Why is it that blue is for boys and pink is for girls? Is it only a social construction, a gender stereotype within western society, or is there a biological component to it?
There is somewhat of a disagreement between scientists and psychologists on this subject. Some believe it’s only a product of marketing, originating in America. Once it became a common belief, the association between color and gender became automatic. The color pink is feminine, and the color blue masculine.
Pink for Boys & Blue for Girls
In the late 19th century and early 20th century there were several articles suggesting the pink and blue gender associations were actually reversed. Pink was believed to be more suitable for boys, as it was a stronger, more noticeable color. Because blue is a more reserved and less prominent color, it was considered delicate and therefore more suitable for girls. However, this seemed to be simply an interpretation or opinion on the most suitable colors for boys and girls, and it didn’t last.
Around the mid 20th century, clothing companies switched to the pink for girls, and blue for boys preference that we see today. Once these companies began advertising with these color preferences, it quickly became the norm, and gender color associations became automatic and unconscious in the western world.
Some academics believe these color associations are nothing more than the result of mass marketing campaigns by large clothing companies, originating in America in the mid to late 20th century.
However, there is evidence of the girl’s pink and boys’ blue gender color associations being true as early as the 19th century. This doesn’t fit with many of the modern day sociologists that believe the gender-color associations are only the result of relatively recent mass marketing.
Could it be that the blue, masculine, pink and feminine color connections are actually biological to gender? There have been studies that show there are differences between the genders with regards to the sensitivity of certain colors of the spectrum.
Studies and Research Suggests
Some studies have shown that women are better at differentiating between different shades of color, including subtle differences. It’s not just color that this is limited to. Based on studies, women also seem to be better at detecting subtle changes when it comes to hearing and taste as well. Science suggests this is down to the differing levels of hormones between the sexes which affect brain development.
Women have a particular sensitivity to detecting red and its various shades. This will also affect the ability to detect warm colors, such as yellow, orange and even pink. Scientists have discovered the gene responsible for detecting the color red. This gene is in direct relation to the x chromosome. Women have two x chromosome copies, compared to just one for men.
Color blindness is also much more common in men than in women, with 7 – 8% of men, and only 1% of women being color blind.
Do Girls Prefer Pink?
Based on science and studies, there is a reasonable argument to suggest that girls’ preference for colors like pink could be biological. After all, pink is just a lighter or pale shade of red, and girls are more sensitive to color shades, particularly the color red.
Studies are still ongoing and I’m sure more evidence to support either side of the argument will come into play. However, there does seem to be a boy/girl biological factor involved. Stereotypes and common gender color associations are likely to be in part an influencing factor as well.
Some stereotypes are based on certain truths, perhaps that’s the case here.