A study published in 2001, to which I was alerted by Family Inequality, asked undergraduate college students their favorite color and presented the results by sex. Men’s favorites are on the left, women’s on the right:
This is a great example of the difference between research findings and the interpretation of those findings. This is how I would interpret it:
Today in the U.S., but not elsewhere and not always, blue is gendered male and pink gendered female. We might expect, then, that men would internalize a preference for blue and women a preference for pink. We live, however, in an androcentric society that values masculinity over femininity. This rewards the embracing of masculinity by both men and women (making it essentially compulsory for men) and stigmatizes the embracing of femininity (especially for men). We might expect, then, that men would comfortably embrace a love of blue (blue = masculinity = good), while many women will have a troubled relationship to pink (pink = femininity = devalued, but encouraged for women) and gravitate to blue and all of the good, masculine meaning it offers… or at least gravitate away from pink as it is devalued as the color of trivial, shallow, stupid girls.
That’s how I’d interpret it.
Here’s how the authors of the study interpreted it:
…we are inclined to suspect the involvement of neurohormonal factors. Studies of rats have found average sex differences in the number of neurons comprising various parts of the visual cortex. Also, gender differences have been found in rat preferences for the amount of sweetness in drinking water. One experiment demonstrated that the sex differences in rat preferences for sweetness was eliminated by depriving males of male-typical testosterone levels in utero. Perhaps, prenatal exposure to testosterone and other sex hormones operates in a similar way to “bias” preferences for certain colors in humans.
But really… data must always be interpreted. It never stands alone.