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.

 

 

Advertisements

What is Social Justice? by John Rajkumar

Social Justice is not something I was aware of, not until my wife asked me to help her with a blog post. So I did what anyone with access to the internet would do, I Googled it.

The first bit I searched for was the definition of what Social Justice is, and here is what I found first.

The fair and proper administration of laws conforming to the natural law that all persons, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc., are to be treated equally and without prejudice.

The definition indicates that social justice looks to form a new society. A society where all citizens are equal and have equal opportunity. As an idealist, this does sound a worthy goal to me. However this definition is very basic. Tells me the what and not the how. So how will a society with Social Justice work? Perhaps before I try to define Social Justice I need to know its history and roots.

How did Social Justice start?

With help from Wikipedia I learnt, Social Justice has its roots in the 1840s, the term was used more towards the end of the Industrial Revolution. The key aspect at this point was POVERTY. The goal was to ensure resources were distributed evenly. Since then Social Justice has evolved to include other imbalances in society, such as, Equal rights – irrespective of gender, caste, colour, religion, etc. Essentially in a society there should be no reason to discriminate against an individual and prevent him from benefiting for the work he is trying to put in. At the same time there should be empowerment and upliftment of the underprivileged.

Are we aware of it? 

Understanding this I realise, this has been a topic we discuss often. Perhaps not under the term Social Justice and not completely under it’s definition. Most democratic countries have been a part of this. They have passed laws preventing discrimination. Laws have also been passed to provide welfare to the poor. This is entrenched in the Indian constitution as well. The chapter on Fundamental Rights has article 15, which prohibits discrimination based on gender, religion, race or caste. Article 17 abolishes untouchability. The People world over contribute to this as well. We pay taxes, we stand up for ourselves or for members of our society, either online or on the streets. Voices were raised in light of violence against women. This has been an ongoing conversation for decades – where voices have been raised. Some voices have been heard and some not yet.

True, but it is a long road. . . 

In my mind, the road is long and a lot more progress to be made. As an Indian, I see debates raging on various topics that affect the progress of Social Justice. We see citizens from underprivileged backgrounds, marginalised castes as well as women rising above their disadvantages and excelling. They have done this on their own will power, or with assistance from the Government or NGOs. However, we still see abject poverty, caste and gender-based discrimination. There are debates raging on how we should prioritise our citizens or on the methods we should employ to achieve Social Justice. This is normal I would presume in a functioning democracy. However, I do go back to realising, this is a long and difficult road.

How do we contribute? 

So, what is it that we can do to move Social Justice along the right path? I obviously don’t have the answer. I believe one important element in this is – the NGO. In a functioning democracy the primary custodian of this, is the Government. However, a Government has priorities that cover aspects other than Social Justice. Governments are not unknown to make mistakes as well. Here is where an NGO should stand as a pillar towards this goal. NGOs work at the grass roots, identify social and economic issues, work for the have nots and fight for their upliftment.

Contrary to what we read on the news, this world is seeing one of the most peaceful times. Perhaps now is the time for us to look outward, look at our fellow brothers and sisters, understand their trials and burdens and ask ourselves, what can I do?

 

John Rajkumar

YWCA OF INDIA DAY – THE STORY

YWCA of India currently has been a constant between all the YWCAs in India, that it is inconceivable to believe that it did not exist before the YWCAs in our country! India had about a 109 YWCA branches before it was finally decided that perhaps we need a YWCA for the country.

Here’s your crash course on the history of the YWCA of India.

THE IDEA THAT SPARKED IT ALL:

December 1896, Acting President of the YWCA of Calcutta, Ms. Alice M. Bethune realised that unity was required for the needs of the country. Hence invitations went high and low to the 109 branches in the country requesting their presence for a conference for prayer and planning towards this goal. Ms. Minnie L. Collins was the General Secretary of YWCA of Calcutta and Bengal.
Incidentally, the Biennial Convention for the YMCA was taking place, with a representative from the London YMCA, Mr. James Stokes Esp.

WHAT HAPPENED THEN?

