Raising Trouble: The Pink and Blue Project

Check this website out right now. (Thanks to feminist blogger Jen Moore, who posted this on Facebook.) Artist JeongMee Yoon was inspired to create "The Pink and Blue Project" when her five-year-old daughter only wanted to wear pink, and to play with pink objects. The photos are overwhelming to look at, because of the volume of objects and intensity of color, and the way the individual children are eclipsed.

The relationship between color and gender is established early (even though it is completely culturally manufactured – as JeongMee Yoon notes, in 1914, an American newspaper advised mothers to "use pink for the boy and blue for the girl, if you are a follower of convention." Around World War II, she says, the colors switched.). When my child was a baby, I noticed that people – total strangers -- would get angry if he were dressed in colors that didn't appropriately signal his gender. Really angry! The way you might feel if you saw someone hitting a kid in the produce aisle. It no longer takes a village to enforce this idiocy upon me: earlier this year, Ivan – age four - announced that "pink and purple are girl colors." By then, it had been years since I'd dressed him in any color more daring than yellow or red.

Pink seems more compelling to girls than blue is to boys, though. In fact, the way contemporary girl children are drenched in pink – and their passion for it -- seems remarkable. Anyone have any idea what it's all about?

by Liza Featherstone
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12 Comments Have Been Posted

I've seen this project other

I've seen this project other places - actually, WORN fashion journal did an in depth article about gendering colours and used these pictures, actually. It's really interesting; I think it's in the newest issue - http://www.wornjournal.com/html/worn-fashion-journal-issue-no9/

I read that WORN article

I read that WORN article too, Franny. It's great!

In the recent past, I've

In the recent past, I've been buying purples for girls and boys. Also, in the old days when the sex was unknown, yellow was the choice. Any research on how that shakes out between the sexes?

Good idea. Pink and blue and

Good idea. Pink and blue and similar colors are so cliche. Then there's black for gothic parents.

Pink and blue project

When my son was young, he asked me to paint his nails after watching me paint mine. Shortly after, we were at the playground when another boy noticed my son's red nails. "Look dad," he jeered, "that boy has painted nails."

"That's OK," his dad said nervously, "boys can paint their nails if they want to?"

"Can I paint my nails?" the boy asked with some enthusiasm.

"No," replied the father.

What I noticed is that gender roles are saddled upon boys at a much earlier age. In fact, girls can cross dress (in the west) their entire lives. Boys almost never. And certainly any play dressing pretty much stops after 5 for boys.


Pink for boys

As Yoon points out, up until about WWII, pink was considered too strong a colour for girls, because of its close proximity to red. Blue was thought to be more subdued and thus more appropriate for girls. It's not just that our colour-coding has switched, but our associations with those colours have also shifted - I don't think of pink as a calming colour in the same way that people thought blue was calming/subdued (and thus appropriate for girls). If anything, pink seems to evince a very strong response in girls, but it's more about "girly-ness" than about being subdued and not standing out. I realize that girly-ness would include being submissive, not having a voice, etc., but my sense with pink is that it's about loudly proclaiming that femininity (as opposed to the quiet that blue was meant to represent when it was the colour of choice for girls). There's something very aggressive and in-your-face about the way pink is coded for girls.

As for the pink/blue gender switch, I think it's been most commonly traced to the Nazis and their use of the upside-down pink triangle to mark homosexuals. After that, pink was no longer considered appropriate for boys and it became a girl colour. Which just makes the whole pink marketing for both girls and grown women (breast cancer awareness) just that much creepier.

Pink seems more compelling

<em>Pink seems more compelling to girls than blue is to boys, though. In fact, the way contemporary girl children are drenched in pink – and their passion for it -- seems remarkable.</em>

Is this a personal observation or is there data to support this? Not a snark but an honest question because this has not been my own experience in my almost 8 years of parenting. I have seen an almost equal number of girls in the pink/not-pink club.

