more.

What we could do?

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There was a viral video recently about a little girl questioning adults notions of what tag lines are appropriate for a girls t-shirt and a boys. Why do people assume girls don’t want adventure as well?  There have been studies done checking how much the stereotype affects them. Girls and boys were given a math quiz and scored fairly well, with a majority of the girls having scored higher. Give the same quiz to a group of students stating girls anyway are bad at math and the girls don’t do so well. We joke about stereotypes without realising the effect they have on other people or even on us, however, like the girl  in that video, we should be questioning prejudices/stereotypes.

  1. Why can’t short be handsome as well? Why is dark not beautiful?
  2. Why are boys better chefs? Why when girls are meant to cook day in and day out, that they don’t become chefs? 
  3. Why are girls expected to give up their career to be a stay at home mom? Why cannot men do the same and let the woman follow her career? 
  4. Why are marketing giants only focused on pink and blue? What about gender neutral colours? 
  5. Why are we sure men perform better academically and provide for the family? 
  6. Can we find out more about another religion without affecting our religious sentiments or theirs? 
  7. Can we find our more about the history of other countries than just the usual?

Education is the key. Learning, spreading and questioning are the keys to breaking these barriers that we have placed on ourselves and others around us.