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Friday, April 6, 2012

It matters (On Raising a Daughter)

[Note #1: This focuses on girls' and women's issues because, well, I have a girl. Much of what I've written does apply to boys as well, and boys have their own set of issues. I'm not saying that there isn't pressure on boys to be manly (there is) or that moms of boys shouldn't get irritated when they have their own limited color palette or characters to choose from (you absolutely should). Men's magazines offer body image ideals just as unrealistic as those for women (this should upset you). Boys are encouraged to be aggressive and ridiculed for showing emotion (fight this!).  However, a) I have a girl, so the issues there are more glaring to me at this moment. Hence the female focus of this post. 
Note #2: This post is not about clothes. I promise. It starts that way but it goes way beyond that. 
Note #3: If this post is TL;DR for you so you skim it, know that I mention several times in the post that I'm not anti-girly or anti-pink or even anti-princess, since I got several emails asking JUST WHAT IS WRONG WITH PINK? Nothing. Nothing is wrong with pink.]

I recently had a debate about the color orange. I know, what could be controversial about that, right? In this case, I had dressed my daughter in it to match the color scheme of a party, and received a comment about sacrificing her feminitiy for the sake of the decor. Um. How is an orange and white striped onesie not appropriate for girls? The friend was firmly of the belief that orange was a "boy" color. I am firmly of the belief that it's gender neutral (and a refreshing relief from yellow), and, in fact, that ALL colors are gender neutral. This debate struck such a nerve with me, because no child should ever hear that a color they are wearing or that they prefer belongs to the opposite gender.  Hearing "that's a boy color" or "that's a girl color" can be devastating to a young mind just beginning to develop their own likes and make their own choices.

And when you get down to it, really, what ARE boy and girl colors? Colors have no intrinsic gender and are universally lacking in sex organs, so it's a made-up definer - and one that is fluid: boys wore pink until the mid-20th century. The "assigned" colors were so confusing that "Time" magazine published a chart showing which stores were advocating which color assignment.  Until relatively recently, boys and girls wore the same thing for much of their lives:

That child with the long hair, ruffled dress, feathers, bow, and patent leather shoes?  Franklin Delino Roosevelt, future four-time president and rough rider. Like the most manly of manly men to ever live, right?

Here's a boy paper doll from the 1920's named Bobby - pink dress and all!

It was a matter of practicality. Skirts and dresses made diaper changes easy. Small baby clothes were white, as they could be bleached clean. When the children got older, clothes were handed down from sibling to sibling as a cost-saving measure.  Of course, at some point, the public fell victim to marketing, and it was all down hill from there. It made sense for stores and clothing manufacturers to change this: the more clothes you bought, the more money they made.  Why sell you a red car that can be passed down from child to child when they can sell you a pink car for your daughter and make you think you need to buy a whole new car in a different color for your son? They make twice as much money!

Now, if you go to any traditional baby store, you'll see the divide immediately. For better or worse, right or wrong, girls get pink, always. And purple. And sparkles and butterflies and swirly writing and glitter and princess references (oh, the princess references). Boys get blue, green, brown, orange (apparently) and construction vehicles and dinosaurs.  In buying clothes for my daughters, I look in both sections and buy what catches my eye, be it pink or blue or chartreuse or puce.  But really? It doesn't matter what they wear. Not only was my oldest daughter called "he" in a white onesie and no other gender indicators (which is totally understandable), but I had her in a pink dress with a pink bow and had someone comment on my "darling boy." I tried to find just a simple pair of plain jeans for my daughter. I gave up and bought her "boy" ones after every pair of "girl" jeans in the store  had ruffles or pink embroidery or flowers. And seriously don't get me started on girls' shoes. It's nearly impossible to find a neutrally colored, sporty shoe for a little girl.

And let's not even get started on the cutesy phrases splashed everywhere, with the girls' tending to focus on bring pretty princesses and the boys' on being tough little men (word to the wise: a six month old baby is neither a princess nor a little man. It's a baby.).

