Pink is for girls and blue is for boys?

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As someone whose dissertation was entitled ‘The Social Construction of Masculinity and Femininity through Fashion and Clothing’ (or something along those lines, it WAS almost 20 years ago) I was intrigued to come across this article in Smithsonian magazine.

These days, when you visit the home of someone with a newborn you can generally deduce whether the baby is a boy or a girl just by looking at the colour of the greeting cards displayed around the house. Similarly, children’s clothing stores are divided along gender lines with rails filled with pink on the girls’ side and blue for the boys. According to the article, however, it was only in the early 20th century that certain colours acquired gender connotations and until the 1940s blue was generally associated with girls while pink was mainly worn by boys.

Some argue that gender specific colours help to perpetuate traditional masculine and feminine stereotypes from the moment a baby is born. In Sweden for instance there is a big and very vocal gender movement, and some daycare nurseries operate a gender neutral policy where children are encouraged to dress against stereotype and are never referred to as ‘he’ or ‘she’. Maybe I’m not looking in the right places, but I have not seen the argument taken to that extent in this country.

I do remember that some people thought it was strange that, as babies, I put both my boys in (navy blue or white, never pink!) tights as they were born in the winter and socks never stayed on for long. Until he was three and a half, my eldest son’s favourite colour was pink but then he started preschool and suddenly decided that it was ‘for girls’.

I have to admit to sitting on the fence of this debate. While I think gender stereotyping can be very damaging, especially in the education system and workplace, I’m not wholly convinced that adopting a gender neutral dress code is the answer. When, after two boys, I had a girl I promptly bought a pink cover for the buggy and I was so excited about finally being able to cross over to the ‘girlie’ side in stores that I didn’t even contemplate dressing her in boys’ clothes (although I probably had enough hand-me-downs to last several years). She often wears jeans or leggings but I’m not sure I would ever pair them with a dinosaur or monster truck T-shirt. Whether this is because I’m a slave to social convention or simply because I myself tend to dress in feminine clothing is open to debate (and I suppose one could argue that the latter is a direct result of the former).

That’s not to say that I expect her to behave like a ‘dainty little girl’. She’s as likely to play with the cars and trains as with the dolls and tea set and I’m hopefully bringing all my children up to believe that, as long as they work hard, they can choose any profession they want. Maybe I’m an idealist, but I don’t think we should have to dress the same in order to be equal.

What do you think? Does it matter whether we dress our children in pink or blue or are we enforcing gender stereotypes by doing this?

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Things that made me smile this week

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Having breakfast out on the terrace in the sun.

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Seeing my two-year-old daughter’s first ever pair of Converse (pink of course!) next to mine

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Checking the weather forecast on my phone in the morning and being greeted by this! Not exactly a heatwave but a vast improvement on last month.

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Finally fitting into my favourite pre-pregnancy jeans, one month before my last baby turns three!

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My little princess in the gold crown she made at playgroup this week

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Having tickets to go and see The Great Gatsby at the cinema tonight with a friend. Spending a couple of hours being transported to the glamorous 1920s in the company of Leonardo Di Caprio will be a fine end to a busy week.

Patience is a Virtue (that I do not possess..)

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They say that practice makes perfect and, while I’m certainly not an accomplished gardener or photographer, I love learning (probably the reason why I have two degrees and a postgraduate diploma – staying in full-time education was much more appealing than getting an actual job!). My downfall, however, is my lack of patience – I want to do everything now and fast. But sometimes, especially when you’re doing something new, it’s better to take your time, think about it and have it all mapped out in your head before you actually do it.

Take these flowers I planted today which go by the rather impossible name of Osteospermum. I saw them in the garden centre and was drawn to them because they look like daisies which are my favourite flowers. Knowing I had an empty pot at home, I bought four and rushed home to plant them only to realise that I didn’t have enough compost so back to the garden centre I went to buy some more. Then, instead of waiting until this evening when I would have more time, I just had to plant them straight away even though I only had half an hour until school pick up time. I think they turned out OK but I can’t help thinking that if I had spent more time on the preparation and planting, the end result would have been prettier.

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Both photography and gardening are skills that require patience and a steady approach, stopping to think about the composition of a photograph before you press the button or making sure the flowers are positioned correctly before adding the layer of top soil. I think if I could just slow down I would enjoy it more and as a result improve my skills faster. I’m impatient by nature and it’s an aspect of my personality that has been honed by years of working in a fast-paced newsroom where the next deadline was always looming. Perhaps if I could teach myself to slow down that would the greatest lesson of them all.

I had lunch at the garden centre with the loveliest companion.

I had lunch at the garden centre with the loveliest companion.