The pink/blue thing may also be heavily U.S.-ian, if not North American, since where I am living in Korea right now it is not uncommon to seen boys dressed in pink, even men, because there isn't that dichotomy. I have seen similar trends in Japan. I wonder what it is like in other places. There isn't this insistence that certain fashions or colors are for boys or girls here. I see kids dressed in all different styles and colors here (no insistence that a baby be in gender identifying clothes or whatever), and people presenting and identifying as men wear pink and purple and other "feminine" colors, all the time. It is interesting to consider how it varies culturally.

These pink and blue

These pink and blue categories are precisely why I avoid the horrid gendered toy aisles of stores with my daughter. I encourage clothing/toys in all colors and of all varieties (pref with educational value--books rock!), which do not typically fall into either camp. Let her choose for herself what she wants to play with, think about and look like! It's hard when she gets these pink themes from friends/family all the time. I try to disappear the tackier things (makeup kits, hoochie dolls--puhleez!) and allow a little bit of pink in here and there to allow for variety.
I think the attack of the ubiquitous pink is a psychological conspiracy against girls really...the boys don't have it much better either when you ask them what their experience attempting to fit in is like. It feels so limiting and as a whole species, I think we are ripe for evolution! Who's with me... :)

Why do people get so upset

Why do people get so upset about not being able to determine the sex of a total stranger, especially a child, anyway? Is it really that important if the random kid in the grocery aisle is a girl or boy? Studies have actually been done that indicate adults were unable to figure out the sex of 4-year-olds without clothing cues, to the point where a "cross-dressed" 4-year-old would be confidentally identified by the gender of their clothing. Obviously, this makes perfect sense--prepubescent children don't have secondary sex characteristics and therefore, visual androgyny is perfectly "natural." Honestly, there are very few situations in which it's actually necessary for me to be sure of someone's sex--and pretty much all of them are sexual. I'm reminded of the "controversy" over Kate Hudson refusing to get her son a haircut--she delayed it until 3 for religious reasons, then he told her he didn't want one, so he still has long hair. People get into this big fervor about how she should "make" him get a haircut and "she's letting him be in charge" and "sometimes you have to make kids do things they don't want to do." Well, yeah, but having long hair is not like running into the street or refusing to go to school or even not eating your veggies. *It's not going to hurt you.* Why SHOULDN'T she let a 3-year-old be "in charge" of something as inconsequntial as *his own hair*? Oh, no, he has more dead karatin growing out of his scalp than some girls do! The horror! Even beyond the ridiculousness of gender roles, this is how we end up with kids unable to make any decisions for themselves. If you can't let a child practice their decision-making with something that is, essentially, completely unimportant, do you think it will magically develop at 18 when they have significant decisions to make?

Um, seeing as most small

Um, seeing as most small children don't know the color of their vaginas (it's a lot of work to get a good look at it and they're just starting to master all that dexterity) Perhaps color preference as far as girls like pink and boys like blue is a learned behavior.
My four year-old nephew is already prejudiced. He showed me all his crayon colours and then showed me the pink one, explaining that pink was for girls and he was giving this crayon to his girlfriend.

Pink Boys

My son has loved pink since he was two years old, when he asked for his first pair of pink tennis shoes. Throughout preschool, he wore the princess dress-up costume at school and only wanted to be a princess, fairy, or queen for Halloween. Ages 3-5, he wore dresses to school. Now 8, he wears "boy" clothes, but has long hair that has grown all the way down his back. We talk a lot in our house about how there are lots of different ways to be a boy or a girl. And STILL, my 5-year-old daughter (who is extremely pink and girly, even more so than my son), comes home from school saying things like "pink is for girls" and "that [random kid on the playground] must be a girl; she has long hair." The cultural messages are strong, teaching kids what boys and girls "should" do. But I've learned from my son that our innate sense of gender is stronger than cultural messages. He was going to like pink no matter what the world told him to do. My daughter, too--even though I introduced her to classic "boy" toys as well as "girl" toys, to see what she'd choose.

Sarah Hoffman

great collection - i liked

great collection - i liked blue projects.

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