A Mom Got Tired Of People Telling Her That Her Son Couldn’t Wear Pink, So Here’s What She Did

Anyone who’s ever announced the gender of their child knows that it can open you up to an avalanche of either pink or blue gifts from those who “mean well.” Nevermind a parent’s taste or future personality of the child; society has many people programmed to gravitate toward particular colors based on a baby's sex.

One mom had enough. What she decided to do inspired a vlogger to get to the bottom of folks' obsession with pink and blue.

Disclaimer: Although Lisa Ferguson makes strong arguments about gender stereotypes, she only talks about people who identify as male or female. She fails to include trans children or those who don’t identify as male or female. Just some additional food for thought.

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Lisa Ferguson: Boys can do a lot of things, but they definitely cannot wear pink. At least that's one of the artificial gender stereotypes that we've set up. And if you're anywhere near my age or in my generation, I bet you're going to remember this.

David Schwimmer: Has anyone seen my shirt? It's button-down, like a faded salmon color?

Courteney Cox: You mean your pink shirt?

David Schwimmer: Faded salmon color.

Lisa Ferguson: So we know boys get made fun of for liking or wearing the color pink all because of these macho stereotypes we've set up about the way boys and men are "supposed" to be. But one mom is looking to change all of that. She set up a campaign with the #FreeToWearPink, and it's all about teaching kids that it's OK to be yourself and that who you are does not have to be dictated by gender stereotypes. In fact, she's now selling her own brand of t-shirts called "Quirky Kids" tackling all sorts of gender stereotypes, not just the myth that boys can't wear pink, but also things like the myth that girls don't like science.

So why is it that we've created a society where boys can't wear the color pink? Just think about it. There's nothing inherently girly or unmasculine about pink, it's really just a color, and the rules surrounding that are entirely made up, and then, they're perpetuated by every generation.

In fact, that's true of a lot of the things that we do. We don't need to behave in certain ways, we just do because we accept that that's what society tells us, and that's just the way it's supposed to be. If you take a look at how many things you're doing, not because you actually want to do them, but just because societal norms tell you that that's what you should do, you might be surprised and you might start to have a little bit of an identity crisis because you might think, "Who am I? Do I really like these things, or do I just think I do because of everything that society has imposed on me?" But that's getting off on a little bit of another topic.

Now, it wasn't always the case that boys wore blue and girls wore pink, or even that only girls wore dresses. Take a look at these two portraits from the late 1700s by Thomas Gainsborough, one called "The Blue Boy," the other called "The Pink Boy," but they're both boys, even though one's in blue and one's in pink. Or take a look at this picture of a child with long hair wearing a frilly dress. If you think this is a girl, we couldn't necessarily fault you by today's standards, but you'd be wrong. This is actually Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And while today, that might make people cringe or think that child is going to grow up as a freak with some sort of gender identity issues, that was actually entirely normal for kids during that time period. A lot of kids, both girls and boys, wore dresses until about the age of six, and then parents started putting their boys in trousers and keeping the girls in dresses.

It was in the mid-19th century that blue and pink and other pastel colors were first introduced as baby colors, but even then, they still weren't gender-specific. It wasn't until about World War I that blue and pink started to become gender signifiers, but at first, it was actually the other way around. The Smithsonian quotes Earnshaw's Infants' Department in June 1918 saying, "The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys and blue for the girls. The reason is 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." Then, the colors started gradually shifting genders. And in 1927, "Time Magazine" published a chart of sex-appropriate colors for boys and girls. But guess who made up all those rules? It was major stores in the United States. So eventually, we all became victims of a huge marketing scheme that affects societal and gender norms to this day.

So why do we fall prey to this sort of thing so easily? Ever since we're born and the doctor and our parents get one look at our genitalia, we're automatically shoved into a stereotype about what we should look like, how we should behave, what we should like, and who we should be. And it's all based on one very little thing, whether or not we have an extra X chromosome or a Y chromosome, whether or not we have a penis or a vagina. And the color pink is just one example of that. We also see this with makeup, body hair, sexuality, career preferences, whether or not we're likely to be a good cook, whether or not we're going to want to have kids. All of these things are assumed about us, and it permeates every aspect of our entire lives, and most of the time, we're not even doing it consciously.

So that's why things like the Free To Wear Pink campaign, however controversial they may be, are so important because it's not just about the decision whether or not we're going to wear pink, it's about reminding ourselves that we need to stop and look around and figure out why we're really acting the way we are. Because if we don't do that, then we're never truly free to be ourselves. We'll just continue to be the social archetypes of all the influences around us.

So let me know in the comment section down below what you think about the Free To Wear Pink campaign, and also let me know if this has made you stop and take a look at how else you might be behaving and some other things you might be doing that you're not even really necessarily doing by conscious choice, but you're just doing because you've been shoved into that social archetype ever since you were born.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

Lisa Ferguson is the outspoken journalist who produced this clip. To hear more of her interesting commentary about gender, check out her YouTube channel. Wanna join the pink parade? Check out the Quirkie Kids website or follow them on Facebook.

Aug 28, 2014

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