Pink for my baby boy
Walk into any department store and go to the baby section. All the outfits, accessories and toys for girls are shades of pink, purple and yellow with floral prints, polka dots and bows and ribbons. Turn to the boys section and all you will see is a sea of blue – with a bit of brown, orange, red thrown in. The motifs will all be cars or teddy bears. Pink for a girl and blue for a boy – that’s the age old norm. However, many mothers are becoming increasingly concerned with this gender stereotyping and are breaking out of this mould – bit by bit.
Risha Saha is one such mother. She was thrilled when she had a baby boy and went out of her way to slip in a few pink things into his baby wardrobe and accessories like pillows, comforters and bottles. When asked why, her reasons were interesting. “I love children and I have always wanted to have my own. However, I see the kids around me and they are frankly startling. The new generation are so stereotyped and quick to categorise people. Especially the boys – the boys these days have such a fixed notion on what is ‘girly’ and they condemn certain behaviour because they feel it is the domain of women only. I wanted to have a boy of my own and teach him to break the stereotype. I want to teach him to be a good human being, to be sensitive to others, to cry when it hurts and to cook great food in the kitchen. And yes I want him to wear pink right at the very beginning so that later on he doesn’t view it as a girly colour.”
She has a point. Gender stereotype has been there for ages in our society and generally those who break out of it are looked upon with some distrust. Boys who show sensitivity, who wear pink, enjoy gardening , cooking etc. are called girly and effeminate while girls with short hair who wear shirts, climb trees and play football are labelled tomboys. This possibly goes into shaping their attitude later on in life.
Let’s go to the root of the problem. When children are born, boys are automatically swaddled in blue cloth and girls in pink. While we do see parents breaking out of the mould and happy to have their baby boys pretend to cook and their girls play with trucks and cars, a greater number still panic when their boy asks for dolls or favours pink in clothing. Perhaps it is a good idea to encourage your child to think out of the box and perhaps this will teach him to do the same throughout his life. Whether in the privacy of your home or in public, it is best not to stifle your baby boy’s choices as it might make him a more open minded and liberal person later.
Here are a few reasons pink is good for baby boys:
Pink was for boys earlier: ‘Pink is for girls’ is a fairly new attitude. Pre World War II in fact, pink was associated with boys because it was similar to red and blue with girls because of the association to the Virgin Mary. It is only now that the firm demarcations are made. When children choose colours, they don’t do it based on cultural norms and one should let them. Blue, black, green and brown are dark and less cheerful shades than pink, yellows, oranges and purples. If your son chooses bright colours, let him he will be a bright and happy child!
Colour has nothing to do with orientation: Parent’s prefer if their boys don’t wear pink for the simple reason that this evokes many comments regarding the gender orientation of the child. This sticks and as they grow older, children learn to identify genders according to colour and a man wearing a pink shirt or floral print is automatically considered ‘weird’ or ‘feminine’. If this were the case then those who cross dress or are gender confused would simply be required to wear the right colour to be ‘transformed’. This is not the correct outlook and parents confuse the issue. If your son likes a shade of pink let him like it. It does not make him less of a boy. Similarly if your daughter likes cars then she should be allowed to play with them instead of being forced to potter around with toy crockery and utensils. Do not make the mistake of judging gender orientation by choice of colours. This is what your children will follow when they grow up too.
Allow him to make his own choices: allowing your son to make a few harmless decisions regarding colour and choice of toys when he is a baby will help him be a confident young adult later. It is important that children grow up to be confident and productive individuals who think out of the box and are not afraid to assert their choices without thinking about what others will think of them. Your son will be able to make sound judgements later if he is encouraged right from the time he is a child. As parents, stand by your child and support his off- beat decisions as he will require this support as he grows older too.
Think about the cost: Don’t go into buying a whole set of pink or blue baby clothes and accessories according to the gender of your baby. It does not make sense to buy new blue apparel for your baby son if there are hand-me-downs from your older child who is a girl. Babies outgrow their clothes very quickly and it only means extra expense incurred because you don’t want people to confuse the gender of your child. Some people go to the opposite extremes and dress their boys as girls, complete with frilly frocks and ponytails, but while that may be taking things a bit too far, pink diapers, rompers, bottles and blankets are fine for your infant son.
Of course, this doesn’t mean going overboard and ensuring that your son ONLY sticks to pink. There is a fine line involved here...what we are saying is, allow the child to wear pink and cook with toy utensils if he wants to. Don’t force trucks and cars into his hands if he shows interest in dolls.
This will be very difficult for parents to do of course, since relatives and in-laws will probably oppose their decision to allow their son to play with dolls but if you feel strongly about not sticking to stereotype, stand by what you think. It is disheartening how society labels things and perhaps this is your step towards peeling off some of those labels. Your son will emulate your strength and confidence in making decisions and will be a better human being for it.