I have absolutely zero problem (let me repeat that: ZERO) with girls wearing pink. It's a beautiful color on my oldest, she likes it, and she owns pink clothes) or boys wearing blue. I do have issues with pink glitter princess outfits being the only option for girls. I do have issues with people proclaiming that is the way it should be, and that people - particularly infants - should be dressed in colors according to their gender. Or, for that matter, that colors have gender, period. Again: they don't. All colors are neutral because colors don't have penises or vaginas.

Boys' clothes: a wide variety of colors and shades
Out of 18, only three are blue (and even two pink options!).

Girls' clothes: a wide variety of pink shades. All with flowers or ruffles.  Out of 21, 12 are mostly pink and 17 have some pink in them. Almost all are very light-colored.

Why do we need blue for boys and pink for girls? Going further, why do we need "boy" toys to be blue and and "girl" toys to be pink? Boy Legos and girl Legos? Boy doctor outfits and girl doctor outfits? Can girls not enjoy something unless it's pink? Can boys not play with something unless it's blue? Do they have to be reminded of their sex every time they touch an object or put on an article of clothing? Be it jeans or a toy car or a sticker book, the gender divide in toys and clothing has never seemed greater.

Why does it even matter? Why does this bother you SO much? 

This discussion matters because this is a society in which, when sharing that I was going to have a girl, more than one commented, "Oh, too bad. Is Chris disappointed?" And "Oh, girls are so hard. I'm sorry!" One said, "I knew Chris didn't have a boy in him." (I wanted to reply, "Actually, he did, but my cervix didn't have it in it to keep him alive" but that's mean and also beside the point.)

It's a fact worldwide: boys are favored. It's shown in so many ways. And here goes a fairly terrifying list of ways:

It's shown in the startling disparity in the number of boy babies and girl babies born in places like India and China. Naturally, the divide should be 105 boys for every 100 girls. One province of China has 163 boys born for every 100 girls, and nationally it's 118 boys. In India, upwards of 300,000 pregnancies with girls are terminated yearly. There are 7 million more boys under the age of six than girls. Even in the United States, the vast number of people say they want a boy (in a Gallup poll of 1,020 people, almost twice as many said they would prefer a boy).  It's shown in the 23.5% wage differential in the U.S. and the fact that women with children are less likely to be hired in a position than equally qualified fathers.  It's shown in the ratio of male to female lawmakers (in Congress and Senate the ratio is 445 to 93). It's shown in the way that women's health issues have become such a sticking point in the election (it's 2012 and we're still fighting for health care?). It's shown in the fact that it's an insult to "throw like a girl."  In the fact that the "dumb blonde" of jokes is always a woman.  It shows in the way that toy makers coat all "girl" toys in pink, while leaving the "boy" counterparts as accurate representations of what cars or tools or animals look like.  In a study of over 5,000 children's books, boy characters outnumbered girl characters by 1.6 to 1. In the top 100 movies in 2008, only 33% of speaking roles went to women.  Girls have so much emphasis placed on their looks their entire lives, and again, that matters: a 2009 study found that being overweight harms a woman's chances for career advancement but presents no such obstacle for men. The United Nations proclaimed that there "are no societies in which women enjoy the same opportunities as men" (emphasis mine).  It shows when companies make t-shirts that boast "I'm too pretty to do homework" or "pretty like mommy" (while the boy version was "smart like daddy" - because neither girls nor mommies can be smart?).  It shows when a female writer chooses to write about Harry Potter instead of Harriet Potter (don't get me wrong: I love Hermoine. But the book isn't based on her.). Of the Time list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, only 38 are women. Boys are the "heirs;" girls are the "spares." It's generally assumed that women can't drive, change a tire, fix a computer, or enjoy sports.  Freaking men's shaving cream with the exact same ingredients is almost a buck cheaper than the women's in the next aisle.

