Continued musings on color-coding children


And other subtle gender issues.

I think the sissy incident has sensitized me to gender stuff this week. To wit:

Akiva and I were playing together the other day when he suddenly said, “Boys are better than girls.” As calmly as I could, I asked him who told him that. He didn’t answer. It turned into a fight (partly my doing) because I stopped playing with him and said, “I don’t want to play with someone who thinks I am not as good as he is.” I know I was being petty. But it really pains me that at four, he is already internalizing such a simplistic, sexist message.

Then yesterday morning, he woke up whimpering and saying he wouldn’t “use that bubble blower anymore.” I asked which one he meant, and he said the purple one. He said he no longer likes purple. He said he likes every color except pink and purple. It came out that one of his friends at school is very vocal about hating pink and purple. Akiva is already making differentiations like his favorite color at school vs. his favorite color at home. And I keep saying the platitudes about every color being available to whoever likes it, and everyone being different, and real friends being the ones who like you just as you are.

There are a couple of boys at his nursery school who seem to have his ear on all things boy. They tell him what colors it’s ok to like and so on. In one sense, I can see how trivial this is, but in another sense, it really does matter to me.

It matters to me because I resent any attempt to tell my son he is not ok just as he is. It matters to me because I see his so-called friends shaving off his sweetness — and it hurts me. It matters to me because there’s a whole unspoken code about it being “bad” to like “girl” things. This relates back to the sissy incident — what is a sissy anyway? A boy who is like a girl. Which is automatically bad.

The superiority thing really irks me. Even though it’s a bunch of four- and five-year-olds talking about their favorite color of bubble blower.

Further, I have talked to so many moms lately whose boys like(d) pink and purple, or wore barrettes, or pretended to be mermaids. If all these boys like these purportedly girly things, and all the moms know it’s stupid, why does everyone keep buying into the color-coding? Why, if we know our sons like pink, do we buy them blue sweatshirts. We all know it’s asinine and arbitrary, but we still give it so much power.


One thought on “Continued musings on color-coding children

  1. laurabzzz

    I have, will and do point out to my sons that *I* am female if they find negative to say about girls. They reply that I am a “boys’ girl”. *sigh* but I do feel that it forces them not to stereotype – my point: I think it is great , not petty, that you refused to play with a boy who thought a female inferior!
    As for all the “pink” issues with peers – I am fascinated by gender identification development, gender differences , social learning theory and other theories about gender I.D. – All I can say about the experiences of Akiva with the schoolmates and the world at large is that it is classic and textbook.
    Finally, if you are so inclined, here is a related youtube video my son made for me:

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