Since the YMCA Convention and YWCA Conference were happening at the same day. The first session was held at the YWCA’s Home 31, Free School Street, Calcutta with Ms. D. McConnaughy Esq., the National Secretary of YMCA India chosen as the Chairman, and Ms. A. G. Hill from YWCA of Madras chosen as the Secretary of the Conference.
This was monumental, because with the guidance and reassurance of Mr. Stokes (who had worked with YMCA and YWCA in London) explained that the World Committees were hoping that National Associations be formed everywhere to ease in carrying out the mission that was the YMCA and YWCA effort.

WHAT CAME TO BE?

December 1856, saw the formation of the YWCA of India Association, under the guidance of Mr. Stokes suggesting for a simple union between the 109 branches of YWCAs in India.

Thus, YWCA of India, Burma and Ceylon was formed on December 1896.

 

WHAT DID THAT MEAN?

With the YWCA of India, Burma and Ceylon Association in place, it meant that the National Association would work on the same principle as the World YWCA. The National headquarters were to be in Calcutta.

And most important, February 1st every year was to be marked as the inauguration of the National Association and would be a special day of praise and prayer.

 

WHAT CAME UNDER THE ASSOCIATION?

The National Association now had 68 English branches [with Calcutta, Bombay and Madras having several branches within their cities). 2 Vernacular branches, 27 Hindusthani branches, 6 Malayalam branches and 5 Tamil branches were also under the YWCA of India, Burma and Ceylon Association banner.

 

FEW YEARS LATER. . . 

National Headquarters is no longer the same, as well as the National Association India, Burma and Ceylon. The headquarters moved a few times after that, from Calcutta to Bombay, Madras to New Delhi – meaning the Association had many strong influences from all these regions before it became settled in New Delhi.

YWCA of India, as it finally came to be known was settled in New Delhi in the year 1958.

 

WHAT HISTORY SHOWS US TODAY?

The common goal of the YMCA and the YWCA was the same and always will be. We needed a common denominator that coordinated at the World stage and we had the guidance and support from the 109 branches in India as well as the YMCA to establish that.

Calcutta had the vision and foresight to bring us all together and Bombay and Madras supported the movement continuously. It must have been sad seeing the YWCA of India, Burma and Ceylon Association become the YWCA of India Association alone, along with the shifting of HQ 4 times. However, it is to be noted, that HQ shifted 4 times, thus engaging every corner of the country’s YWCA branches. February 1st, requires us to take a step back, realise we all have the same goal and praise this movement that has steamrolled into the 22nd century. 120 years of the Association now, still younger than most of the YWCA branches in the country, but still the glue that binds us all together.

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? 

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-3-46-58-pm

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?

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-3-47-51-pm

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?

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-3-41-59-pm

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.

 

YWCA – Who, Where, What & How

Our Mission

In a changing world with changing needs, the YWCA of India needs to respond effectively with timely intervention in programmes and projects that specifically address the needs of marginalized communities. It calls us to be inclusive of all communities regardless of age, class, caste, creed, religion and to be committed to protecting human dignity and environment.

Our Vision

The YWCA in India continues to be challenged in empowering women and girls to face gender inequities, social and economic disparities, caste based discrimination and all forms of violence against women. Today in a world ridden with environmental degradation, violation of human rights, the YWCA as one of the largest women’s movements is in a strong position to be an agent for social transformation and change.

THE WORLD YWCA – A PAGE FROM HISTORY

England, 1855:

Emma Roberts Prayer Union and General Female Training Institute {GFTI} founded by Hon. Mrs. Arthur Kinnaird were two women who strove to improve the situation of their fellow women – separately initially – created because of the industrial revolution and the Crimean war. Their movements grew and soon they joined forces and formed the largest world organisation of women, the YWCA with the blue triangle as it’s symbol.

1855-1875:

Various groups had already formed in Great Britain, Sweden, Denmark, France, Germany, Switzerland, USA, Canada and British Guyana. In 1894 four existing National Associations Great Britain, USA, Norway and Sweden formed the World YWCA with London as Headquarters.

1930:

The Headquarters of World YWCA was later relocated from London to Geneva Switzerland.

