05 November 2007

Gender Questions

This blew my mind a bit - at work recently, I got a survey about non-profit leadership. The general demographic information at the end asked the following question:

What is your gender?
  • Male
  • Female
  • Transgender
  • Inter-sex
  • Decline to State
  • Self-identify:___________

I travel in liberal lefty arty circles, and I have never seen those available responses before. Not that there's anything wrong with it, I'm just amused.

And eBay seems to be on a similar bandwagon. I was listing some of my spare possessions (yeah, I get on that kick once in a while), one of which was a brand new baby blanket. There was a drop-down window with the following choices for gender:

  • Boy
  • Girl
  • Unisex
  • Enter Your Own

I clicked "girl" because it was a pink blanket. But why is it generally understood that "pink is for girls" and "blue is for boys"? It apparently wasn't a convention until the 50s, when the rise of the middle class meant that "people who could afford to make the gender assignment did so". And it may date to 1868, when Louisa May Alcott published Little Women, and "Amy put a blue ribbon on the boy and a pink on the girl, French fashion, so you can always tell."

The head spins.

At this very moment, my little girl is curled on the couch in her Glinda the Good Witch costume from last week, home sick with a fever. That is, dressed in PINK! Because it seems to be hard-wired into her.


Sunshine said...

My youngest has been wearing her Scooby Doo costume every day since before Halloween. Just because. She's kwazy like that.

niobe said...

I read somewhere -- and it's probably even in your link, if I weren't too lazy to click it -- that the color assignments used to be reversed: pink for boys and blue for girls.

painted maypole said...

those are interesting gender choices. i, too, travel in those artsy circles and have never seen such a thing.

just yesterday MQ and I were having a discussion about how colors did not have to be "boy" or "girl" colors (for the record, she was saying that blue and yellow are girl colors, and green is a boy color)

Julie Pippert said...

Oh the tempatation to choose one of the Others. I do not know if I could have resisted.

Patience is pink, by her own choice. Scratch that, she's magenta (one of her first words), We raised her up yellow. What can I say.

You got hardwired right.

Persistence is yellow, maybe green, and occasionally purple.

Never, ever blue. She really hates that color.

Lucky for me, it's my fave.

We do bicker over chocolate, though, while Patience and my husband watch in amused baffled disgust.

Using My Words

Suz said...

Marjorie Graber, in Vested Interests, one of my favorite books, mentions that pink and blue used to be reversed. It was thought that pink, being close to red, was more "masculine." However, she doesn't pinpoint why the color assignments changed. I've always been curious.

Magpie said...

Niobe and Suz-
I've heard the same. That first link I gave says that too, and points out that images of the Virgin Mary are often painted with her in a blue dress, a dark rich lapis blue.

Lisa Dunick said...

I think it's hilarious that when the powers that be were first deciding to gender colors, they actually thought that pink was more masculine at first. Go figure.

Aurelia said...


I'm kind of laughing at the gender assignment boxes, because the question my trans friends would ask is, which way? Trans MTF, or Trans FTM. Completely different issues!

Of course, it also begs the question, why ask if it really doesn't matter? And how many would come out on a survey like that?

Cynthia said...

My Little Peach is all about the pink as well...

I can't believe all the choices!

flutter said...

That crown?! FANTASTIC.

Anonymous said...

I took an online survey once that had options for sex as Male, Female and Don't Know.

I feel so bad for the Don't Knows.

Victoria said...

I once saw a survey that gave Male, Female and I'm Not Telling as your gender choices. Perfect!

Love the crown! We're off to Oz (the play) this weekend. My Girl is beyond excited.

Anonymous said...

Funny about the questionnaire. I sometimes feel like male vs. female doesn't really capture the full range of gender possibilities. But I've never seen it on a form like that.

I read a NYT article a while back that mentioned the blue/pink girl/boy switch, too. Here's a bit from it that I quoted in a post I wrote back in December:

"Easier, that is, unless you want to buy your daughter something that isn’t pink. Girls’ obsession with that color may seem like something they’re born with, like the ability to breathe or talk on the phone for hours on end. But according to Jo Paoletti, an associate professor of American studies at the University of Maryland, it ain’t so. When colors were first introduced to the nursery in the early part of the 20th century, pink was considered the more masculine hue, a pastel version of red. Blue, with its intimations of the Virgin Mary, constancy and faithfulness, was thought to be dainty. Why or when that switched is not clear, but as late as the 1930s a significant percentage of adults in one national survey held to that split. Perhaps that’s why so many early Disney heroines — Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Wendy, Alice-in-Wonderland — are swathed in varying shades of azure."

S. said...

Z. loved seeing Miss M in her Glinda costume! She went straight to the bookshelf next and pulled down the pop-up edition and turned to the relevant page.

dawn224 said...

My boy gets called SHE even when he's head to toe blue with sports stuff on the outfit!

Julia said...

Pink is also the thing with my daughter. I am sure it wasn't so for the first couple of years of her life. But then she started seeing all the culture conditioning crap, and at some point she bought it.
Can I tell you how much I despise the Dis.n@y princesses? Ugh...

Anonymous said...

Enter your own? What are the other options? I'm so confused.

thrice said...

Interesting. Catching up, can you tell. I just can't "clear" you. Are you kidding me??