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Beyond Pink and Blue: Unveiling Gender Expectations in Colors

At birth, children are assigned colors. Pink for girls and blue for boys. This divides the children into binaries of blue and pink – feminine and masculine. The definitions of feminine and masculine change with each generation; however, the previous generation has always projected their idea of feminine and masculine on children, which leads to the production of hyper-masculinity and hype-femineity. These create toxic gender dynamics that are socially deteriorating and counter-productive in terms of gender.


Blue becomes the color for gardening and cars, and pink becomes the color for kitchen sets and makeup. A pink unicorn and a pink and purple kitchen set would mean a girl, and so would a pink frock. The colors of toys seen as ‘girl toys’ are pink, and those seen as ‘boy toys’ are blue. Interestingly, these toys are not the same; the category of both is instead divided into domestic and indoor versus action-oriented and outdoor.


This division is what the children grow up in, and later in life, they find it almost impossible to step into the other sphere of tasks, which are human tasks everyone should know. Girls then internalize their lack of ability to fix a car tire, and boys think they cannot cook even the primary food.


Parents should, therefore, stop associating particular colors with particular genders because it leads to typical boxing into a category. The question then arises: how will people differentiate between one gender and another if there is no difference in how they have been raised, in their activities, etc. Does there need to be a difference and a divide anyway?


This brings us to gender fluidity. If boxing has not been done into one side or another, a girl feels no different than a boy, except for their anatomical and biological differences. This would facilitate the fluidity of genders, and the communities that wish to not box themselves into categories and binaries can easily fit in.


Furthermore, In Pakistan, transgenders (the third gender category), adopt a dress code of vibrant colors which is much different from the traditional clothing. This shows how gender is now color coded. Historically, blue was for girls because of its dainty shade, and pink was for boys because it was a more robust color. However, this changed in the 19th Century. Girls were again associated with pink because it was a color closer to red, a romantic color. Romance was associated with emotion, so girls got pink assigned to them.


In the Chinese traditional culture, red is associated to boys because it symbolized good luck and prosperity and pink is associated to girls representing delicacy and purity. The obsession of the female being pure, and delicate is therefore reinforced through a color and a man who is delicate will then be called less masculine. This brings in the definition of masculinity and why it is so far away from being innately soft.


What we realize, at the end of the day, is that pink and blue connotates much more beyond just colors. It stands for gender expectations and gender binaries and the only way we can hope to move forward is to push against these limitations and stop reinforcing the same ideas – even through celebrations such as gender reveals which are only pink and blue.


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Mariam
Mariam
Nov 30, 2023

" Does there need to be a difference and a divide anyway? " This line stuck out to me because indeed, does there really need to be a way of differentiating gender, especially with regards to newborn babies? I remember growing up as a tomboy who often dressed in masculine clothing growing up. The one line I'd be hit with from family and peers was "Mariam. are you a boy or a girl? Why do you want to dress up as a boy?" Before even being old enough to recognize the inherent gender socializing in our society I'd be extremely bothered by comments like this. It wasn't until extended family members commented on my "obscure" clothing choice that my famil…

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Sara Masood
Sara Masood
Dec 01, 2023
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Clothing of the “opposite gender” is a social construct. The clothing of any gender is a social construct. All colors belong to all genders and all clothing should be fine for any gender. What you mentioned here - “Are you wearing something that's making you happy?” resonated with the queer community a lot too. Gay people within communities such as Pakistan face dire consequences of self-expression i.e., a boy wearing a nail color or having a hairclip – which is only accessory and makeup and not clothing itself. One’s style of clothing, being personal to them, reflects how people view their own selves and what they’re most comfortable in themselves. This reiterates how oftentimes dressing up in effeminate ways resonates…

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Reading your article reminds me of the discussion in class regarding the semiotic approach to color whereby there become meanings attached to colourings to become the signifier, the pink and blue representation being attached to girls and boys respectively and the signified meaning of purity and elegance for girls and strength with boys. This has been prevalent for many years and after discourse on such binary forms of color attachments yet colours of white, yellow and purple are employed to express gender neutrality and fluidity but it still perpetuates the idea that a certain color should be categorised to certain identities of femininity, masculinity or both. Even if I recall to this day the first color of choice by my…

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Sara Masood
Sara Masood
Dec 01, 2023
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“without conditioning the child's thinking through perceptions of the color will allow for the break from these gendered stereotypes” – I disagree to your point. It is important to realize that our exposure is much vaster than what our parents do. Tik tok tends, Instragram reels, facebook posts is what we intake every day. In Pakistan alone there are 25.2 million tiktok users. I am making this point to tell you that as soon as the child will be exposed to media and get out of their cocoon, they will begin to condition their mind towards the connotative meaning of colors. In a movie they will watch how people bring in pink balloons if a girl is born and even…

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Mahnoor Nasir
Mahnoor Nasir
Nov 29, 2023

I personally believe that we have extensively embraced the practice of color coding, and it has become deeply ingrained in our society. For instance, associating blue with boys and pink with girls, as commonly observed in gender reveal parties, contributes to the perception that girls should conform to one set of characteristics, while boys adhere to another as you mentioned. Similarly, the symbolism attached to these colors, such as blue representing strength for boys and pink representing emotionality and nurturing tendencies for girls, reinforces gender stereotypes and then we often see that parents unconsciously shape their children's perceptions in this manner.

I have often thought of the possible solutions to address this issue. I believe that initiating change should begin…

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Sara Masood
Sara Masood
Dec 01, 2023
Replying to

I agree and disagree with your point. Mahnoor, I think the color-coded binary of gender is so deeply ingrained that it cannot be changed or eradicated perhaps. This would be a very idealistic but irrational approach. If we want to recognize that there are other genders besides blue and pink – we will end up labelling it with a color again. Which is counterproductive because our point is to remove connotations of gender from color. However, I think this issue can be recognized. People can be made aware of this association they make but cannot be wiped out. This awareness yes can be done through the two points you raise - parenting and social media.

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