The current World YWCA is a global network with presence in more than 120 countries, 20000 communities and 25 million outreach programmes.

THE YWCA of INDIA – A PAGE FROM HISTORY

1875:

Miss Hariette N. Butt, a missionary formed the YWCA of Bombay along with Miss Mary Vitters, Ms, E. Mc Ritchie and Ms. Sorabji – helping in the Pillow and Flower mission for patients in hospitals and work houses.

1887:

A home for 5 young women was the start of hostels in India.

1896:

Partly due to the efforts of Ms Hill and other YMCA leaders, the forty Indian language branches and fifty English speaking branches with twenty secretaries from abroad were united by a National Committee which came to be known as YWCA of India, Burma and Ceylon.

1947:

After the partition, The YWCA of India was formed.

Today the WORLD YWCA has more than 25 million women serving 22,000 communities spread across 128 Countries. With the presence of 86 YWCAs in India and a 7000 strong volunteer force, the YWCA of India reaches out to women and girls of different ages, economic, ethnic, occupational, religious and cultural backgrounds. It is a forum for empowerment, development, growth, sharing of ideas and formation of issue based partnerships.

OUR WORK

Since the first YWCA started in Bombay in 1875, it has grown from providing accommodation to working women and students to areas of advocacy and community outreach programmes.

Advocacy action :

which strives for the removal of all forms of discrimination and violence against women in the law, media, employment, status at home and in other spheres of life. It networks with other women’s organization and has proactively collaborated in the framing of drafts for Bills and Legislations. The YWCA of India also serves on Complaints Committees set up by Ministries, Government institutions and Public Sector Undertakings for prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace

Community Development services:

The YWCA works to improve survival, protection and participation of children of all ages through early childhood care, education programmes and advocacy for their rights. It has adopted a programmatic and multi-faceted approach to improve the quality of living in areas of education, economy and health. It also conducts Family Life Education for Adolescent Girls programmes and leadership development workshops and trainings. The YWCA also works to prevent child marriage and assists young and vulnerable mothers through various community initiatives and livelihood programs.

Other services:

YWCA of India also offers, hostels for working women and students, schools emphasizing a high standard to value based education, counselling and crisis centres, vocational training centres, school for the differently challenged, crèches and about 45 guest houses.

Our Projects:

The YWCA of India’s Community Development Project – Pippal Chhaya in TrilokPuri, Delhi:

This is a resettlement colony that focuses on empowering the children, especially girls, through education, socio – economic awareness and advocacy sessions on social issues, English and computer classes, fitness activities, character building workshops, health care through fun activities which are both engaging and informative.

Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights:

Projects on Sexual and Reproductive health and rights are conducted and these focus on educating youth on issues such as HIV/AIDS and Drug abuse. Training on gender justice for children at schools is also a key area of our work.

The YWCA of India – Dehradun { Spreadacre’s Project}:

This property, had been providing residence to the senior citizens who had decided to spend their retired life in this beautiful town. In 2010, the Home lost the last of its residents and the YWCA of India decided to renovate the heritage Cottage before new residents took up accommodation which is now reopening on 4th September 2016.

The Day Care Centre which has been functioning since 1986 on this property has been providing day care facilities to 30 senior persons. Recreational programmes, camps, income generation, rehabilitation, financial and medical aid are provided from this unit.

Guest Houses:

The guest houses run by the YWCA of India in Ootacamund, Coonoor, Nainital, Delhi and Mussoorie help raise funds for our work and provide clean, comfortable and safe accommodation for travellers.

The YWCA also offers services like hostels for working women and students, schools emphasising a high standard to value based education, counselling and crisis centres, vocational training centres, schools for the differently challenged, creches and about 45 guest houses.

OUR PURPOSE:

Being one of the largest women’s movements, the YWCA of India is in a strong position to be an agent for social transformation and change. We network with the government, policy makers, corporations, local communities and the general public. Our programmes in the communities aim at holistic development of women and girls making them employable citizens with a deep sense of commitment to society. The intent is to develop a scalable and sustainable model for development.