Pink/blue, boy/girl?

Update: I’m curious. Will you take a color preference survey here?

Which is the boy and which is the girl here, anyway?

If you said the girl is the one on the right, you are living in the past. Like around 1918, when Ladies Home Journal wrote:

“the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. 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.”

Blue was long associated with the Virgin Mary in Europe and therefore with girls, but to the Nazis pink was the effeminate color — so we might owe their anti-Catholicism some credit for reversing the gender scheme.

Anyway, the amazing thing is this information is from an article (behind a pay wall) in the journal Child’s Nervous System that goes on to speculate on reasons why evolution might have made girls prefer pink and boys prefer blue:

Thus, the pink and blue tradition is recent and relatively exclusive to the Western world, but the girls’ preference for the color pink seems to have deeper roots. … It is therefore plausible that, in specializing for gathering, the female brain honed the trichromatic adaptations … and these underpin the female preference for objects reddish. … Whereas discrimination of red wavelengths appears to facilitate identification of plant food, a preference for red or pink appears to have an advantage for successful female reproduction. This preference for reddish-pink is thought to exist because infant faces compared to adult ones are reddish-pink, and red or pink may signal approach behaviors that enhance infant survival…

It’s amazing, isn’t it, that after all these thousands of years, it was just 60 years ago that we finally figured out to dress girls in pink, which is what they wanted all along! (No reason is given for why boys prefer blue.) That must be why women are so happy now. I love this stuff.

Updated here and here.

9 thoughts on “Pink/blue, boy/girl?

  1. “The Sunday Sentinel in 1914 told American mothers: ‘If you like the colour note on the little one’s garments, use pink for the boy and blue for the girl, if you are a follower of convention.’ ”

    That’s from an article in
    The Guardian
    , which I found in a post by Lisa at Sociological Images back in Sept. 2008. The author was using it for the same purpose — to debunk a bit of evol-psych nonsense.


  2. Thanks! Note “if you like the colour note.” At least in the U.S. in that period they were just coming out of the practice of dressing boys and girls both in white dresses till they were about 4 or 5, at which age they differentiated by gender.


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