Monday, April 4, 2011

Boy Colors?

Boy colors, at last by whatstepheats
Boy colors, at last, a photo by whatstepheats on Flickr.

Last week I ordered binkies from The ones I picked were billed as: 'boy colors: colors may vary'.
I received one pink and one purple. My Western-conditioned mind reflexively reacted, "how are these boy colors?".

The incident has got me thinking.

The link between gender and color symbolism is fascinating to me. According to what little I've been able to find out, in the early 20th century color and gender were dissociate. It was only around the 20's that pink became the masculine color (likely because it was close to the strong, distinctive, fiery red) and blue the feminine (the Virgin Mary, and blue for whatever reason was considered the fairer and more delicate shade). Since then, obviously, they have been inverted.

This whole color thing is amplified in the US, as most everything is.

Then it struck me - grown men can wear purple and pink with little, if any, consequence. Is it simply because a baby can appear to be either a boy or a girl sans clothing, and color is all we have to go by?

More confusing is the issue of why the change happened, and why so abruptly.
From what I can tell, some factors may be that the pink triangle was used to mark homosexuals by Hitler. Was this cause, effect, or neither?
WWII in the 40's involved blue navy uniforms for men. Was that part of the equation?
The switch did seem to happen in the years surrounding WWII. Perhaps the woman who had been filling the 'man's place' in the factory switched her role to the 'happy housewife', and took her working man's strong red-related pink with her?

Whatever the truth may be, I can personally testify that in Italy several years ago the colors were reversed, much to my embarrassment. While at a small, family run restaurant in a rather remote area of Tuscany, I ducked into the bathroom bearing a pink plaque. As I exited, a small Italian boy was laughing, shouting, and pointing his finger at me! I had made the wrong choice. Pink was for guys, and this little fellow had to go! (The ugly American skulked back to her table...)

I can only say that to me, color is color. I love them all. If my son someday wants to wear tights and prance around in a pink tutu, I will love and accept him no less than if he becomes a linebacker in the NFL.


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