It’s easy to find out the difference between a girl’s and a boy’s section when you enter a shopping complex. Since time immemorial, it has been predefined that pink is for girls while blue is for boys. Even the parents have restricted themselves with this idea and therefore seem to hold an enticing appeal. Get on to an app, and they will expect you to ‘sort’ your choices. What’s wrong with us? Is this is really how we should be? Why is our mind so stuck with blue vs pink?
But wait a minute. Agree that it should not be preordained that girls must prefer pink. But for those who love pink, should we really criticise them?
WHAT DOES HISTORY TELL US
Well, if we really turn the pages in history, we would find that pink was just like any other colour which was worn by both men and women equally. Many studies have been conducted wherein the colour difference varies with different age groups.
Colour symbolism till today is highly cultural specific. Different cultures have their own norms of specifying colour. For example, white is considered a symbol of mourning in Japan whereas in US, it is black. Pink till 18th century had no such connotations. It was after 1900, that the wave of gender distinction in clothing started taking a leap.
Turn the pages in history, we would find that pink was just like any other colour which was worn by both men and women equally
Pink had become the most popular colour in Europe by late 18th century. It used to be symbolized with seduction and romanticism. Later in 20th century pink became bolder and emphatic. In Nazi Germany, inmates of Nazi concentration camps who were accused of homosexuality were forced to wear pink clothes. This in modern day has become a symbol of gay rights movement.
PINK WAS FOR BOYS
Thinking pink of a girlish colour is the post-world war II phenomenon. Roughly from 1900 till 1940s, gender distinction on clothing seemed to have grown. Later from 1940s till 1980s, there were still some colour differences but not completely so. Pink became an option for girls. Infact pink and blue complimented each other during the birthday parties of children, baby toys etc. for both boys and girls. Since 1980s, things started to change. Pink started turning out to be a feminist colour. The concept started becoming so strong that if a boy was found wearing something in pink, it was considered an act of non-cooperation or personal expression beyond pleasing. This trend automatically phased out the option of other colours for girls.
Eventually, pink was adopted by many manufacturers and retailers for their children products which are still prevalent today.
So it is basically the cultural norms which shape one’s colour preferences. In cultures where pink is considered to be for only girls, babies and children right from childhood are accustomed to spend time in wearing and being surrounded by that particular colour.
When asked to a 10 year old girl about her favourite colour, she says,” My favourite colour is pink. I have many dresses in pink; even I have a pink school bag with a photo of Barbie on it.”
PINK IS FOR THE STRONG
But you will be surprised to know that a century ago even the boys used to be dressed in pink and the association of colour pink with girls is just a recent phenomenon. Pink is often used as a symbol for breast cancer campaigns these days. The colour pink is used as a symbol for women empowerment.
According to a sample survey which was conducted among young girls and boys between the age group of 18 to 25, surprising connotations came into notice. Girls who were in their first year of graduation still prefer pinky pink as a matter of pride and fashion to them.
A 19 year old girl Ishika Baluni who is a first year student of fine arts says,” Since childhood I was more fascinated towards pink colour. In my every birthday, my mother used to gift me either pink dress or pink Barbie dolls. And since then I got used to pink stuff. It’s not that I often wear pink clothes but I like wearing pink and it even suits me.”
In a sample survey, three out of five girls within the age group of 18 to 20 prefer pink invariably.
But this does not actually hold true in case of working women between the age group of 23 to 25. Neha Singh, 24 who is a working woman says,” I wear whichever colour suits me. I don’t have a specific choice of colour when it comes to wearing formals or informal. Even in my office all boys and girls wear all types of colours. There are no gender colour differences. We prefer wearing black and white which is equally worn by men and women in our office.”
PINK PERPETUATES STEREOTYPES?
Sukriti Ojha, 23 who is also working in a media company, reacts firmly when asked about her opinion on wearing pink. She says,” Almost always, a woman’s dislike for pink is not the colour ‘pink’ rather for the stereotyped ‘girlish colour’. The question that irks me however is that blue is stereotyped as a colour for boys but there doesn’t seem to be a similar behaviour towards blue from our male counterparts. It is a fear that we are not able to free ourselves from.”
The question that irks me however is that blue is stereotyped as a colour for boys but there doesn’t seem to be a similar behaviour towards blue from our male counterparts.
Now what happens when men position themselves in the pink side of the gamut? We tend to assume that they are signalling their sexual or gender identity which means rendering his homosexuality with the well-known logic of boys who like ‘boys’ are basically girls. Is it?
Ashu Kulasri who is a graduate has a very different opinion on this stereotyped culture of making pink so unsophisticated. He says,” What’s there with pink, I don’t consider it a feminine colour. Even I wear pink shirts; ties and I don’t feel uncomfortable wearing it. Though many boys do consider pink as a girlish colour but that’s not the case with every guy today.”
Nisha Baluni, a mother of a four year old girl loves to dress her daughter with different shades of pink dresses. She says,” Even my daughter likes pink colour. Since her birth I love to dress up her with all sorts of dresses and accessories. She demands pink balloon, pink shoes, pink clips, bands and what not. I think pink colour is for girls and they look much prettier when they wear pink. Even my favourite colour is pink.”
To me, there is a deep stereotype in believing that pink reflects ‘chickish’ or womanish. We should be perfectly okay wearing pink and proudly so. And I would say this about all colours. Gender colour coding today widens the gap between the two sexes. Before a little human being is even born and still developing sense to identify colours and make a choice, it gets colour coded.
Picture Credit: Infinity Mag