Rose Azure, meet Celestino Pink.
February 12, 2008 5:15 PM   Subscribe

Girls are pink, boys are blue. Always have been, always will be. (Or not?) (via)
posted by progosk (43 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Given how girls are absolutely drowned in pink from the moment they're born, the Shoots paper is not at all surprising.

posted by Zinger at 5:27 PM on February 12, 2008

I'm actually the color of bad mayonaisse or dirty snow, myself.
posted by jonmc at 5:29 PM on February 12, 2008

China differs from the west significantly on the Red v. Blue gender coding? Even still, the study seems thin (and the rest is pretty dross). Anyone got a more detailed read on it?
posted by klangklangston at 5:31 PM on February 12, 2008

Elvis started out with pink and black as his trademark colors.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:41 PM on February 12, 2008

As a little girl, I HATED pink. And rainbows. And hearts. And unicorns. All I could say about them was "Blecccch."
posted by miss lynnster at 5:51 PM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Purple was okay though. And I liked puppies a lot.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:52 PM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'm not a big fan of color in general, if I could I'd make myself look like a black-and-white photograph.
posted by jonmc at 5:54 PM on February 12, 2008

All I can say is that we avoided pink like the plague when buying stuff before our daughter was born. We ended up with a blue-and-yellow color scheme for her room and bought no pink clothing. We discouraged our families from buying pink, too.

But as soon as she was old enough to start making simple choices for herself, probably by the time she was two, she started focusing on pink as her preferred color and never looked back.
posted by briank at 6:03 PM on February 12, 2008

Posts where you have to click and read 5+ individual links really annoy me.
posted by fraxil at 6:07 PM on February 12, 2008 [4 favorites]

What color do you get if you mix pink and blue together?
posted by Dizzy at 6:10 PM on February 12, 2008

fraxil: What makes you think you have to read them? Just say something slightly related to what you think the post is about!

I'm a boy and I like blue!
posted by ODiV at 6:16 PM on February 12, 2008

"I HATE the color pink. This catalog is reinforcing too many stereotypes, Ms. Cooley, and we need to do something about it!"
There is no way that a normal fourth-grader said that.
posted by JDHarper at 6:31 PM on February 12, 2008

No wonder MetaFilter is a boyzone.
posted by brain_drain at 6:41 PM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

There is no way that a normal fourth-grader said that.

Eh... The teacher explains in the article that she's covered stereotype stuff in the class, like readings of and discussion about books about boys who want to play with dolls and dance. It's not that surprising that a fourth-grader (that's what, 10?) would say something like that after she's been learning about the reinforcement of stereotypes in class.
posted by CKmtl at 6:55 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

No wonder MetaFilter is a boyzone.

Only on the blue.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:02 PM on February 12, 2008

Sometimes I wear a blue shirt, but other times I wear a pink shirt. Never really thought of myself a genderbender, but so it goes.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:02 PM on February 12, 2008

I... I'm not sure what I can say about this one. :-(
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:08 PM on February 12, 2008 [8 favorites]

A century ago Pink was the color for boys.
posted by oddman at 7:21 PM on February 12, 2008

I have two young sons. They loved Dora the Explorer because of the problem solving it offered at their level. They also had a friend, a girl, who liked Spiderman and dressed up as Spiderman on Halloween.

Then one day we brought them into Toys R'Us. One section of the store was almost entirely pink. It had dolls, kitchens, make-up toys, and Dora the Explorer. The other section had cars, planes, robots, toy tools, and Spiderman. They were being told something very loudly and they heard it. It is the same thing with commercials directed toward children. The best you can do is try to explain what is going on. They actually understand when you explain it (kids are a lot smarter than we think--they just don't know much--until you teach them).

There are probably some genetic predispositions, but the simple-minded marketing types take this and amplify and distort it 1000% and we end up with certain colors 'belonging' to boys or girls.
posted by eye of newt at 8:03 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Always have been, always will be.

Not true, as discussed in oddman's link above, the "been" link from the FPP, and this interesting Bad Science article from The Gaurdian.
posted by ssg at 8:06 PM on February 12, 2008

Well, boys are pink, too, but only on specific parts of the boy.

I'm pretty sure that most boys, like most humans, are brown.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:10 PM on February 12, 2008

Does that mean Mefi is boys only?
posted by jeblis at 9:58 PM on February 12, 2008

Always have been, always will be.

