The debate is not about pink or blue, it's about choice.
In an ideal world, any self-respecting store would stock a product in at least ten colours. I mean, my sister likes whites and pastels while my clothes could offer excellent camouflage in foliage and mud but who's to say whose taste is better?
Which is why I was tickled... umm... pink, when I saw this video of a feisty little girl all riled up in a toy store. She argues that some boys may like pink stuff and some girls may like "different coloured stuff" but most toys come colour-coded for gender. The youtube link went viral last year and is definitely worth a watch. Several toy manufacturers and stores have tried to fight this toy apartheid, as you can see in reports here and here.
But, I’ve recently discovered that colour stereotyping isn’t restricted to toys. Shopping for a friend who’d had a baby, I was presented with an array of diaper bags. Some of the bags were quite fancy with several useful compartments, a plastic changing mat and an insulated pocket to keep a bottle warm. But most of the bags came in powder blues and sweet pinks. I was ecstatic to find one in black as I love the colour for its ability to hide any grubby marks. The salesman smiled at me and said, “Oh, it’s good that you have picked a unisex bag, ma’am. Both, the mom and dad can use it.” I scratched my head wondering what exactly made black unisex but was thankful that at least the shop had the option.
Now you might think that the pink-or-blue debate is a frivolous pursuit and has been done to death. But it is not so simple. Note how pink also goes with princess stuff, toy sewing kits and baby dolls. To me, it seems to imply: So you’re a girl, you must like pink, you must love to sew, look pretty and take care of little ones. Which is alright, if it’s a choice you make but rather limiting in its assumption that that’s the general preference.
This is what stereotyping does – provide square, airtight plastic boxes for you to fit in. It looks at everything in a simplistic fashion and that is unfair when you are trying to make sense of a complex world. The world becomes divided into binaries: Boy vs girl, virgin vs. vamp, nurturer vs. breadwinner, single vs. "settled", pink vs. blue. Once these compartments are in place, it is easy to brainwash the dissenter and it becomes all too easy for the moral police to take over if you step off the set path. Let's not allow this to happen.
The world is a place with many colours and hues. Why restrict choice to just a few from the palette?
(Kannal Achuthan works for The Hindu's school edition. In her spare time, she ponders on philosophical conundra.)