photo credit: Arlene Amitirigala. All rights reserved.

This is part of the series Lessons from the Backseat…One day, my son Aris had a color crisis. At age five, he had that pure, undiluted logic that children possess. He never pretended to understand words that he didn’t know or expressions that were new to him. He wasn’t afraid to ask questions…And he wasn’t convinced that some colors were only for girls.  

He whispered the question one Sunday while snuggled up beside me in Church. “Mommy, can boys like pink and purple?”   

“Of course,” I replied.  

“But Gianna said that purple is only for girls”.  

I said, “No it’s not.”  

And then he smiled contentedly. “Colors are for everyone.” He said with quiet conviction. I only wish that had lasted. 

I sat in the pews suddenly too distracted to listen to the sermon that morning. Five-year-old Gianna from his pre-school had clearly received the memo – there are ‘boy colors’ and ‘girl colors’. 

Why do we use blue and pink to close off possibility at such a young age? We impose cultural stereotypes and enforce strict gender-coded norms on young, unsuspecting minds. We shut down creativity and exploration and, for heaven’s sake, the option to wear purple or blue or pink!  

The effect of this gender-conditioning is long lasting. Teenage boys scorn pink t-shirts. A man is seen as either revolutionary for wearing pink, or he is praised for supporting breast cancer awareness month. Efforts such as the Like a Girl campaign by Always™ demonstrate our fight to break down gender-stereotypes for girls. Are we campaigning as hard for boys before they get trapped in rigid, traditional norms of masculinity?  

Honestly, there are some things I wish I had done differently with my kids. Not that I think they have suffered unduly. But I’ve been guilty of toeing the line on gender-coded norms and living within the confinement of cultural stereotypes. They are still young though, and I’d like to think it’s not too late to change. 

Today, for every child in your life, and for the child that is within you, make a promise to liberate yourself from any useless norms that you have accepted. What we learn, we can unlearn. Start with your wardrobe. Colors are for everyone. 

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© Arlene Amitirigala 2020. All Rights Reserved.

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