The Politics of Pink


“But my favourite colour is pink Mamma”, he said with pleading eyes for the umpteenth time. “I know, but blue is such a lovely colour. And grey, black, green are also so nice”, she tried persuading him. “No, I like pink and purple. I want to buy those pink shoes”, he persisted. “Pink is a very girlie colour, you know. Do any of the boys in your class wear pink shoes?” she asked hoping he will give up. “No, but a lot of the girls wear blue. They also wear trousers and t-shirts and shorts just like us boys”, he answered innocently. She didn’t know what to say, how to convince him. “We are buying the blue shoes, and that’s final”, she announced exasperated. He threw a fit. He started crying and screaming in the shoe shop and all the other customers started staring at them. Embarrassed she took him to a corner and tried to calm him down.

Once the sobs reduced she said sadly, “everyone will tease you if you wear pink shoes Beta. Please understand. All your friends will laugh at you. Do you want that? You will feel very bad if that happens.” “But why? Who decides these colours? Why are all the beautiful things and bright colours only for girls? I like those things. Girls have such pretty necklaces and clothes and shoes and bracelets. Why can’t boys wear nice things like girls?” he asked hurt and confused. “I don’t know sweetheart, but it’s just the way of the world. That’s what everyone does”, she answered helplessly, hating herself for succumbing to the false labels of society. But she knew it is a ruthless world out there and her little boy will be ridiculed, humiliated and laughed at for such choices. She wanted to protect him from being taunted as girlish and pansy. She knew these associations were wrong and unfair, but she also knew she could not change the way the world worked.

Less than a hundred years ago, pink, viewed as a more decisive and strong colour was the boy colour, while blue, considered the more delicate and dainty colour was the girl colour.

If we look back just a few centuries ago, men sported fancy garments and attires. They adorned and embellished themselves with ornaments and accessories. Men wore their hair long and donned decorative headgears and bands. Then why do we mock these very things today? Why have we taken away colour and beauty from the lives of our boys?

It is not necessary for a boy to be sporty, brave, outgoing, rugged and strong to prove his masculinity. He does not have to be a good sportsperson to prove he is a boy. Why can’t a boy love being indoors? Why can’t a boy be passionate about baking, painting and singing without having any liking for football and tennis? In no way is it abnormal for a boy to love art and craft more than cricket. Our definitions of masculinity or femininity should not be so fickle and narrow-minded.

These unwarranted labels are forcing our boys to live artificial lives. We are curtailing their freedom to make simple daily choices with regards to the colours or outfits they prefer. We are pushing them to choose sports over their natural instinct for art or music.

The origins of these concepts and ideas lie in the decisions made very wisely by manufacturers over the past few decades. Categorising products by gender allows them to exploit the customers by offering a whole range of doll houses and kitchen sets, cars, guns and robots, pink and frilly dresses, super-hero t-shirts, purple princess shoes, fire-engine and dump-truck caps… an entire array of products which very often are inessential and excessive. By falling prey to these tactics, we have defined our lives in a way suitable for profit hungry manufacturers.

But the graver concern is, unwittingly we are laying the foundation for gender discrimination and role biases in the future lives of our children. By making these product choices and having preference for certain activities or sports determined by our child’s sex, we are ingraining and instilling these values and differences in our children right from the cradle.

As a society, we have laid down very strict rules for appropriate and acceptable behaviours based on genders. It is mandatory for people to fit into the box created by industry and followed by society. Any deviation will be jeered and scoffed at publically. Most of us don’t even give a second thought to this imposition and intrusion on the individual’s personal choice to be a certain way.

And those of us who do give a thought are afraid our children will be singled out. We fear the hurt and humiliation our boys and girls will have to face and try to accommodate ourselves against our wishes in these claustrophobic boxes created by society.

Aditi Munot is Pune based blogger


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