Home LIFESTYLE Is it ok to associate different colours with gender?

Is it ok to associate different colours with gender?

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Girls like pink and boys like blue is a common stereotype that makes parents buy pink clothes, toys, stationery, etc. for their daughters and blue for their son. Even today, in an era that could be described as ‘everything goes’ and despite our awareness and resistance towards assigning colours to the sexes, we still encounter the glaring pink-blue split in almost every kid’s store. We have just made this perception in our mind that certain colours look good on certain genders only.

The most common thing to happen is that on seeing a man wearing a pink t-shirt, we unconsciously judge that person regarding his choices – he is wearing such a feminine colour, he is like a girl, “Behave like a man” are some thoughts that invariably pass through our minds. All pastels and light colours are considered as feminine and all dark colours high in hue are considered masculine. Moreover, the LGBTQ is given the pride colour (the combination of some different colours). The categorization of colours also varies from culture to culture.  

Children too are imprisoned by colours due to such societal perception; the differences between girls’ objects and boys’ objects are divided on this basis which affects their thinking and behavioural patterns. Many toys and books for girls are pink, purple or red, and are related to making up, dressing up, cooking and domestic affairs. In 2007, a study found evidence that males and females may be sensitive to different regions of the colour spectrum, but the explanations that have been proposed are still very speculative and leave much to be desired.

Assigning colours to babies enforces a role that they are supposed to grow and fit into. There are only two colours that are assigned, signalling that there are only two genders – if you’re a girl, you have to like pink to be girly; if you’re a boy, you have to have blue and you cannot like pink, or else you aren’t manly enough. If you’re a girl and you like blue, you’re a tomboy and you aren’t seen as a strong female but as a girl who doesn’t know how to be a ‘proper girl’.

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This impacts the young minds which develop under the shadow of environmental influences, socialization, modelling and observational learning. Whatever the child sees, he/she learns the same. If they are taught and shown the colour bias between boys and girls, then as adults, they will also do the same. For example, in a study conducted with 40 children aged between 5 and 15 months, researchers found that adults gave boys sports equipment, cars, tools and blue clothing while the females were given dolls, furniture and pink clothing. Somehow, choices are being limited and restricted regarding a basic thing of life, that is, colours.

Due to this, girls grow up believing that they must stick to interests like cooking, baking, and other stereotypically feminine activities, while boys have the pressure of “being a man”. They may be forced to shun particular interests or career choices simply because it is not the accepted choice for a male. This is the primary danger of exposing children to our prejudices at such an impressionable age; it affects their self-esteem and confidence. As adults, it will be difficult for them to make simple or basic choices in life because as children they were restricted in making choices. This leads to withdrawn personality in an individual.

Gender schema theory, for instance, suggests that over the course of their development, children form gender schemas – or representations of information about gender and themselves – by acquiring knowledge from the environment and incorporating that knowledge into their schemas. As children grow up, they identify themselves under the shadow of their gender, seek gender-related information and choose colours and toys that are commonly associated with their gender. So, they should be provided a colour biased free environment where they are free to make choices without being judged for it. Children are gender detectives and create their own concepts of what gender means to them by actively seeking out gender-related information and they shouldn’t feel restricted in/by it.

Additionally, if an individual is prejudiced in regard to colour choices, it is possible that that person has prejudices related to other things as well and thus, has a prejudiced personality. We have to be open-minded and change the existing old thinking patterns to accept the fact that boys can wear pink and girls can wear blue colour without being judged!!!!

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Dr. Rachna Khanna Singh
Currently head of Department of Holistic Medicine & Wellness at Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon Dr. Rachna Khanna Singh is a mental wellness expert with expertise in relationship, lifestyle & stress management. The founder and director of The Mind and Wellness Studio Dr. Rachna Khanna has worked with leading hospitals like Fortis Escorts, Dharamshila Cancer Hospital. Her specialties include stress management, lifestyle management for heart diseases, supportive care for chronically ill patients, work-life balance, parent-child bonding, cancer support care, ante/postnatal care, relationship counselling, pre-marital & marital counselling, adolescent counselling, psychiatric & psychological illnesses like depression, anxiety, insomnia.

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