Gender stereotypes of pink and blue

pink vs blueToday I ran across this article from Brain Pickings about the Pink and Blue Projects by Korean artist JeongMee Yoon. The project is stunning.

Sure, Adelaide likes pink. When asked a few weeks ago, she told me pink was her favorite color. (Hey, why not? It is a pretty color.) I don’t mind her having pink clothes and toys. However, I hate that when I looked up kids umbrellas on Amazon the other day, the pink one with owls on it was labeled a “girls umbrella” while the blue one with monkeys was a “boys umbrella.” Why can’t my kid have the blue one? She likes monkeys. The fact that the blue umbrella is in some way better for boys is just absurd.

Yoon’s website says of her research, “Pink was once a color associated with masculinity, considered to be a watered down red and held the power associated with that color. In 1914, The Sunday Sentinel, an American newspaper, advised mothers to ‘use pink for the boy and blue for the girl, if you are a follower of convention.’ The change to pink for girls and blue for boys happened in America and elsewhere only after World War II.”

And we apparently took it too far. Encouraging girls to wear pink and recognizing that it didn’t have to be just a boy’s color has completely been overcompensated to the point where we’ve just reversed the stereotypes completely instead of eradicating any superficial connection to gender.

So, should I discourage Adelaide from having pink toys and toys obviously marketed at girls? Last week my sister called concerned that the doctor’s kit she found as a Christmas gift is Doc McStuffins pink and sparkly medical bag. Should I tell my sister, yes, please find a sterile white doctor’s playkit if you can? I don’t know. Playing with fairies and pretending to be a princess is fun. I don’t want to say my daughter (or son) can’t do those things. I think a big part of the solution is being self aware of how much gender stereotyped marketing is around us. And, as a parent, try to see it for what it is and not buying into it (it’s too hard for the kids, but perhaps as adults we can set a good example and start conversations early). I know we all have gender stereotypes engrained in us, even if it’s subconscious. As the mother of a female toddler, I want to be sure to encouraging the trucks, super heroes and carpentry gear that’s marketed toward boys and maybe pick the purple stroller instead of the pink one.

How have you handled gender stereotyping in your home? Has gender marketing affected you or your child?

 

UPDATE: I just read another blog post on this subject called, “‘Gender neutral’ not exactly what I’m going for….” Well said, Margot Magowan.

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  1. Life with Kaishon’s avatar

    I always let my kid play with whatever toys he wanted to : ). I think people have been doing the pink and blue thing since the beginning of time. Life is too short for me to stress over something like that! I hope you get her the sparkly medicine bag, that sounds way more appealing than the white one. Good luck!

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    1. nextlifechapter’s avatar

      Funny you should say that. My sister did end up buying the sparkly medicine bag for my daughter for Christmas. She didn’t have a problem with the sparkles. She liked the sparkles. She just wished it would be sparkly and any other color but pink.

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    2. Lindsey @ Sisterstosons.com’s avatar

      I agree! I have 3 boys and about 1 pink toy in my house… I also have one pink cup and my 4 year old always teases my 2 year old when he uses the pink cup. I have no clue where this message comes from…. but then again I do…..

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    3. Gina Badalaty’s avatar

      I have 2 girls, and they’ve always gotten whatever – girl toys, boys toys, I don’t care. But thinking on it, one has a partially pink room (Dora theme and we’ve not updated), but I really DON’T have a ton pink things! Just as much as any other color toys :)

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      1. nextlifechapter’s avatar

        Yes, when I was pregnant we painted our daughter’s room blue, even after we found out we were having a girl. I think one problem is that many (most?) parents don’t care, but the toy companies continue to manufacture toys in those stereotypical colors.

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      2. Carrie’s avatar

        At first I tried hard not to have pink toys for my daughter, and just gave her what I thought she’d like. Once she had a preference, she naturally gravitated towards pink– and much to my chagrin it’s now her favorite color. So we simply embrace it!

        And while my son loves blue, he often chooses things that are pink because I think he wants to be like his big sister. We go with the flow around here. 😉

        Reply

        1. nextlifechapter’s avatar

          Yes, I think “going with the flow” is a good way to be. But it still irks me that so many blue toys are marketed toward boys and so many “girls” toys are pink.

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        2. MCris’s avatar

          Hi! I live in Southern Brazil, so I guess we can say the ‘pink wave’–as well as the blue one– has reached distant shores. A couple of years ago, my daughters (who are in their twenties now) and I used to play a game when we went to the shopping mall during the weekend. We called it “Little Girl in Pink”. It consisted in counting all the girls below, say, 10 years-old that we saw and ‘classifying’ them in one of two groups: (1) at least one pink piece of clothing or accessory; (2) wearing no pink at all. Scores were an average 32 to 4 before we grew tired of counting. We no longer play this game, but I’m still on the lookout for a boy in pink. I suspect they are as rare as any endangered species and should be cherished!

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          1. nextlifechapter’s avatar

            MCris,
            Haha. That game sounds like an interesting way to pass the time! I think the scores would be very similar here.

            Reply

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