Last week when I went shopping for clothes for my 2-year-old nephew, I ended up not buying cute little T-shirts like I had imagined, but rather running away in fear of the dreaded pink and blue Monster that seems to have gotten a firm hold of especially children’s clothing stores. This particular store, literally split in half to girls and boys sections, into the pinks and blues, felt to me like a nightmarish world for stereotypical passive, pink, cute girls and the active, brave, adventurous boys.
Fast forward a couple of days, I entered a store owned by the same company that owns Victoria’s Secret, PINK, which by its very name makes me wonder about our obsession with color and why pink seems to have such a special role in the upbringing and adulthood of 21st century women. Are we as a culture obsessed by color and its meaning in general?
The practice of separating children’s gender by color originates from French orphanages where children were marked with pink and blue, according to their gender. Pink for girls, and blue for boys.
Historically however, red has been a color of power and high birth, majesty, danger, and strength – all qualities that have been considered masculine. Just picture the traditional image we have of a king, usually depicted in a fur-lined red cape. Often high-ranking uniforms are still red: Roman Catholic cardinals wear red, as do the Canadian Mounted Police and the British Army.
According to an 1918 article in Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department: “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.” Blue was also the color of Virgin Mary and hence better suited for girls.
The different shades of pink; the baby pinks and the fuchsias, are colors that imply youth, virginity and beauty. Pink lips, fair skin, our ideals of traditional beauty and roses and romantic love.
In the course of human history, we have certainly seen both sides of the coin (or in this case, the color wheel) and to be clear, my issue is not really with any single color: It is with the obsession we have on these colors in today’s society and shopping culture.
Perhaps we could try to change our attitudes toward color and forget the color divisions, especially in how we decorate children’s shops. It is would foolish to claim that these extreme divisions in color don’t have any effect on a more profound level in how we treat boys and girls.
When it comes to those stores that are painted floor to ceiling pink and targeted for women in my age group, I do feel like I must have missed something about being a woman. And as a girl who loved wearing blue dresses and played with both cars and dolls, I do like pink. Really.