Pink and Blue

Pink and Blue

Telling the Boys From the Girls in America

Book - 2012
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Publisher: Bloomington : Indiana University Press, c2012
ISBN: 9780253001177
Branch Call Number: 646.3097 PAOLETT
Characteristics: xix, 169 p. : ill. ; 24 cm


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Jul 29, 2013

Isn't this book relatively nonsensical? Isn't it far more important to tell the intelligent from the stupid? The honest from the corrupt? The sane and rational from the mentally ill and dangerous?

Jul 26, 2013

The author of this book is an academic but her book is very accessible to the layperson. In this intriguing work, Jo Paoletti uses a wide variety of sources to outline the evolution of gendered clothing for infants and young children in America. She writes a history of infant clothing in the U.S. & Europe from about 1500. To jump ahead, beginning in the early 20th century, fashions and colors became symbols of gender identity. Certain colors that were once considered normal for any baby, now were delegated to females; pink was considered babyish so it was designated as only appropriate for girls. Manufacturers were happy to push gender colors because that decreased the likelihood that parents could use the same clothing for a new baby that had been used by the previous baby. In the 1960s-80s, the women's movement put forth stronger images of women and forcefully rejected sex stereotyping including the obligatory pink. Alas, there was a subsequent cultural backlash. By the mid 1980s pink became ubiquitous for girls ages 3-7 ,as it remains today (although there are some boys & men who dare to wear pink). Pink took a long time though to achieve this hegemony. From the time when it was first suggested that color could or should denote gender, more than a century passed before pink became exclusively for girls. One factor increasing the use of pink was prenatal testing. Knowing in advance the gender of a child allowed parents & grandparents & friends to focus clothing & other purchases according to the only thing they knew about the fetus - its gender. The emphasis on conservative gender roles and clothing coincided with the Reagan era and the defeat of the ERA. According to some theories, the children who had been raised with a unisex philosophy and unisex clothes may have rebelled against their parents and chosen differently for their own children. Young children, according to child psychologists, are uncertain of the permanence of their gender and are thus eager to affirm it. If parents allow children ages 3-7 to choose their own clothes (and that happens often these days) then they will go for pink for girls and blue for boys as they've been socialized to believe those colors affirm their gender. The author briefly discusses the possibility (likelihood?) that all of this doctrinaire emphasis on gender colors reflects a deep anxiety about homosexuality in American culture even as gay rights have become more acceptable. She also briefly discusses the trends affecting girls these days - besides the obvious pinkification, parents and children must also deal with princesses, and the sexualization of clothing.


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