Not true, as discussed in oddman's link above

Thanks for the fine link, ssg. Personally, I have no patience for the "evolutionary" hypothesis, and am all with eye of the newt. I thought Jeongmee Yoon's photos really capture the alarming pervasiveness of this conditioning; while the actual colours may have been different at other times, it's the extent to which kids are now subscribing to the stereotype that's striking.
posted by progosk at 10:16 PM on February 12, 2008

Generally, what it seems we're locked into: market-savvy toy&clothes manufacturers playing into the gender-anxious hands of parents pandering to identity-challenged youngsters, as teachers stem the tide.
posted by progosk at 11:22 PM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

I have never liked the color pink very much. I can't really say why.

I dressed my daughter in my son's outgrown clothes when she was born. I had known from ultrasound that I would be having a boy the first time; that's how we ended up with anything but white, yellow, and green for him. Still, most infant clothing is very neutral.

As soon as she could have any opinion of her own, she chose that awful pepto-pink as her favorite color EVAR. That and Barbie pink still remain her favorite colors at the age of 9. She totally loves mixing pink and red. I am totally nauseated by that, and that's still what I let her choose for the most part, when I don't say something like , "Honey, those things just don't go well together."

My boy likes red, black, blue, and yellow. Oh, and anything with a camouflage pattern.

I like green, orange, and purple, but not together for clothes mostly, except for one lovely plaid flannel shirt. That shirt is also very warm and soft. :)

We have an eclectic household.
posted by lilywing13 at 11:43 PM on February 12, 2008

This is the kind of thing that should be getting evo-psychs laughed out of the room everywhere. They took a bunch of ADULTS and asked them which colors they PREFERED. These were people who were fully socialized. There was no control for social conditioning at all. No cross cultural analysis. No isolations of causes = not science, period. I predict that similar tests will indicate that males have a biologically based preference for martial arts movies, and that females are evolutionarily designed to seek out shoes.

Is there even any evidence that berry gathering is a significantly sexually stratified activity in hunter-gatherer societies?
posted by TigerCrane at 11:58 PM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

As a little girl I completely rejected anything pink and anything Barbie as well. I'm not really sure where I got that from - whether I was trying to be non-conformist at 6, or whether there was some other outside influence which I can't recall at this moment.
posted by Quidam at 11:59 PM on February 12, 2008

As a little girl I didn't like pink at all either (thought it was for babies) and I didn't play with dolls or Barbies. I liked purple or blue, I adored all my stuffed animals and I wanted to be a spy, just like Emma Peel.
posted by tula at 12:14 AM on February 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

progosk writes "playing into the gender-anxious hands of parents"

Ehehe so true !

He must play football and stay with the guys otherwise he'll become a fag . A FAG, do you understand, Brittany ? You want your son a fag ?
posted by elpapacito at 1:33 AM on February 13, 2008

(Oh, and: "Pink".)
posted by progosk at 3:18 AM on February 13, 2008

As I understood it Pink/Blue was on the same axis that the whole Sun = masculine / Moon = feminine thing was on.

To answer your question TigerCrane, a friend of mine was reading a translation of one of Cabeza de Vaca's books and told me something you don't hear about when they tell you that hunter-gatherers only work a handful of hours a day. Apparently many of the peoples he stayed with while trying to get to Mexico City were hunter gatherers and lived a monocrop existence. Everybody hunted and gathered whatever the current foodstuff was because that was it. In a few weeks it changed to the next foodstuff because that would be it.

Even if berry gathering were that sexually stratified, what berries are pink when not mixed with vanilla ice cream and FD&C Red #4?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:58 AM on February 13, 2008

My sister dresses her one-year old baby girl in pink, simply because the kid looks like a boy if you dress her in blue. She's sick to death of people coming up to her and saying, "oh, what a cute boy", and having to say, "Thanks! Her name's Sabrina."
posted by LN at 5:41 AM on February 13, 2008

Let's not get caught up in a race/gender thing. We're all pink on the inside.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:30 AM on February 13, 2008

The pink/blue gender attribution was an early twentieth century invention. Previous to that pink was a masculine color.
posted by JJ86 at 6:52 AM on February 13, 2008

My sister dresses her one-year old baby girl in pink, simply because the kid looks like a boy if you dress her in blue.

I know what you mean, and if you think about it, it's weird that we (we being those interacting with babies) bother trying to identify a baby's sex at all. For all social purposes, there's no difference between a girl baby and a boy baby. Same with dogs- it bugs me when someone refers to my female dog as a boy, and then I think, why do I care? Why does it even matter? But it does, somehow.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:17 AM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

know what you mean, and if you think about it, it's weird that we (we being those interacting with babies) bother trying to identify a baby's sex at all. For all social purposes, there's no difference between a girl baby and a boy baby.

Agreed. Sigh. But now, we must sexualize the children and start projecting adult neuroses upon them immediately, then wring our hands when they "grow up too faaaast!"

On the Catholic side of my family, the boys were still put in long frilly gowns for christening through the '70s -- a vestige of gender of infants being not particularly relevant (except regarding diaper-changing technique, of course.)

My niece was one of those girls who loved loved loved pink pink pink to the chagrin of her mother. She grew out of it when she was about 11, at which point she broke with her sparkly pink past and carefully explained that she now preferred more muted colors. And that her socks were, in fact, rose. Moms of pepto-pink-loving girls, don't despair.

The pseudo-science in that third link is just astounding. Lots of "suggests" very little actual link. "When the two scientists compared the colour preferences of the white British participants with the men and women brought up in China, the same sex differences emerged, with Chinese females again showing a clear preference for pink. This suggests that, whatever is the underlying explanation for the differences in colour preferences between men and women, it seems to be biological rather than cultural, Dr Hurlbert said." Human vision is trichromatic, meaning that we have three colour-sensitive pigments in our eyes - like chimps, gorillas and other apes. Biologists believe trichromatic vision in primates came about as a result of the need to distinguish ripened fruit, as well as young, nutritious leaves, in a forest canopy. However, early human societies almost certainly engaged in a division of labour between the sexes, with men travelling long distances to hunt wild game. Women, meanwhile, foraged locally for fruit and berries.

Their assertions are quite a leap. A preference among adult females for reddish tones being possibly connected to a genetic superiority for hunting for berries is pretty weak. (And wouldn't be much help when harvesting grain, eh?) That trichromatic vision would also permit men to identify healthier animals, no? What use is a stronger predilection toward blue while hunting?
posted by desuetude at 9:31 AM on February 13, 2008

I had some pink Polo shirts in the 80's. :)
posted by tadellin at 9:33 AM on February 13, 2008

Yeah, if these auto-preference tests showed a genetic inclination, wouldn't that mean that the auto-preference racism tests show a genetic disposition against black people in the majority of the population?

As an aside—anyone know what made the colors swap for boys/girls?
posted by klangklangston at 9:53 AM on February 13, 2008

klangklangston, I'm talking totally out of my arse here, but it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest to find out that the gnder/colour switch sometime in the early 20th century was as a result of commerce and marketing.

Some business somewhere, probably in the states, decided that blue was a boy's colour because blue denim pants and coveralls were the outfit of choice for occupations requiring hard physical labour, such as gold rush miner (the origin of levis, after all), cowboys, and workmen of all stripes.

And, of course, we girls couldn't do hard physical labour, after all, we're delicate little flowers, like, oh, I don't know, roses.
posted by LN at 11:27 AM on February 13, 2008

whoops. Gender/colour switch.
posted by LN at 11:28 AM on February 13, 2008

klangklangston: The only suggestion I've ever read is that the colour switch had something to do with the use of blue for men's uniforms, but it seems like there would be more to it than that. For example, from the "been" link:After WWI, blue was used extensively for men's uniforms. Therefore, blue became associated as more of a masculine color.

LN: Interesting thought about roses. I wonder when roses became a symbol of delicacy and all that, because they certainly didn't always have those connotations (e.g. the War of the Roses).

desuetude: Have a look at the link I posted earlier in the thread. You can see the actual data for those born in China: not only is the sample size only 37 subjects, but the actual difference they observed was very small. Looking at the two charts in that article, it is pretty hard not to laugh at the claim that the underlying mechanism is biological.
posted by ssg at 6:33 PM on February 13, 2008

I was totally prepared for the societal pink thing, but not so ready for my mother-in-law's support of it. Then, age 11-12, my daughter started dressing all in black with studs. I couldn't decide whether it was an improvement. Now, her room is bile/apple green and the colour glows out the door with the light from the setting sun, leaving me to imagine some sort of radioactive treasure is hidden under her bed.

Pink is not forever.
posted by b33j at 8:14 PM on February 13, 2008

I have a deep love for bold, aggressive pinks (PAAANKS, I call them), and a disgusted reaction to pale pink, except in food. Most of the girls I know favor a particular warm shade above other colors: one friend is all about purple and plum but always with gray or black, and another loves burgundy. Color theory can say a lot more about us than just our gender.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:14 PM on February 22, 2008

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