Gender specific colors may seem far removed from earning only 77 cents for every dollar that a male does, but it starts somewhere. Every time you tell a girl "that's not for you" or tell her she's pretty in the same breath you tell her brother he's smart, you take another cent away from her.  Girls need to know that being girl can mean being intelligent and being adventurous and being strong and being powerful and wearing all colors of the rainbow. If everywhere girls turn they see things "pinked down" for them and they see themselves categorized separately and boxed into the (as my dad called it) "aisle of pink death," they will lose the ability to see themselves as equal to boys.

I've witnessed this twice just recently. At lunch with a friend and her three-year-old son, the little boy said, "Mommy, I hope when you grow up you can be a boy." We laughed and asked why. "So you can be a rock star!" She asked why she couldn't be a rock star now, as a girl. "Because boys are smarter than girls," he replied. Based on our shocked reactions, he quickly assessed that was the wrong thing to say to us and followed up with, "I'm just teasing!." Where did he learn that? Not from my friend - she's very progressive. School, maybe? TV? The playground? Somewhere, for sure. He didn't pull it out of thin air. Later that week, I was at a park with my daughter, who was climbing the rock wall, where a little girl - little girl, like five years old - told her that climbing is for boys. When I said "No, climbing is for everyone!" and she protested, I asked her what girls do. She said, "I'm pretty!" and twirled. I didn't press the issue, but I was inwardly cringing. She was dressed in a pink tee-shirt with a crown on it and script letters saying "cutie." She absolutely might have picked that tee-shirt herself, but did she internalize the message on the tee-shirt? Where did she learn that climbing is for boys and that girls should be pretty? Tee-shirts like that certainly don't help. And it's reinforced by a society where the constant message is that boys and girls are separate (and certainly not equal).

Disturbingly, it's far more acceptable for girls to wear "boy" clothes or do "boy" activities than it is for boys to wear "girl" clothes or do "girl" activities. Why? Because being the boy is the standard. It's the default. But boys doing "girly" things? That's not okay. That's a boy stooping down to a lower level.  It's not okay for little boys to do or wear "girl" things because girl things are not as good as boy things.  It's okay for little girls to wear "boy" things because they're reaching for a higher level and breaking the mold, because "boy" things are superior. So girls can strive to do "boy" things, but boys shouldn't ever be seen striving to do "girl" things.

I just read this paragraph on a baby name blog, where a mom was considering giving her son a name that might be considered a girly name:  You’re asking me if it’s okay to use a name for your son that is used mostly for girls in his country, and in fact is a very popular name for girls. And that’s not a question I can answer for you. The cultural bias against using “girl names” for boys (even though it continues to be appealing to use “boy names” for girls) comes from a very ugly concept, and it’s clearly unfair. Is there ANYTHING AT ALL wrong with being mistaken for a girl/woman? Goodness, no. Do many boys/men nevertheless find it embarrassing or difficult, for reasons we can’t turn our minds to without feeling surges of rage? That’s the difficult place, right there: the line between “SHOULD it be this way?” and “IS it this way?”

No, it shouldn't be that way, and yes, it is that way. And UGH to both.

Even saying things like they are "breaking the mold" reinforces that there is a mold to be broken and that it's outside of the norm for girls to be physical or boys to be sensitive. Phrases like "Oh, he's showing his feminine side!" when a boy expresses emotion or "What a little tomboy!" to a girl who is rock climbing feeds into this. Boys can be sensitive. Girls can be tough. It can be "boyish" to cry. It can be "girly" to be reticent. These are HUMAN emotions, not male or female emotions.

And toys are toys for kids, not toys for boys OR girls.

And colors are colors, not colors for boys OR girls.

I hear often that "...it must be biological - I never told my daughter about princesses and she loves them." Let's be realistic (and even a bit scientific?) here: I'll give you that over a couple of million years of evolution and of women being the child-bearers, it might be true that women tend to be more nurturing and men more protective. Maybe. But guns have only been around for a couple of hundred years - playing with guns isn't intrinsically ingrained in little boys. Cars have been around for even shorter. Playing with cars isn't a biological preference for little boys. Pink as a "girl" color has only been the case for a few decades - that's certainly not a biological preference. Princesses as we know them today (pink and sparkly) barely existed when I was growing up. These preferences develop due to societal influences. Oftentimes, these influences are so subtle we don't even realize they are happening, which is why even the tiniest instance of gender stereotyping is such a big deal. Those small, subtle cues that our children are fed continually are what shape them.

Is there anything wrong with being "a girly girl who loves pink"? Not at all. I have zero problem with girls wearing pink and being homemakers or boys wearing blue and being lumberjacks if that's what they choose. I know men and women are different, beyond just genitalia. I have long hair and wear skirts and jewelry and low-cut shirts that show cleavage. I love being a woman and I celebrate my femininity. Being a woman is an amazing thing. (So is being a man, or any sex in between.) I recognize the biological differences between men and women.  I celebrate these differences. I love these differences.

However, I want these differences to arise organically and not because of marketing from companies that are out for the bottom line. I want my child to be able to decide what to play with and how to play with it and not be forced to choose between a "boy" and a "girl" toy. I want little boys and girls to be able to play with realistic toy kitchens, and realistic toy castles, and realistic doll cribs. There's no reason a drill needs to be pink for a girl to play with it. Little kids just want mini versions of the real thing. I want kids to be able to develop who they are, what their likes and dislikes and interests are, based on their own explorations. All girls and all boys cannot possibly fall into those boxes created by marketing teams.  The differences between individuals are VASTLY greater than the differences between genders. And trying to put all of the members of one gender into the same pink or blue box with limited options is stifling and damaging.

"It's parenting," is a common argument. "It's all in how you parent."  Yes, I can make a difference: I can buy as many gender neutral toys as possible. I can make sure my daughters know that princesses do more besides just look pretty (to expand their knowledge of princesses, we watched videos of Princess Kate playing lacrosse and looked at pictures of her camping). I do control what comes into this house. But the first time we go to Target or Toys R Us, that attempt to shield her from the gender divide will be blown out the window, when she sees the very definite "boy" and "girl" aisles and asks questions. The first time she goes to school and is told that pink should be her favorite color, it challenges my ideals. When we're out and about and people ask what she's going to be for Halloween and follow up with "A princess?" before she can even answer just reinforces the problem. It's hard to parent for my philosophy when a place like Pottery Barn Kids offers 56 colors/styles of backpacks and 28 of them are "girl" colors/patterns and 24 are "boy" colors/patterns and 4 are what I would consider neutral (gray and green). But all those neutral ones? They're embroidered with boy names and clearly supposed to be meant for boys.  Also, all but one of those neutral options are trimmed in navy blue, pushing them closer to traditional boy territory. And every single one of those 28 "girl" ones contains pink and/or purple in some form - EVERY SINGLE ONE. 18 of the 24 "boy" ones contained blue in some form. A girl that doesn't like pink or purple is screwed, apparently, or forced to look at the boy choices. Come on, Pottery Bark Kids. There are FIFTY SIX color options. You couldn't have ANY options outside of those? What about a parent who wants to get a neutral set to share among her children or who, like me, is trying to get away from this pink tornado? We're screwed. (Note: This was as of 2012 - things may have changed since then.)

I will do all I can to raise my children to think that being a girl is awesome and that being a girl means being smart, caring, daring, empathetic, adventurous, loving, nurturing, and/or anything that she wants it to mean.  I will do all I can to empower them to believe that they are worthy, that they aren't second class citizens, and that they can do anything they want to do. Even pee standing up (with the right equipment). <----mostly a joke

At the same time, I will do all I can to raise my children to think that being a boy is awesome and that being a boy means being smart, caring, daring, empathetic, adventurous, loving, nurturing, and/or anything that a boy wants it to mean. I will raise them to believe that boys are worth, that they aren't second class citizens, and that they can do anything they want to do.

