The Cult of Pink

Everyone knows that pink is for girls and blue is for boys right?  It is almost impossible to find gender neutral clothing for newborns and increasingly through childhood.  But it wasn’t always that way.

Pink used to be the preferred color for boys.  In the November 1927 Time Magazine reported on the birth of a baby girl to Belgium’s Princess Astrid: “The cradle . . . had been optimistically oufitted in pink, the color for boys, that for a girl being blue.”  The article goes on to note that, “In Catholic countries (France, Belgium, Spain, etc.) blue (the Virgin’s color) is used for girls and pink for boys (source).”

Pink, as a shade of red was considered masculine because it is a “fierce color” while blue is “delicate.”  For example, in June 1918 Ladies Home Journal said, “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.”

Gainsborough also painted The Children of Charles the I where the girls are in baby blue while the boy is in red.

Now, I have to admit I enjoy pink, and red is my favorite color.  I like “girly” versions of things.  I own a pink hammer.  To me, doing a “manly” job with a “girly” tool makes me feel all…girl power-y.  The same way I felt as an undergraduate physics major walking into a classroom of all male students (and male professor) with a dress on.  I liked that they didn’t take me seriously – it only lasted till the first test when I set the curve.

However, I do see a pink hammer as a problem when it limits choice.  I can see the other side of it – the “for goodness sake why can’t a hammer just be a hammer.”  I don’t want everything I buy Aellyn to need to be pink (I always prefer bright colors to pastels anyways).  As an adult, I choose a pink hammer.  If I only ever buy Aellyn pink things then I kind of take the choice away.  I make pink what she is “supposed” to do instead of what she wants to do.

If I have a boy I want him to be free to have a favorite color that falls ouside of blue, green, and black.  I can feel myself pulling back on my own love of all things pink because I don’t want my influence on Aellyn to be so strong that she can’t make her own choices.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with femininity – both innate and culturally normed – but only if I keep my ears open and really listen to what Aellyn is telling me.  I think about this a lot.  What will I say?  “Mommy likes the pink one, which one do you like?”  Will me liking the pink one make her choose it?  I’m not sure. 

I don’t think we can ever avoid our cultural obsession with color “genders” – it is too prevalent.  But, by thinking outside of the tiny square that society paints for us can open our minds to another idea.

What are your thoughts on gender colors and how do you deal with it with your kids?  What is the perspective of moms of boys?


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15 thoughts on “The Cult of Pink

  1. This makes me feel better! My younger son is an absolute fanatic of red, and if there is no red, will choose pink. We have 3 pink sippy cups (I wish I could call them red, and I think they are *meant* to be red, but look pink because of the type of dye and/or plastic used).

    My understanding of “blue is for boys” is that in some ancient culture (perhaps Celtic?), blue was thought to ward off evil spirits, witches, the evil eye, etc. Boys were dressed in blue to protect them; but girls were not given such protection, since they weren’t as important. 😦 Then while blue remained traditional for boys, somehow a color for girls (pink) caught on and became traditional.

    Traditions are funny things — I think that diamonds for engagement rings only became popular when Queen Victoria received one as her engagement ring; perhaps it was even one of her daughters who started that trend. Don’t get me wrong — I’m a traditionalist through and through [well, for the most part], but we do a lot of things that don’t really make sense, just out of tradition.

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  2. Love it. I sort of try to discourage gender-based anything with my son, but try as I might he is still a boy’s boy and thus loves anything rough and tumble. He does, however, love to explore adult girl things- make up, jewelry, purses, nail painting. He has a pink-clad baby girl doll that he picked out. And I am quite proud that his favorite colors have been orange, green and purples for the last 3 years. He has just now expressed interest in blue at all, and still really likes pink.
    I just think he’ll be exposed to gender-based preferences soon enough. I encourage him to pick anything he wants, and my hubby is pretty good with that too.

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  3. Love it. I sort of try to discourage gender-based anything with my son, but try as I might he is still a boy's boy and thus loves anything rough and tumble. He does, however, love to explore adult girl things- make up, jewelry, purses, nail painting. He has a pink-clad baby girl doll that he picked out. And I am quite proud that his favorite colors have been orange, green and purples for the last 3 years. He has just now expressed interest in blue at all, and still really likes pink. I just think he'll be exposed to gender-based preferences soon enough. I encourage him to pick anything he wants, and my hubby is pretty good with that too.

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  4. Pink and Red are my favorite colors. Both of my girls have a lot of pink too. My oldest is at the stage now where she likes to pick out her own clothes, and what color those clothes will be. I’m trying really hard to get into other colors for myself, and for them!

    I have no problem with boys wearing pink. I don’t see what the big deal is anyway. It’s a color!
    My husband might disagree with me on that though 🙂

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  5. Now I LOVE me some pink. Fuchsia actually. Even had pink hair a few times over. That said, I really try not to force it on my daughter. I hated HATED girly stuff when I was little. I don’t want her to hate it, but I don’t want to make up her mind for her. We try to go with yellow, orange, green. Sure, there are some pink things in her room and closet, but I think there’s a fair representation of all the colors in her life 🙂

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  6. Now I LOVE me some pink. Fuchsia actually. Even had pink hair a few times over. That said, I really try not to force it on my daughter. I hated HATED girly stuff when I was little. I don't want her to hate it, but I don't want to make up her mind for her. We try to go with yellow, orange, green. Sure, there are some pink things in her room and closet, but I think there's a fair representation of all the colors in her life 🙂

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  7. I love this post…something I think about often, raising two little boys of my own! For me, it’s not so much the gender specific color choices for children as it is the fact that it gets frustratingly difficult to find nice clothes for my boys that don’t have a screen print of a football or an appliqued basketball somewhere on them. In fact, I’ve taken to removing what I can with a seam ripper and covering what I can’t remove with a more appealing iron on patch, simply because I can’t tolerate the male athlete/female princess stereotype.

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  8. I totally intended to dress my son in gender neutral colors before he was born – no blue (or at least as little as possible). Then he came out with these big blue eyes and I have to say – he looks great in blue, it is so his color! lol. If I ever have a girl with his coloring, she will also be wearing a lot of blue, because I’m in favor of people wearing whatever looks good on them. Blue, pink, red – if it flatters them why not?

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  9. I was all committed to dressing my daughter in gender neutral colors until I ended up getting basically all the clothes I needed for an entire year secondhand from a friend’s sister. Pink abounded, with purple being a close second. So pink it was. But woe until us if we end up having a boy next, as he’s going to end up with a lot of pink in his wardrobe (not to mention things like bibs that say “Daddy’s little girl” and a pink car seat and stroller).

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  10. I have three girls and one boy, my boy plays with all the toys we have, he does prefer the tonka trucks etc, but he is only 2 so I am not concerned. I get frustrated with the lack of toys for girls that are not pink, or barbies etc, I personally love wearing pink, but I will not force it on them Miss 6 is old enough now to choice her own clothes, and having a school uniform has limited the arguments about suitable school clothes, today shes wearing purple and red….

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