The blog Blue Abaya is an account of the experiences of a women who moved to Saudi Arabia from Finland.  One of her posts centers around the difference in the color palette.  “Pinkness,” she writes, “seems to be everywhere.”  The  prevalence of pink in Saudi Arabia is a great example of how the meaning of colors is different from culture to culture.  Pink simply does not have the same feminine association there that it does in the U.S.

In addition, she tells this story:

[M]y american friend… was in a shopping mall with her [one-and-a-half-year] old son. His hair is a little longer which is unusual in Saudi but many parents in the U.S. find cute.

A Saudi woman with a baby stroller stopped to talk to her asking, is this your daughter?  My friend said no it’s a boy.  So this Saudi lady dramatically threw her hands in the air looking toward the sky and began praying:  “Oh Allah guide this woman to the straight path!” “Guide her to cut the sons hair!”  “He looks like a girl, guide this poor woman!”

She told my friend she MUST cut his hair because he looked like a girl.

My friend was appalled at the woman’s behavior. Nevertheless she tried to be polite and said pointing to the woman’s baby dressed up in an all-pink outfit “What a beautiful girl you have mashallah.”

The woman replied:  “It’s a boy.”

My friend asked why is he dressed up in PINK?

She replied: “Oh, I don’t believe in colors being gender specific.”

Ah, culture.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.