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Pink for Girls and Blue for Boys…

Pink for girls blue for boys

Be warned…this topic makes my blood boil!

One of my personal pet hates, is when people think that in order to market their products or services to women, they just need to ‘paint it pink’. Seriously? How naïve, insulting and downright lazy is that? Sorry – I did warn you! Don’t worry, I’ll stop this rant before it goes any further…

So, where did this situation come from? How did we end up with such a strong association between girls and the colour pink, and boys and the colour blue?

I want to ask you a question first. How far back do you think the pairing we have now, i.e. pink is traditionally for girls, and blue is traditionally for boys, dates? Do you think it was the case 50 years ago? 100? 250? When do you think this really took hold?

Well, the answer may surprise you.

You see, in Western cultures, the development of gender biasing when dressing children is a relatively recent thing. Within about the last 100 years in fact. Prior to that, children of both genders would be dressed predominantly in white dresses. This was far more convenient and practical than having specific sets of clothes for either gender, as white could always be bleached to remove stains and marks as it was passed down through the siblings.

There is an urban legend, that initially, boys were associated with the colour pink and girls with the colour blue. However, there is very little evidential basis for this in historical documents. That is, with the exception of a quote from the June 1918 edition of a trade publication for baby clothes manufacturers – Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department:

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 color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”

However, this did not seem to be applied by many within the industry. In 1927, research into baby clothes departments showed that colour associations were once again completely open and mixed.

So, it was about 1940 that things started to change. And even then, the road was not smooth – during the 1960s and 1970s Womens’ Liberation Movements once again increased the appearance of gender neutral clothing.

The recent mania we seem to have in our children’s clothing, toys, furnishings and lives began as recently as the 1980s, and it appears to be totally arbitrary. There is no genetic preference which can be determined in young children, no consistency in cross-cultural studies, and no basis to the differentiation outside of cultural influences. So, this is a man-made issue we have made for ourselves.

Please, can we therefore choose to be grown-up about this and not carry the same approaches into adulthood? Pink razors, Bic pens or car insurance…what are they actually doing? Trying to make us feel like a child again? More like trying to use differentiation to justify ludicrously inflated prices.

I think I can feel another tantrum coming on…