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Pink, Blue & You: Whats With The Gendered Lens?

Did you know that blue was once considered a colour for girls, being seen as more delicate, while pink was associated with boys due to its perceived strength? This norm persisted until the 1940s and 1950s when significant advertising campaigns promoted pink exclusively as a feminine colour for girls.

Originally, babies were often dressed in white attire. This choice was practical, simplifying the process of changing nappies and diapers. The choice of white aided stain removal, helped with the use of bleach. It was also much harder to wash colourful clothes for children as dyes were more often than not still running in the wash making it quite impractical to have colourful clothing for children.

Subsequently, pastel shades became linked with babies, gaining prominence throughout the 19th century due to their soft and soothing tones. While pink and blue emerged, their association with gender hadn't yet solidified. Instead, blue was thought to compliment blue eyes, while pink suited brown eyes. Additionally, pink was believed to compliment the hair colour of brunettes, while blue was seen as a match for blonde hair.

Ladies' Home Journal article in June 1918 said, "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 colour, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl."

In 1927, Time magazine featured a chart detailing the recommended colours for boys and girls as endorsed by prominent U.S. retailers who backed up the theory that pink was more dominant and blue was delicate.

During World War II women were entering the workforce due to the men being away at war. Once the war was over however, women were forced back into the homemaker role. Rather than having the opportunity to remain in the workforce or seek new employment there was a societal push for women to remain home and help raise the next generation. The era of baby boomers, the post war boom of children. Marriage rates and birth rates rose high following the end of the war. It was during this era that the script was flipped to the assignment of pink to girls and blue to boys, a practice ingrained in the upbringing of the Baby Boomer generation. Leatrice Eiseman, a specialist in analysing colours states that red was the inspiration for the assignment of pink, however at first it was assigned to boys due to red being considered a strong colour. During the rise of capitalism post World War II the colour pink was pushed to consumers as a girly colour. However, this narrative experienced further developments. Some say that pink was reattributed to girls due to its resemblance to red, a romantic colour associated with the perceived emotional nature of women. The late '60s and '70s witnessed a surge in gender-neutral baby attire, influenced by the women's liberation movement. Yet, the mid-'80s saw the resurgence of pink and blue, coinciding with the advent of prenatal testing. Expectant parents, armed with knowledge about their baby's gender, began adorning nurseries in hues deemed "suitable." Manufacturers and retailers capitalised on and strategically exploited this and helped further enforce the binary use of colour. Under capitalism it also emphasised the heavy boom of industries such as fast fashion, pushing unethical and excessive consumerism.

As these colours became increasingly tied to gender, they began to reinforce harmful stereotypes and societal expectations. Associating masculinity with wearing blue and femininity with wearing pink perpetuates limiting notions. Labelling males who wear pink as effeminate (which shouldn't inherently be considered negative) leads down a troubling path. This mirrors the gender bias narratives promoted by the patriarchy, such as portraying men who express emotions as weak and women as overly emotional.

In recent times, the phenomenon of "Gender Reveal Parties" has amplified the notion of "pink for girls, blue for boys." While parents have progressively injected creativity into their reveals, pink and blue have endured as the predominant colours employed to signify the gender of their impending bundles of joy.

In recent years many are reclaiming the colour pink as a symbol of feminine strength. Pink was also demonised through homophobic theories associating it with homosexuality. Notably during World War II when homosexuals were forced to don a pink triangle to publicly out them and shame them. The LGBTQIA+ community have over the years reclaimed the symbol. It is interesting to see that this colour was demonised during World War II and then post War it was assigned to Women.

Engaging in discussions about gender identity and comprehending the intricacies of identities, we appear to be regressing by promoting these two colours as representative symbols that reinforce the male and female binary. Once again, this represents an intersection of capitalism and the imposition of gender stereotypes, especially during periods of societal advancement regarding concepts of gender and sexuality. Those who resist progress and reform are often the ones responsible for perpetuating this.


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