Cross-posted at Jezebel.
American Studies professor Jo B. Paoletti has announced the publication of her book, Pink and Blue: Telling the Boys from the Girls in America. I’ve been eagerly anticipating getting my hands on a copy. It was from Paoletti that I learned that the idea that pink was a feminine and blue a masculine color was a relatively new invention in American history (one that even now does not necessarily extend to other countries). See, for example, this pink 1920s birthday card for a man (with a pre-Nazi swastika too).
The book asks “When did we startdressing girls in pink and boys in blue?” To answer this question:
She chronicles the decline of the white dress for both boys and girls, the introduction of rompers in the early 20th century, the gendering of pink and blue, the resurgence of unisex fashions, and the origins of today’s highly gender-specific baby and toddler clothing.
In an analysis of baby cards from the 1960s, she notes that many of the cards are gender-neutral and include both pink and blue, but that even the gender-specific cards (this particular baby was a girl) use both colors. These cards, then, reveal that pink and blue had emerged as recognizable baby colors by the 1960s, but the use of blue in the “for girl” cards and the preponderance of gender-neutral cards suggests that the importance of gender differentiation hadn’t taken hold.
She has a large collection of examples.
At her website Paoletti says she has a book planned on “old lady clothes, mother-of-the-bride dresses, cougars and other age-appropriate nonsense.” I can’t wait.Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Letta Page — February 2, 2012
I'm super excited for that forthcoming book, too! I'd also add that Doug wrote up an Editors' Desk post on the pink/blue divide a while back, too: http://thesocietypages.org/editors/2011/12/29/one-kid-two-kid-pink-kid-blue-kid/
Katya — February 2, 2012
Looking forward to the book! I'm so tired of hearing people justify the pink sparkly ghetto for girls on the grounds that "girls just like pink" and claiming that people who find it problematic just don't want girls to be feminine.
Random fact: blue was often a girl's color, because of its association with the Virgin Mary, while pink, as a lighter version of red, was a masculine color. These things are just total cultural constructs. Not so helpful, I suppose, to parents trying to dress their girls in something other than pink ruffles....
The History of Pink and Blue; Which Tweets Are Worth Reading; And More « Welcome to the Doctor's Office — February 2, 2012
[...] from SocImages [...]
Peter4011 — February 2, 2012
Perhaps we forget in 1960, knowing the sex of your child in advance was nt common.
Anonymous — February 2, 2012
Those cards are beautiful!
Basiorana — February 2, 2012
I just saw my cousin's baby room for her daughter to be--she's 36 weeks-- and was shocked. I mean, EVERYTHING pepto-bismol pink with "princess" and "diva" and "mommy's girl" everywhere. I guess I didn't realize how bad it had gotten. My mom dressed us in unisex outfits, save for the occasional pretty dress for Grandma visits, until we were old enough to pick our own styles because that meant she bought clothes once for three children-- and technically once for more, because my sister's baby clothes were once my cousins' and I think her OshKosh overalls are on child 18 now. My cousin meanwhile will no doubt buy an entire new everything should she have a son, and her daughter will have such strict gender norms from day one. Has that much changed in 20 years? And WHY?
John Hensley — February 3, 2012
Thank you, this exact question had been on my mind a couple weeks ago!
Maire Smith — February 3, 2012
What she seems to miss, then, is the bit in L. M. Alcott's 'Little Women' (1860s or 1870s) when the twin babies are identified by a pink ribbon for the girl and a blue for the boy, 'French fashion'.
It was a pretty popular book, and it probably had a major influence on the whole thing.
Babs Loyd — February 5, 2012
"Associating blue with male babies may stem back to ancient times when having a boy was good luck. Blue, the color of the sky where gods and fates lived, held powers to ward off evil, so baby boys were dressed in blue. In Greece a blue eye is still thought to have powers to ward off evil. The idea of pink for girls might come from the European legend that baby girls were born inside delicate pink roses.
Another theory states that the sexual origins of colors come from China. At a time when certain dyes were quite rare, pink dye was readily available and cheap. Since blue dyes were rare and expensive, it was therefore considered to be more worthwhile to dress your son in blue, because when he married the family would receive a dowry." from the site www.colormatters.com/color .
I like the baby cloothes article and recall cards I have from my grandmother's stash from the 1950's which do not designate blue for boys and pink for girls. So many young girls became gaga over pink in the last generation, it must have been related to Barbie's influence.
My blog is about investigating the history of colors and artists' uses of colors.
Articles for 2/12/12 « Pomona College Women’s Union — February 12, 2012
[...] And here is a quick look at how gendering babies in pink and blue is more recent than it may seem: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/02/02/jo-b-paoletti-and-the-history-of-pink-and-blue/ [...]
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[…] a rule book or something out there, but I know that it was up until the mid-20th century before colors like pink were assigned to femininity. Second of all, as a Brony who is also Christian and straight, let me […]
Toward a World Without Gender Centrism | TTC — August 8, 2014
[…] I recently found my new favorite blog, Sociological Images. It’s a group of sociology professors and students who use images to prove their point. I don’t love all the posts but some, with one picture, will make you completely shift your view on something you most likely thought was fundamental. For instance this post, “…The History of Pink and Blue.” […]
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