Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pretty in Pink: Color and Gender

Okay - I have a question and maybe not an answer. In the past two days, two different media outlets made me think about the relationship between color and gender...specifically the color pink.

On one of my favorite train-wreck shows, Wife Swap, I watched women from two radically different homes. One came from a hippie, creative, loosey-goosey home where the dad made money as a clown and the two young boys did pretty much whatever they wanted. The oldest boy - probably about 9 - had hair down to his waist and loved the color pink. In fact, he loved it so much that he always dressed in pink and painted his room hot pink.

The other mom was from a football family in Texas. Her sons breathed football and believed that all cleaning and cooking was women's work. The results were not surprising. The football mom was horrified by pink boy and insisted that he cut his hair and paint his room a "normal" boy color: blue or green.

This little scrawny 9-year-old stood firm. He would not cut is hair, "I like the way it feels when I swing my head." And, he refused to paint his room.

The next day, on Moody Radio, a caller wrote in saying she was very worried about her three-year-old son who wanted to dress up for Halloween as a princess. Yes, a princess - not a prince. Other commentators struggled with whether or not that would be okay. Is it wrong to allow this type of gender cross-over for young boys? Is it harmful? Or, as one person suggested, especially at age 3, is it merely the sign of an imaginative mind?

I have mixed feelings myself. I am less worried about the 3-year-old princess. After all, the princesses are far more interesting in fairy tales than the princes. The princes in Cinderella and Snow White barely have personalities - they just show up on a horse at the end. Actually, all that is needed are their magical lips!

But I was a bit more puzzled by the 9-year-old pink boy. Is that okay? At what point does his bold and nontraditional choice become problematic? Who is more worrisome - the 9-year-old who isn't afraid to buck stereotypes and love pink or the football mom who is threatened by it? Are blue and green truly boy colors? What do we do with boys who don't fit stereotypes?

What if they love to cross-stitch (I knew one college guy who proposed to his wife with a sampler)?

What if they love to cook or paint or sew?

Is it okay for a boy to love pink? Does that mean he isn't masculine?

I think we have to be careful. We must encourage our children to be who they are - whether girls are sporty or boys are creative. However, they also have to appreciate their masculine and feminine, God-given qualities.

It is a careful tightrope on which we walk...
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