Why can’t boys wear pink?
Because they’re not treated the same as girls who wear blue.
When it comes to gender, not all colors are created equal. As we all know, pink is the chosen color for girls and blue for boys. They’re colors set in stone by decades of cultural stereotyping and gender-based, pink-blue marketing. And it’s not changing anytime soon.
History tells us it wasn’t always the case. In many parts of Europe, blue was considered a feminine color as it was associated with the Virgin Mary. It was not uncommon to find girls in blue dresses in parts of Switzerland, Belgium, Ireland and Germany.
In fact, in parts of South Asia, the school uniform at many Catholic schools for girls is still blue.
Then how did something as impartial as color get mixed up with gender?
Gender marketing in the 20th century introduced gender segmentation to kids’ products to sell more. Every conceivable product for children — diapers, bibs, sippy cups, dresses, crib sheets, and toys — was sold in varying shades of pink or blue.
People began shopping in blue and pink aisles which, over time became the socially accepted ‘boy and girl colors’ respectively. The scales were tipped in favor of gender color-coding.
At a co-ed soccer practice for preschoolers not too long ago, the coach’s daughter passed my son a soccer ball, which she took back in under a second.
“Oh, that’s a pink ball. Give it back.” Then quickly exchanged it for a white one.
Sadly, boys carry the ‘pink for girls’ stigma well into their teens and adult life. How often, if at all, do we see teenage boys in pink sneakers or using candy floss iPhone cases? It’s not so uncommon to see young girls in blue flip-flops or teal sweaters, however.
Though marketers are trying to be more gender-neutral while selling products, I think we’re not ready yet. By “we”, I mean “me”, and parents like myself who fear ridicule — we worry our kids will be bullied in school over their choice of color.
We do not want to make life harder for them than it already is. Every time, we pick out a powder blue shirt at the store or choose a pair of black sneakers, we’re implicitly sending out signals…