gender specific colours, colour and gender stereotypes, gender colour preference, gender and colour perception, why is pink a feminine colour, female colours, masculine colours, boy colours, girl colours

Gender specific colours: In praise of boys who like ‘girl colours’

Among my daughter’s classmates (age 4-5) there are children who have already decided, figured out, or been taught that there is such a thing as gender specific colours – specifically ‘girl colours’

I help out in her class a few times a week. Usually it’s helping with reading, but recently it’s been sewing – the couple of times I’ve done it so far it’s been a mum and I plus a group of boys & girls.

On both occasions, while choosing a colour of thread, boys have said “I like girl colours too.” The first time I was quick off the mark with “There’s no such thing and girls’ colours and boys’ colours, just colours.” The second time, I didn’t even get a chance – the mum I was with was straight in there with the same retort. On this occasion, I was also wearing a pink shirt which nicely backed up the point to them.

While I was saddened that even at this young age they have been indoctrinated into the false notion that some colours are gendered, when I thought about it there was a positive aspect.

Are there gender specific colours?

While these boys had somehow identified certain colours as ‘girl colours’, they still thought it was ok to like them, and to happily tell others that this was the case.

While we parents of other children are minor authority figures compared to their teachers or actual parents, our opinion still carries weight. By us correcting their observation about the notion of ‘girl colours’, we are reinforcing their own instincts – that while some colours have been labelled as girl colours, it’s ok for them as boys to like them too.

This was also taking place in the context of a mixed gender group of children happily sewing, supervised by a man and a woman.

Our constructs around gender and what that means are multi-layered and built up over time. Hopefully these boys, and any other children listening, will take away from this that boys and girls – and men and women – have a lot more in common than perhaps they had been led to believe.

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I told my daughter about this incident, and I asked her “What do you think I said to the boy?” “You told them there’s no such thing as boy or girl colours didn’t you daddy.” 🙂

Photo courtesy of Philippa Willitts, used under Creative Commons license.

3 thoughts on “Gender specific colours: In praise of boys who like ‘girl colours’”

  1. I am surprised at how quickly my girls picked up on the notion of colours for certain genders. My 3 yo daughter is already showing preference for “girl” colours, even though my husband and I are very consciously trying not to gender stereotype. It seems to be sinking in from somewhere, although their preschool teachers are also very inclusive… television advertising perhaps? 😉

  2. With our three children, we very deliberately tried not to indoctrinate them into the genderisation of colour. We didn’t do a lot to try and indoctrinate them the other way, than colours don’t have intrinsic gender, mind you.
    Our eldest is now twelve. Her favourite colours are blue, purple and black, and have been for most of her life. Not knowing her sex before birth she started from day one in “gender-neutral” colours. Infants _are_ visually gender-neutral, and colour-coding them does save parents of kids that age from the constant tedium of “no, he’s a boy/she’s a girl” explanations. Maybe that’s where the notion comes from?
    Our second was born after we moved to the States, and gender-neutral infant outfits are hard to find over here. She’s nine, coming on ten now, and her favourite colours are traditionally girl ones like pink.
    Our son’s the youngest at just 6. He does identify colours as having intrinsic gender of a sort – pink is a “girl colour” at least in clothing, but he likes pink in other forms. As well as wanting LEGO Elves sets (among other LEGO) for his birthday.
    The US definitely seems to lag behind the UK in gender stereotyping, or at least, the ultraconservative Texan part where we live does. With that as a context, I’m fairly proud that we’ve managed thus far to rear three children with as nonstereotypical views of the matter as ours have

    1. I think the UK Let Toys Be Toys campaign has done a great deal to progress things in the UK. Eg. they have directly persuaded one major toy store to stop categorising by gender, and all have now followed.

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