So that was six pages and almost 3,500 words to say: Please, let's not divide girls and boys up any more than they already are. Blue on a girl? Awesome. Pink on a boy? Righteous. Let's celebrate "throwing like a girl" and "crying like a boy" and let boys take care of dolls and girls play firefighters. Let's let them decide on their terms how they want to be defined, and not let the media and corporations decide for them. Let's teach them how to be awesome and think they are awesome and, importantly, think that the opposite gender is pretty awesome too.

For more on this subject, check these out:


Male as the Neutral Default

Kids’ Toys: More Gendered Than Ever


  1. Hi - I'm a lurker on the AP board, and just wanted to say that I agree so much with this post. I just figured out the trick with buying boys' clothes for girls, after I was frustrated with my inability to find just plain white onesies for my daughter - they were all either pink, ruffley, or had writing on them. Turns out I just had to head over to the boys' section to actually find some white onesies and neutral-colored pants, but I just don't understand why it needs to be that way.

    My husband and I have made it pretty clear that we're not into super girly clothes or anything with writing on them (especially anything referencing "divas" or "princesses"), and while we don't want to complain too much about gifts, we're still surprised whenever our parents bring over an "Irish Princess" shirt (we now have two) or a pink, frilly dress because they "couldn't help" themselves.

    We didn't find out the sex before our daughter's birth, and while it was good that not a single person expressed disappointment that she was a girl, I was surprised that most of the comments people made afterwards had to do with clothes: girls' clothes are so much cuter than boys' clothes, now we can buy appropriate colored clothes for her, etc. (apparently it was too grating to have to buy green and yellow?)

    My mom even made fun of me when I said no to a princessy shirt, saying "You think she won't figure it out on her own?" I don't get this. What is there to figure out - it's a given that all girls want to be a princess, and aspire to have some prince swoop in to save her? My daughter may very well end up very girly, into princesses, whatever, but it won't be because we pushed her towards it. My husband and I are making the decisions we can at this point to encourage her to have experiences beyond being pretty or a princess - rejecting putting her in that box to begin with, encouraging her to play with tools and cars if she's interested in them, and moving to a new house in part to give her the opportunity for outdoor adventures (climbing trees, making forts, playing in a pond, etc.).

    Thanks for the thoughtful post. And for what it's worth, I think orange is gender neutral :)

  2. I love orange! I have also been really frustrated with the lack of non-pink options for girls. There are *so many* possible cute ways to dress little kids - why limit girls to the pink/frilly/princess thing? And then so many of the boys clothes are just SO stereotyped, with trucks and things on them. I know there is an incentive for clothing manufacturers to do this in order to limit hand-me-downs between brothers and sisters, but you're so right that is goes beyond that to the limitations and expectations placed on people from birth because of their gender. We'll be ordering a "smart like mommy" onesie for sure :)

  3. My friend and I, both parents of girls, HATE HATE HATE that they have taken beloved childhood toys (such as the stacking ring toy or Lego) traditionally made in primary colours and 'girled them up' by making them in a pink, purple, and light yellow version. Really? Because a girl won't like it if it's not pink? Especially demeaning is that these toys are geared towards typical 'male' strengths (building and hand eye coordination), so it stems to reason that toy makers think it will be more palatable for girls to play with them if they appear 'pretty'. Gross. If Kaia ever gets one of those as a gift, I'm returning it for the primary colour version, no question.

    We have completely tried to stay away from pink when it comes to big items for Kaia. Her room is green and purple and white, feminine yes, but not garishly so. Her car seat and stroller are red (the exact ones I wanted for Aidan, so I would have chosen them boy or girl). I love dressing her in lots of different colours (especially red and blue...she looks great in both). I'm not a huge pink fan, so it's been pretty easy to stay away from it.

    I'm returning to work in August, and while I know I'm going to miss Kaia like crazy, I'm hoping as she grows the fact that I work will be a good thing for her to see. I went to university for 5 years to be a nurse. I'm well educated and paid decently. I help save lives and make a difference in the world. I hope that she learns how much more satisfying that is than being 'pretty'!

    Loved this post!

