I was on a hunting expedition at Macy’s this weekend, looking for new pajamas for our daughter that didn’t snap open every time she stretched her legs. When I got to the toddler department, it was neatly divided into boys and girls sections, the former being predominantly blue, and the latter being predominantly pink. It took me back to our early debates on what color to paint her room before we knew she was “a her.” We were supposed to color code it to match the gender, but my question then is the same question I have now: Why?
It drives me nuts that everyone just assumes that girls should be wearing pink outfits with princesses and unicorns on them, while boys should be wearing blue outfits with trains and footballs. Where’s the flexibility in that? What if I don’t want my daughter to look like a wad of chewing gum? Why do people talk about how cute “he” is when she’s wearing a blue shirt (or dress!) or look at me funny when I pull out the Guns ‘n’ Roses t-shirt? How did this happen?
Because I’m a nerd, I did a little research on this. No one is sure exactly when the color conventions for children developed, but it looks like it wasn’t until well into the 20th century. In fact, the colors used to be reversed. An issue of Ladies Home Journal from 1918 advised mothers, “There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. 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 pertier for the girl.” (“Pertier?” Did drunk Southern frat boys write for the Journal?) It wasn’t until the 1940’s that the colors we are familiar with today became commonly accepted.
So who are we to do things just because “the man” tells us to? Fight back! Let your daughter wear her Misfits t-shirt with pride! And if you really really really want to dress your son in pink, then go for it. Just tell them it was manly back when we shit in the woods. Who can argue with that?