Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pink Is Not A Girl Color


A year ago around Rylan's 3rd birthday, we headed to Target to buy some boots. At that time, Rylan only ever wore boots (being fond of the easy on and off quality), and since he'd outgrown his last pair, my sister gave him some birthday money with the instructions to spend it on boots.

At Target, my car-obsessed, sword-loving, all-boy child stood between the display of red Spiderman boots and pink Disney Princess boots...and went for the pink. As Rylan, with the beautiful naivete of a three-year-old, hugged the pink boots to his chest, his brothers began to snicker, and I turned on them with a warning look: "If Rylan wants the princess boots, he can get the princess boots, and you are not going to say a word."

A few Sundays later, Rylan somehow convinced Michael to let him wear the princess boots to church. That day, at least ten people came up to me and said, "What's up with Rylan's boots?" I recounted the story with a shrug and a laugh, ignoring the silent judging looks on their faces that said, "I would never..."

But the reaction at church among friends was nothing compared to the looks we got from strangers. Every time Rylan wore those boots out in public, someone would comment on my "daughter." The kid would be wearing a navy blue coat, navy blue hat, and navy blue mittens, but because he had pink boots on his feet...must be a girl.

Eventually, Rylan picked up on the social stigma against boys and pink. I don't know if people made comments to his face or if he simply noticed on his own, but one day he came to me and announced that he wanted to give his princess boots away. To his friend, a girl, whose favorite color is pink.

Today at lunch, Rylan said to me, "Dora wears pink. That must mean she likes pink."

I said, "That's probably true. Do you like pink?"

He answered emphatically, "No." And then his face grew thoughtful for a second, and he added a little hesitantly, "I mean, I like pink, but I don't wear it. It's okay for boys to like pink because it's a pretty color, but it's not okay to wear it. That's what my teacher told me."

I responded with a heavy sigh, sad that other people and their pointless prejudices talked my little boy out of something he enjoyed.

When I bought those pink boots, I wasn't trying to make a statement about stereotypes or to teach my children some sort of feminist lesson. I was simply trying to let Rylan be Rylan - to let him like what he wants to like regardless of what other people say he should like. That's a quality I hope my kids have throughout their lives, a confidence I want to develop in them.

But the experience has made me think a lot about boys and girls and colors and stereotypes and nature versus nurture. I've told my boys thousands of times, "There are no such things as girl colors. There are no such things as girl shows. There are no such things as girl toys." I've protected my boys from many of those stereotypes as long as I could, but the truth is that despite my feminist mantras, there are lines that I would not let my boys cross.

I believe that boys and girls, men and women, are different. Physically different, obviously, but different in other ways as well. But how much of those differences are nature and how much are nurture, I do not know. And which ones we should hold on to and which ones we should fight to get rid of, I do not know either. But this I do believe:


  1. You'll be happy to know that Dade's current favorite color is pink, he loves princesses & Dora, and he walks around in drag (dress-up clothes) all day. I hate that stigma too and am mad that (Rylan's) teacher would feel like she had to point that out!! The funny thing is, I hate pink! Maybe I'm a boy?? ;)


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