Pink and Blue
Pink for Girls...blue for boys right?
Well not always...prior to the 20th century, specific colours don't seem to have been associated much with gender at all. Interestingly, in the early part of the 20th century, rumour has it pink was considered a boy's colour - perhaps because it's a paler version of the more aggressive, war-like red. Whether this is true or another urban myth that is doing the rounds, what is certain is that it wasn't until the 1950s that pink for girls and blue for boys were firmly established as cultural mores.
The following excerpts from early 20th century American magazines have been cited as evidence that the earlier pink/ blue gender association was the reverse of how we view it today.
There has been a greater diversity of opinion on the subject but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger colour is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girls.
Ladies Home Journal, June, 1918.
If you like the colour note on the little one's garment, use pink for a boy and blue for a girl, if you are a follower of convention
Sunday Sentinal, March 29, 1914.
Hitler and Pink
Why this shift occurred is not entirely clear but the Nazis, apparently attempting a feminine association, used pink triangles to identify homosexuals in their concentration camps, thus indicating the shift to pink for girls had already begun in the 1930s. Now, of course, in Western cultures, pink is the representative colour of gay pride.
The pink triangles have led some theorists to suggest the shift to blue for boys was a reaction against that particular feminine association, despite the fact that in Catholic tradition in Germany, blue was apparently the colour most associated with the Virgin Mary....a symbol for many of motherhood and femininity. It's all very confusing.
In a satirical twist that would have made Hitler blush pink to his bootstraps, in 2010 an advertising agency for a clothing store in Palermo put up 18 foot high posters depicting Hitler in a pink Nazi uniform, with love heart emblems instead of swastikas. The campaign caused a storm of controversy in Italy, with protesters claiming it was highly offensive to portray images of one of the worst human rights offenders in human history in public spaces, irrespective of his satirical garb.
Probably the most convincing reason for the growing blue/pink sex division is that advertisers recognised the marketing power of gender assigned colours.
Pink and blue became highly popular after the war leading to speculation that a post-war penchant for pastels could have been a reaction to the dull khakis and browns of WW2. Weary from years of sombreness, the population desired softer, more evocative tones and pink and blue became designer colours in the 50's . Woman, having been successfully out in the workforce in droves during wartime, were now sent back to home and kitchen to become housewives and mothers.
In the early stages of what was to be a nuclear family avalanche, consumers were bombarded by advertisers, through television, billboards and magazines with images of slick pink, blue and green wares....the fashion colour choices of the decade. Barbie, the Princess of Pink, was invented and images of girls and women in pink began to infiltrate the collective psyche.
A further explanation for the shift to pink for girls may be that pink was just perceived as'sexier'... thus for the purposes of sexualizing female images in the advertising glut that flooded the post-war media, pink better suited the demographic. After all, pink is the colour of lips, nipples, genitalia and blushing emotions.
~Blushing is the color of virtue.~
However did we manage before this colour division became clear...? All babies look alike in the sense that there are no clear external markers to denote gender (assuming they've got some clothes on). With the blue/pink gender guide if you're staring into a pram and you see something squirming around in a blue jumpsuit you can remark to the proud parent with reasonable confidence "ah what a delightful little boy!"
Blue has become the colour of moodiness, depicting more than a babies gender. It also denotes sadness, depression, calmness, softness, sultriness and a musical genre. In the latter case it seems the term "the blues" referred to the "blue devils" of melancholia. Early references to this can be found in George Colman's one-act farce Blue Devils written in 1798. Hart Wand's "Dallas Blues" was the first copyrighted blues composition but 'the blues' were probably sung about much earlier in the spirituals and field songs of Southern Black communities.
Associations of boys with blueness can be found much earlier than 1950; in the nursery rhyme Little Boy Blue, for example, and Gainsborough's famous Blue Boy.. Both titles gel with the modern colour gender meme. Although these colours were probably used incidentally, had they been called Little Boy Pink and Pink Boy, they would have conjured a different meaning, so strong is the cultural identification with gender. It's certainly possible that such well known works gave support to the blue for boys shift.
~Blue eyes say 'love me or I die'...black eyes say 'love me or I kill thee'.~
- Pretty Babies: The Child Beauty Pageant
They look like condensed coquettes...prancing, primping and dancing their way across the stage in a blaze of glitz that would rival the campest Mardi Gras. This is the pre-teen beauty pageant scene where the rule is keep smiling ...literally.
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