  4. Oh yeah...and orange? Totally gender neutral! Looks great when paired with bright blue too!

  5. Emily, I very much agree with you. I hope to raise my daughter(s) to realize that she is independent and can be whatever she wants to be in life. I set that example by continuing on with my career and being the best mother and wife I can be. It is not easy and I hope this example I set for her and my future children can help them realize that anything is possible.

    And yes, I love tangerine...the color is everywhere now!

  6. I'm known in my family for disliking pink, and pastels. Since having my daughter I have let pink into my house although more in the form of bright fushia's and corals rather than pink. Luckily, my daughter's pink phase was very short lived - her favorite colors have been orange, lime green, dk purple, and now red! And yeah, she loves the bolder, brighter hues too! Of course, bling does make its appearances but, mea culpa, I loved heavily beaded shirts myself!

  7. I agree with you 200%, Lara. I cannot tell you how much I loathe going into the toy store (or a kids' clothing store) and seeing the sharp contrast. The worst was when Dave and his dad went to buy Ella a fishing pole and the options were literally Spiderman or a pink Barbie fising pole. She ended up choosing the Barbie one, but I guarantee you she would have picked something else if given the option...what about a frog one? Or some other character that isn't geared only for boys or only for girls, such as Curious George? Ella loves Curious George, and I love Curious George because it does not seem to be marketed toward one specific gender.

    But don't worry, there is hope. Ella's favorite colors are purple, blue, and black. She doesn't own any shirts with any princess references. And several months ago, she told Dave and I that "boys don't work" because to her, a mother working and a father staying home with her is normal.

  8. I personally don't mind there being things that look girly or boy-y. There IS a difference in boys and girls. And much of it IS created by society and cultures, but there are some very different biological features too (did you know that females are more attracted to masculine/macho guys while they are ovulating?) I don't think this has to be a color war. I don't think having boy and girl colors is always a bad thing. Payroll discrimination and stupid toys that promote superficiality is one thing (actually two things. haha) But colors and visual vibes DO have psychological effects on people. Red evokes very different feelings than blue does. There is a reason why some will grimace when walking into a room painted with purple walls versus one painted in brown. Marketing relies heavily on the way colors are perceived. And even if you disagree with the perceptions (which are based on studies and panels), they are what they are. I have never said girls can't wear orange. I said if you put a girl into a plain orange shirt, 9 times out of 10, she will be called a he unless she DOES look girly. And I don't think looking GIRLY is a bad thing. If you were so against looking girly, you wouldn't wear the sundresses you do or the low-cut tops. You, Lara dear, embrace your femininity. You can wear an orange top and still look like a girl because you...uh...look like a girl. I don't know why it's a bad thing to want your kid to look like what she is. If you don't want that, that is fine, but then you do have to accept that others might not know it's a girl and that others want their kids to look like a girl. Socially construed though colors may be, they still are subjectively interpreted, but in such a way that perception becomes objective due to the very norms that we all do create. I embrace the differences in decor too, and like to play it up. And there is nothing wrong with that either. But I do agree with you and the way society shoves the princess act down girls' throats and the tools and trucks down boys'. I don't care if my son plays with dolls. But I won't willingly put him in dresses. Culture and society makes up a lot of things--holidays, cuss words, gestures, what is considered etiquette--and I think "gender-based" clothes are just another. And I am okay with it. (Gender roles, however, I am not. hahaha)

  9. I haven't chopped all my hair off yet and do wear pink and dresses...I embrace my femininity. I'm proud of being a woman and I hope Carys is proud to be a girl. I don't think it's a bad thing to be feminine. I think it's a bad thing to have forced on someone and to have no other options, and I think it leads to a lot of gender disparity down the road. I I realize it's a cultural and societal norm (for now, again, it's fluid) but it's one I don't agree with, and by taking action and bucking that norm I can take tiny little baby steps to change it!

  10. Colors themselves are gender neutral, period. While boys and girls may have preferences for certain colors (well documented, and absolutely divided along gender lines), neither gender "owns" that color. To each of our benefit!

