It seems as though the parenting world is taking a stand as of late. From petitions for a boy friendly Easy Bake Oven to this new book about a boy who likes the color pink, parents seem to be taking a harder look at what gender stereotypes they will and will not participate in. Below we hear from the author of the new book “Pink is Just a Color and So Is Blue”.When my younger son was 3, he loved the color pink. He wanted Dora the Explorer and a couple of other baby dolls. I bought these for him as well a stroller and a kitchen set. While in preschool, he wanted My Little Pony, Littlest Petshop and Zoobles, which apparently were marketed mostly to girls.
I had no qualms about any of my son’s play choices . Then one day, I heard my older son telling my younger one that he was “like a girl” because he liked the color pink and enjoyed playing with the kitchen toys . After hearing him taunt his brother, I had a serious talk with the older one about teasing.
I reminded him that he also liked pink when he was little. I needed him to understand that toys and colors did not define who children were. Colors were just colors, and toys were just a way for young children to learn about the bigger world around them. We even talked about how their father helped change diapers and loved to cook when he had time. So what was the big deal about his little brother playing with the kitchen set. My two boys became the inspiration for my book, Pink is Just a Color and so is Blue, now available on Amazon.
Research shows that children’s personalities are set by the time they are 5. They have already built a sense of what is right and wrong by the time they are about 10. Teaching kids to be open minded needs to begin in preschool and kindergarten, not in middle school. Anti-bullying and anti-teasing education often starts in middle school. Unfortunately, by this age, many kids already have an engrained set of beliefs and ideals. Then we are fighting an uphill battle. Learning at a younger age that we don’t all have to fit into a mold, makes for more accepting “tweenagers” and teenagers and youngsters with enough self confidence to handle difficult situations in life.
Pink is Just a Color and so is Blue hopes to shatter some of the old gender stereotypes about children’s toys and gender specific colors. Why should the play kitchen be considered a “girly” toy. Aren’t most chef men? Don’t we want our boys to be nurturing dads and husbands one day? So what is the big deal with little boys wanting dolls and stroller? Why are all toys for little girls aimed at making them domestic divas or princesses in the land of all things pretty and pink? Don’t we expect that our little girls should grow to be confident, independent and strong women one day? So why limit them in play with fashion, easy bake ovens and everything from the land of enchantment?
Toys for boys are about fighting, aggression, competition, science, building and construction. Girls toys tend to be related to domesticity, nurturing and about appearance. Take a walk down a toy isle for girls and be flooded by a sea of pink kitchens, dolls, beauty salons, jewelry making and fashion designing kits. Irony of it is that most chef are men and so are a vast number of fashion designers.
Historically, toys were not just for fun but a way of training youngsters for their roles as adults. Societal roles seem to changing but our notions of gender related toys seem to be slow in evolving. By limiting children to playing with certain types of toys is limiting their play and learning experience. It is limiting girls in particular to their later career choices. While men excel in math and sciences, women tend to stay in education and humanities type careers.
Interestingly, pink and blue did not have the same associations as today. In the early 1900’s, all the big fashion magazines promoted the color pink as a great color for men. Being a shade of red, it was considered strong and masculine. Blue on the other hand, was thought to be cool and dainty, and as such, a great color for women!! It wasn’t until as late as the 1980’s that pink for girls and blue for boys became a widely accepted norm in our society.
Another little know but very interesting fact about the color pink dates back to the Nazis. Yes THE Nazis. During WWII, the Nazis captured millions of prisoners. In order to keep track of them all, they established a color coding system. We all know that the Jews were forced to wear a yellow Star of David on them at all times. It was sewn onto their prison uniforms in the camps.
A whole series of color coded inverted triangles, pointing downward, allowed camp officials to identify the “crimes” for which the prisoners were incarcerated. For instance, political prisoners wore red triangles, emigrants wore blue triangles, real criminals wore green triangles, Jehovah’s wore purple triangles, and “asocial women (lesbian) wore black triangles. And finally, the pink inverted triangles identified those the Nazis thought to be gay!! Did this have any bearing on our suggestion of pink as a feminine color today? We will never really know.
Societal norms and ideals are changing, albeit slowly. There was a time when the woman’s place was in the kitchen. But that’s not the case anymore. There was a time when only men wore pants or only women took care of the kids. There was also a time when wristwatches were considered too feminine and real men carried pocket watches. Today, men sport wrist watches not only as a fashion statement but also as a status symbol. Gender roles are changing and so should our attitudes about what it means to be a man or a woman.
Pink is indeed a beautiful color… and so is blue. But what is it about our society, that we have this need to put everything in nice little boxes? Why do we have a need to label and categories everything! Why can’t we just let our kids be kids? Let them play explore and learn more about themselves and their world. Isn’t our ultimate goal as parents to assure that our children grow up to be self confident, happy, secure and productive men and women?
If we as adults become more open-minded, then a positive, unbiased attitude will automatically permeate into our kids. Maybe our children will be more tolerant and accepting of each other and see individual differences as something to celebrate… rather than ridicule. When kids are accepting, they are less likely to tease or bully. So let’s spread the message that toys are just toys… and Pink is Just a Color and so is Blue!!!!
Writer: Niki Bhatia author of Pink is Just a Color and so is Blue is available exclusively on Amazon.com
Follow Niki Bhatia’s Blog at: niketabhatia.blogspot.com