It’s not just “a” girl color, but the international spokescolor (yes, a made up word) for the female gender.
Here's a great post from Kyle Wiley of The Good Men Project (re-blogged via the Huffington Post, but hey, Arianna's rich enough). My favorite line:
Made up words are the best, because like all custom-made items, they fit better than the off-the-rack-versions. That is exactly the idea I have been trying to get across, less articulately, when I talk or write about pink and blue. Blue is NOT a spokescolor; pink is a spokescolor. Why is that, do you think? Is there something magical about pink itself? Mais non.
The magic is one of the oldest known superpowers: giving birth. Stay with me, friends. Here's how I see it: Women used to be powerful because they gave birth. The only way men could be more powerful than women was to control reproduction -- through marriage, through rape, through laws about birth control and abortion. But none of that transfered the magical power from women to men, so a cultural solution emerged instead. Make birth dirty, make sex a sin, make women dirty, weak sinners, lower than men because of their magic power.
Now all you have to do to maintain male superiority is make sure they are not tainted by anything remotely effete or feminine. Punish homosexuality. Raise little boys to be not-girls. Ridicule boys --and men-- who cry, or who are unathletic, or who like pink. It's a small price to pay for a place at the top of the social order.
Why have women put up with this? Many reasons, including a need to protect their offspring, their own survival and this complicated force called "hegemony", which results in acceptance of the dominant culture even when it works against you. (Kind of a cultural Stockholm syndrome.) But all is not lost; there are men and women, mothers and fathers, who believe that all humans have magical powers of love, imagination and creativity, and that humanity will benefit when every baby is valued for its potential to love, imagine and create, not its role in human reproduction.
Peace. (Steps off soapbox, returns to her index cards.)
Yesterday, February 12, would have been my mother's 90th birthday. In her memory, I decided take a close look at children's fashion in the year of her birth. As the third child born to a young German Lutheran minister and his wife in rural Canada, I doubt if she ever wore any of the fancier styles shown here, but family photos certainly confirm the rules of appropriate clothing for children under 7.
Babies from birth to around 6 months: long white gowns, ranging from minimally embellished to elaborately trimmed with lace and embroidery.
Babies from six months to a year or slightly older: short white dresses and one-piece rompers. Again, these could be plain or fancy, depending on the occasion and the family's budget and needlework talents.
Gender differences were introduced between one and two years, with little boys exchanging dresses for short trousers, often attached to their shirts or blouses with buttons at the waistline. Little girls stayed in dresses, but in an array of colors.
Here's a video I created for the occasion:
Now that the manuscript is out of my hands, I an eagerly turning to my next project. On April 22, I'll be in San Antonio, Texas to give a paper at the Popular Culture Association conference. The title is "Pink Boys and Tomgirls: Raising Gender Variant Boys in the Twenty-first Century", and it's giving me a chance to delve more deeply into a phenomenon that is emerging so fast I couldn't cover it adequately in the book. here's the abstract, for starters (sorry, it's a tad jargon-y):
For the last twenty-five years, parents who prefer neutral or androgynous styles for their children have had very few options in the retail market. How do these gender rules effect children who do not conform to dominant gender expectations, including not only the 1 child in 100 who is born intersex, or the 2-10% (depending on your sources) who will be sexually attracted to partners of their own sex, but all the girls who dislike pink and the boys who want to play princess? My own research strongly argues that clothing does not “make the man” when it comes to babies and toddlers; there is no evidence whatsoever that homosexuality is any more or less prevalent now than it was when boys wore dresses until they were five, or that lesbianism spiked among the first generation of girls to wear pants. But that does not mean that children between one and six may not use clothing to help explore and express what their biological sex in the cultural landscape into which they were born. In this presentation I will offer an overview of this emerging trend and discuss its connection to the current system of gender binaries in children’s clothing, in the context of contemporary psychological thought. I will place special emphasis on the appearance of blogs and organizations that provide support to parents with “gender non-conforming” or “gender variant” boys.
I have collected some resources in my Zotero library, and will be working through the presentation here. Stay tuned!
"Pink or Blue? Which is intended for boys and which for girls? This question comes from one of our readers this month, and the discussion may be of interest to others. There has been a great diversity of opinion on this subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the poy and blue for the girls. the reason is that pink being a more decided and stringer color, is more suitable for the boy' while blue, which is more delicate and dainty is prettier for the girl”
Infants’ Department, June 1918 The first time I encountered these words, paging through a heavy, bound issue of Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department, nearly thirty years ago, I stopped and re-read it several times, at least once under my breath. I was following up a minor sideline in a project on babies’ clothing during the Progressive Era -- the seemingly trivial question “when were pink and blue introduced as gendered colors?” At that point, the white rabbit darted into its hole and I dove in after it. Years later, I am back to tell the very complicated tale of how American baby and toddler clothing went from completely devoid of sexual hints to almost completely separated into “his” and hers” camps.
boy's button-on suit, 1920s
Pink and blue symbolism is so firmly embedded in American popular culture that it’s hard to believe that their gender associations are relatively new, and have changed with each generation. Before 1900, babies in the United States wore white clothing that signified their age but not their sex, consistent with cultural norms. Toddler clothing (up to age 4) was more colorful, but hues were assigned according to complexion, season or fashion, not sex.In the 1920s and 1930s pink was the preferred color for little boys in many parts of the United States.
Hot off the presses!