On Blue And Pink - Gender Stereotyping From Birth

Wednesday, May 06, 2015


I remember when we found out that we were expecting a baby, and I couldn’t wait to find out if we were having a boy or a girl. I was definitely not one of those people who could wait until the big day to find out, and I actually wanted to book a private scan so we could find out the gender of our little bean before 20 weeks. We did wait for the NHS scan in the end, and it was so exciting to find out that we were having a little boy.

Shopping for Zach before we knew he was a boy did prove harder than I had expected. I had intended to buy most things for him in unisex colours, because on the whole I am not a huge fan of the whole blue vs. pink thing. But this is just my personal taste, and obviously everyone differs. I ended up buying a lot of grey and white things, which I loved because they are so classic and simple. But once we knew he was a boy I did venture more into the blue camp, purchasing a changing mat, blanket and so on in the signature colour that lets everyone know our baby is a boy.

But pre-pregnancy I had quite a strong opinion about gender-stereotyped clothing, and this has started to shift slightly. During my final year studying Psychology at university I chose a lot of modules which covered topics including equality, feminism and intersectionality. It made me question a lot of my beliefs, and in the end I became a lot more opinionated (in a good way, I think) than when I had started the course.

I became firm in my beliefs that everybody should be treated equally and be given the same opportunities. I finally accepted the feminist label after realising that it embodied everything I already thought, and I longed to live in a world where we could all live happily, accepting each other for who we are. And of course, all of this is still true today.

I thought that when I had a baby I wouldn’t buy them pink or blue things, I would buy a variety of colours – there is a whole rainbow out there to choose from after all. And the toys I would buy would not be stereotyping my child, narrowing their ambitions and beliefs about what they can be and do with their life. And therefore I would be protecting my child from the cruel world that we live in.
But our reality is very different to what I had expected. Zach does own a lot of blue things, both things that we have been given, and things that I have bought myself. His wardrobe is not filled with all of the colours of the rainbow, but rather blues and greens and greys. He does not own a single pink thing, or any 'girly' toys.

And then last week we had a baby date with our friend’s daughter Zoe. We took the babies out for a walk, and being the unorganised mum that I am I had forgotten a blanket for Zach so borrowed one of Zoe’s pink ones. As we walked around town I wanted to cover the blanket with a muslin so that people wouldn’t think that my little boy was a girl. It bothered me that I cared. I never expected that I would even think something like that.

It scared me, because I want to encourage my son to be whoever he wants to be. I want him to do whatever makes him happiest, regardless of whether it is something that is stereotypically male or female. And yet, simply having a pink blanket over him bothered me.

I don’t know where I’m really going with all of this, because really I don’t know what I think anymore. I’m sure that wearing blue isn’t going to hurt him, but it isn’t really about that. It’s about the world we live in, and the fact that I can’t protect him from it no matter what I do. It’s about the fact that I want Zach to feel comfortable in himself, and be who he wants to be.

So what are your thoughts? Do you dress your children in blue or pink? Do you think that gender stereotyping has a negative effect on children? I don’t really know what I think any more.

(Coincidentally my friend Clare sent me a Buzzfeed link this morning that I thought I'd add because it fits quite nicely)
Super Busy Mum

8 comments

  1. I think Zoe's pink blanket suits him. She said he can borrow it anytime he likes :)
    I think that at such a young age it doesn't matter. I tend to go for pink things so that people are aware she's a girl?
    As long as you don't make a fuss of it being different from the "norm" then he won't notice and I don't think it would have a negative impact, I'm sure one day when he's older he'll be wanting to play Princess's! And he'll be a happy, lovely little boy and it won't matter what colour tshirt he's wearing!

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    1. I can't wait for him and Zoe to play princesses! Haha!! :) xx

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  2. I totally know what you mean! I have always thought that gender colour stereotypes didnt bother me, but the other day I had a pink blanket on my little boy in the buggy and spend ages looking for a blue one before I left the house! I was like... why do I care?! But I guess it's like you say, we just want to protect them from the world and unfortunately gender stereotypes are part of that! xx

    myprettymummy.com

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    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one! It's such a weird thing isn't it? xx

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  3. I love pink it's my fave colour so in the early days lots of Boo's things were pink, and I just automatically picked pink things. But now that Boo is a bit older and Boo can kind of show her preference she is getting a range of things. She does have lots of different colours in her wardrobe now.
    And once Boo can let me know which toys and things she wants, she can have whichever toys she wants, within reasons (no guns for various reasons) but if she picks 'boys' toys that's fine with me, I want her to learn and play with as wide a range of toys and wear what ever she wants (again within reason - no miniskirts until she is at least 30)

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    1. I love your mini skirts rule!! I think that you're right when they can pick then we should let them - I hadn't really thought of that as Zach isn't old enough for that just yet - it's a really good point! xx

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  4. I know what you mean - I've always thought the same, that if our son's in a dress or has a pink playhouse that's more than fine. I still feel that way I think, but society does make it harder. For example we were thinking about getting a pinky-purple pushchair (because we both liked the colour) but I found myself asking "will people think he's a girl?". It would be great to lose the boy/girl blue/pink associations but they're so strong - everywhere I look for clothes it's blue for boys, pink and floral for girls.

    We try and buy a lot of 'bright' clothes for Oscar so reds, yellows, greens. Our travel system is black and burnt orange (and our new one's yellow), so we're avoiding too much blue. Which is great because with a newborn boy it was baby blue overload!!

    It's difficult isn't it? It'd be good if there was more choice, and like you said more colours to choose from when buying clothes especially. Toys aren't so bad (I've found) because a lot of ours are bright primary colours. I think a balance somewhere in the middle is nice and realising that it's okay to buy a boy something blue or a toy car, just as it's okay to buy him a pink t-shirt or a doll.

    x

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    1. You're definitely right about it being a balance - and I reckon that as society moves forward though the edges will blur and it will be less gender stereotyped xx

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