    I give you my young nephew, who happens to like the color pink. Three blue chairs and one pink chair meant for the little girl at the neighbor's house? He'll have the pink chair, thank you. He's also partial to glittery purple. Think what you want, he's a typical boy. A boy with a hot pink cast when he had foot surgery. And then a Spiderman one when he needed a replacement! This, to me, is how it should be.

    I remember registering for baby gifts when pregnant with my son. Only we knew he was a boy. I went to register for a sleep sack with dinosaurs all over it and my husband told me not to, or everyone would guess it was a boy. Did that ever piss me off! I bought it myself. My son slept in it AND my daughter slept in it.

    My daughter wears plenty of her brother's hand-me-downs. She does not wear clothing with big sayings on it (sure, a "love me" or "cutie" has snuck in on those little onesies). I'll let her wear what she wants in the future, however "boy-ish" or "girly" they end up being. I think boy clothes and girl clothes are all pretty great, except for those damnable princess sayings.

    My daughter does wear pink. And brown. And blue. And purple. And green. And black. And red. And... orange!

  11. VERY well said, Lara! I completely agree - except you forgot that somehow dogs are masculine and cats are feminine...and ducks...well, they're genderless (I never understood that one!)

    I did not find out the sex of my child when we were pregnant. That being said, I think I'm somewhat of a gender-neutral queen when it comes to something that doesn't "look" feminine or masculine. Sadly it was very difficult to find something that didn't have a baseball/"Daddy's little slugger" or a butterfly/"Mommy's princess" on it for my unknown-sex child. Likewise, I found it equally difficult to find something without a duck on it that was classified "gender neutral". The color/animal/activity bias in our culture is absurd.

    I'm not sure why there is a fixation about making our children look a certain sex? Do I care that the old lady in the grocery store called my child a "precious little girl" despite the fact he was dressed in all blue, complete with football babylegs? No. What does it change? He's still a boy. The fact that someone thinks he's a girl due to his long eyelashes or pink shirt or for whatever reason SHOULDN'T matter! It doesn't make him any less of a boy.

    The previous poster mentions the fact that an adult, Lara, you wear dresses and low cut shirts, etc. to express your femininity. This is where I get lost . Children do not have a sense of what is feminine and masculine - they learn what we teach them. If we teach them that they are a boy and their designated colors are blue, green, brown and, apparently, orange, then that's what they'll grow up believing. And if we teach them that colors do not define a person or a gender, they will grow up believing likewise. If an adult woman wears football decorated clothing or the colors blue or green or brown, or hell, if she wears men's clothing, that does not make her less of a woman or less of the person she is. Clothes do not define a person.

    Darbi, I think that while you seek to explain your reasoning as to why gender specific colors are important (and needed?) it is naive to think that your own reasoning isn't contributing to the gender roles in which you despise.

    Needless to say, my children will wear clothing of all colors despite their sex.

  12. The thing is... the human mind is designed to create, find, and use patterns, stereotypes, habits, etc. We find faces in clouds, we are reassured when we can quickly put things into their proper category, and so on. It is a very basic, visceral thing to want to quickly 'sort things out' when we see them, including people. We WANT easy clues for gender just as later in life, we want to be easily able to identify a store clerk or medical professional.

    Having said that, I have to admit that doing so with boy or girl colors is dumb... but colors play a role all our lives in identity, in helping others determine your relationship to them. Nurses know that certain colors make them more effective in an ICU and others work best in the pediatric wards. Presidents and bankers select from a limited color pallet as do law enforcement officers and people who work as park rangers or other nature jobs.

    Of course, I also noticed as I wrote that above part that I found myself thinking of the roles themselves as being gender-biased and I would be willing to bet that on one level, so will some others who read this.

    It really is not the colors that bother me, it is the other stuff- the lace and sparkle, the mottos and slogans, the cheap quality of so many girls things compared to similar boy things, and so on. I think that THIS is where the real negative stereotypes come in and it is where I think the American retailers have the most growing up to do.

  13. I love the way you worded this. Pink is MY favorite color, that does not mean its the ONLY thing I can dress my daughter in.