Colors Are for Everyone

“The boy choices are over there.”

“I think we have those in boy colors too.”

“Are you buying this for your daughter?”

All too often, I hear people say things like these. And I’m not the only one who hears them. My three boys do too. Every time an offhand comment is made, they look at me for reassurance that what I have been teaching them is true. I’m always ready with a reminder: Colors are for everyone.

What We Do

The brainwashing starts early. Gender reveals depend on pink or blue balloons, silly string, cake, or paint. The first question someone asks an expectant mother is, “Are you having a boy or girl?” When you buy a present for a baby shower, you choose from the rows of onesies with pink and purple flowers or with the blue and green footballs. A few options are considered gender neutral, but normally only one or two.

Once a baby is born, everything from the color of hat placed on her head to the blanket you wrap him in is designed to let the rest of the world know it’s a boy or girl. We feel the need to identify and label even the smallest, and the way we do this is through color.

The History

There is no rhyme or reason why we assign genders to colors the way we do. History shows that pink and blue in their current states are recent inventions. Babies used to wear white from infancy to around age six. In the 20th century, color designations started, but pink was for boys, as it was considered a younger version of the masculine red, and blue was for girls because it was thought to be pretty and dainty.

Eventually we got to where we are today, with a lot of help from excellent marketing strategies. It’s incredibly impressive that so many people buy new EVERYTHING for their second baby, just to make sure it “matches” the gender.

What’s the Harm?

It may seem like this isn’t a big deal or that no one is being hurt by our collective decision that pink is for girls and blue is for boys. I beg to differ.

It is a big deal. This seemingly innocuous pastime opens the door for judgement and intolerance early on. Like laughing at a little boy who chose to paint his picture pink because it’s his favorite color. Or automatically giving girls a choice between a pink or purple dress when their preference might actually be navy blue.

Color assignment also allows us to make snap judgements about people. Determining “boy” or “girl” immediately changes the way you interact with young kids and affects the words they hear. What would happen if we weren’t capable of labeling so quickly? Would we take the opportunity to get to know kids as individuals, instead of immediately putting them in a box and seeing them through a certain gender lens?

Kids are born with imaginations that have no limits. They see all the colors in the world around them and use every single one to paint the pictures of their dreams. Until we teach them otherwise. A child may reach for any crayon in the box, unless we tell them that one is not for them. Our simple pink and blue designations put limitations on our children. 

So What Can We Do?

This practice runs deep in our society, and yet everywhere we look, we can find signs of a slowly changing tide. Some moms are choosing not to find out the gender of their baby via sonograms, leading to gender-neutral choices of baby items. The options of clothing in every color are growing for both boys and girls. You can even find toys in a wide range of colors, instead of just pink and blue.

Options are available, and it’s up to us to take advantage of them. We need to give our children all the choices of all the colors. This simple lesson runs deep. It’s a lesson of tolerance, of an open mind. It’s a lesson of acceptance, of love. It’s a lesson of being true to yourself. And it’s so, so easy. There are no boy colors and no girl colors; there are only colors. And colors are for everyone.

Emily H
Although born in Austin, Emily grew up on the Eastside of Fort Worth. After marrying her high school sweetheart, and following the military's whims for a few years, the lovebirds wound up back in the Fort, with their three children in tow. Currently, Emily shares her love of books and writing with both her children and her middle school students. On the weekends, you'll find her outside running local streets and trails, as well as being her kids' biggest fan at whatever sport may be in season.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here