Most little girl things in stores are pink. Boy things are usually blue. These days, most families I know say they don’t want to force their children into gender roles. When you’re shopping for your baby it can be hard to avoid gender stereotyping, though. Stores overflow with pink gingham dresses and blue shirts, blue trains and pink baby dolls.
So what are your options?
Many people dress babies in the stereotypical colours so others know what gender they are. Until you’ve been out with a baby girl dressed in blue and told a dozen times your little boy is cute you probably underestimate how much you’d like people to know that your girl is a girl. I think it’s something to do with wanting your baby to be more than just another blob. Instead of having just one more squawking bundle of indeterminate gender and debatable merits, you want this baby to be a Person. When someone peeks into the pram and says your girl is a cute girl, she seems to be asserting her Self just a little bit more than if she’s only identifiable as a human, and no more.
But sometimes the colours take on further meaning. Especially pink. Boys can be discouraged from using pink because it’s a girls’ colour. Girls can be discouraged from using pink so as not to be limited to girl colours. What’s wrong with pink? What’s wrong with girl colours? What’s wrong with girls?
If boys and girls are taught from an early age that pink is for girls and that both genders should be slightly ashamed of that, then aren’t we really reinforcing negative associations with girls in general?
I recently went out to buy a drinking cup for a one year old boy. The style I prefer comes in many colours, but the only one left at the store was pink. I wanted to buy it. The kid needed the cup and here it was. But I hesitated for a small moment. I would buy it for my son, had I one. I wanted to force the hand of his parents and just get it, but it felt sort of passive aggressive. I decided to shoot the dad a quick text, querying the pink cup. I had every reason to think he’d be cool with it since he’d never displayed the slightest hint of sexism. But the cup was So pink and his baby’s wardrobe So full of ‘masculine’ blues and greys…. I wasn’t totally sure he wouldn’t prefer blue or green, anything but pink. Gender bias can still lurk in the shadows behind enlightenment.
I knew I’d be disappointed if he had a problem with the pink cup, and, if I needed to, I planned to use the incident to casually introduce and discuss issues of gender stereotyping. The text came right back, telling me that the baby was a “modern man” and we should get that pink cup. I felt especially pleased when baby grasped at it and hugged it the whole way home, clearly oblivious to the small but important role he was playing in modern sexual politics.
- Do you think babies should be dressed in gender identifying clothes? Or should they be specifically avoided?
- What do you think about pink for girls, or pink for boys?
- Do you think colour choice for babies is important?