Walk into any kids’ section of a hypermarket, you can see a clear demarcation of the aisles in 2 distinct colors – Blue and Pink! As you explore further, you can observe that most of the dolls, kitchen sets etc. are placed in pink boxes and qt another side, cars, trucks etc. are placed in blue boxes.
What are these arrangements trying to convey? If you cannot guess, ask the shop assistant that you want to buy toys for a 5-year old boy. You can place a bet that the assistant will take you to blue-colored aisles and show you trucks and cars type of toys placed in blue boxes!
Kids’ section of any hypermarket is the best example of gender stereotyping of not only colors but also the activities that a child should do. They adhere to the commonly followed convention – Blue for Boys and Pink for Girls!
Dolls, furniture sets, kitchen sets, bead and jewelry making kits are usually pink in color and conveying that these are meant for girls. Trucks, building blocks, cars and remote-controlled toys are usually packed in blue and are supposedly meant for boys.
But, why is the color blue for boys and pink for girls? Who assigned it? Can’t it be vice-versa? Let’s see how this color convention came into being.
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There is no scientific evidence or proof of psychological studies that boys prefer blue or girls prefer pink over other colors. In the early part of the 20th century, both little boys and girls were dressed identically in white or light-colored clothes. Later, when the demand for gender-specific children’s clothing arose, it was debated on which color should be assigned to which gender.
An article in Ladies’ Home Journal in 1918, mentioned that pink should be for boys and blue for girls. The justification given was that pink being a stronger color will be suitable for boys and blue being a delicate color was suitable for girls.
However, by the mid-20th century, the accepted convention was pink for girls and blue for boys. But the women’s liberation movement in the 60’s and 70’s made these conventions go into hiding. However, the development of prenatal testing in the 80’s brought back these conventions alive!
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Marketers realized that affluent parents were ready to pay for a whole new set of baby products if they could just market them as “For boys” and “For girls”. So, all the baby clothes and products released to the market came out as Pink for Girls and Blue for Boys! And the convention has stuck till now, much to the frustration of many parents who want to avoid gender-stereotyping for their children.
Here, we are not talking about pink and blue as color choices or clothing options. It is about creating demarcated spaces in the minds of boys and girls and stereotyping them according to their gender.
The pink doll houses, the pink kitchen sets, the pink cradles …… all these indicate that women are supposed to cook and look after babies. The toy guns, cars, trucks… all these packed in blue indicates boys are supposed to be aggressive, live an outdoor life and should not be involved in anything domestic.
Why can’t we get a toy gun wrapped in pink? Or a dollhouse in blue? Or a pink color racing car? Or a kitchen set wrapped in blue? We are reaffirming our kids the very same stereotypes, we tried to break. Research has proved that infants/toddlers show no preference to any particular color. However, by the time they are 2 years, they can easily grasp the distinct clothes and colors for boys and girls.
Being easily impressionable, they create a space and set their own limitations. This stereotype is not just for small kids but carries on to adolescence as well. Many adolescent boys are chided if they wear pink.
What about the mental makeup of boys and girls?
Well, there are many who argue that assigning pink for girls and blue for boys is just for indication. And it is nature which has made the girls to be nurturers and caregivers and boys to be protective and ensure survival. So, no doubt girls prefer doll houses and boy prefer cars and trucks, they argue.
In fact, research has shown that women have a higher level of Oxytocin, which is linked to bonding, social connection, and love. But does that really make a man less of a caregiver?
No, much of this thinking is influenced by adults who give cars, guns and toy soldiers to boys, and dolls and kitchen set to girls. Men are no-less caregivers than women and women are no-less protectors than men.
Though the male and female brains are very similar, it differs in how compassion is expressed and experienced. Men usually express it through protecting their families and loved ones while women usually express through feeding, caring etc.
So, the difference in the mental make-up of boys and girls should not be an excuse for us to buy kitchen sets for girls and trucks for boys. Go ahead and buy kitchen sets for your son and buy toy guns for your girls.
For example, I bought trucks and cars for my daughter when she was young. But she never liked playing with them. She is 6 years now and loves playing with her dolls and playing cricket, which is supposed to be a gentleman’s game. I respect her choice in playing cricket or playing with dolls.
My boy cousin loved to play with kitchen sets and never touched cars or trucks, like other boys. My uncle and aunt never stopped him from playing with it. He grew up as good as any other boy in town and went on to get a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering.
A child’s education begins at home! As parents, make your child aware that there is nothing like boy’s tasks or girl’s task. Every person, irrespective of the gender has to learn all the skills… be it cooking, cleaning, earning for the family, being protective of the family etc.
Buy clothes, toys, and products of varied colors for your children. Let your sons know that it is perfectly alright to wear pink, nothing wrong in cooking and absolutely fine to play with dolls. Let your daughters know that there is nothing wrong in choosing guns over dolls, nothing wrong in picking non-pink colored dresses and it’s perfectly alright to play with cars.
Allow your children to choose the color of their clothes and toys. Don’t tag the color and toys with gender. Never let them hear, “You are a boy, don’t play with dolls” or “You are a girl, so wear pink”. Children who are involved in doing all the household tasks and tasks outside the home, grow up to be independent and self-supporting adults. They can easily get adapted to new environments quickly and learn new skills easily.
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