Does Gender Have a Color?

We outline the checkered history of pink and blue for boys and girls.

Jeongmee Yoon Jeongmee Yoon

When did girls get pegged with pink and boys with blue? According to Smithsonian magazine,  the hues’ history is a study in contradictions. In 1918, the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department reported that “pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” This sentiment stuck until the 1940s, when retailers sensed a shift in parents’ preferences and navy became the more masculine shade. Then with the advent of women’s liberation, many mothers declined rosier “girlie” tones for their daughters. Today, the pendulum has swung again, with Generation Xers opting to dress their girls in the pink items they were denied as children. This time, however, it’s more than just color coding. What was then a simple pink blouse now gets a princess patch and a shower of glitter.

According to researchers, kids don’t understand gender until age seven, so we can assume that the cotton candy cuteness is for Mom. Meanwhile, toy, clothing, and advertising companies clean up by following suit.

To depict the bond between color and gender, Korean-born photographer JeongMee Yoon snapped photos of children almost overwhelmed by their designated colors in her Pink & Blue Project (above; let’s just say the results are pretty black and white). On the other side of the toy store, though, YouTube viewers watched a young girl try to debunk princess-superhero marketing strategies:

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest