Color isn’t always a fashion statement, nor is it a gender identifier. Sometimes, it’s just a practical choice.
My son has a pink sippy cup. More specifically, he has a pink cup with a purple lid. When people see my son drinking from this cup, they might be thinking, “Oh, here’s another parent trying to make a statement about gender norms,” or “How sweet, she let her child pick it out his own cup and didn’t shame his color choice.”
Both of those thoughts are wrong. When I bought that cup, the impact of the color choice never occurred to me. I bought my son a pink and purple sippy cup, because it was the only one at the store. I don’t mean one of several in that variety. I mean literally the only cup. I needed a new cup for my son, so that’s what I bought.
I would have bought the cup if it was yellow or green, covered in trucks or in sparkly glitter. As anyone who has ever gone shopping with a young child can tell you, all I was thinking about in that moment was getting out of the store before my son had a meltdown. I couldn’t be bothered to think about what my color choice meant for how others might perceive myself and my family. I was simply a mom looking to get shit done.
The fact that his cup is pink means little to my son. He is only two and has yet to make the pink equals girly association. He doesn’t know that by using that cup adults might wonder if he is indeed a boy. He just knows he is thirsty and he likes drinking from a cup with a straw.
I, however, lack that beautiful innocence. I know pink is a loaded color. I wonder what would happen if I needed to buy my son a pair of gloves and the only ones left were pink or purple. What if he needed a new hat or shoes? Would I hesitate to get them out of some fear over how others perceive color? Is society less accepting when it comes to deviating from gender norms in clothing choices as opposed to such utilitarian items as a cup, or a bowl or a spoon?
Somewhere in our history, it was randomly decided that pink would be the de facto color for girls. This idea is perpetuated by manufacturers eager to cash in on marketing things by gender. Add to that the fact that most parents-to-be find out about the gender before birth and are boarding the pink or blue train long before delivery. Before then, babies wore white. because it was easy to clean, and honestly, smart. Anyone with a newborn can tell you that all the cute clothing just gets covered with burp and spit up. You dream of dressing your little one in adorable outfits, when really all you need is a 20-pack of white onesies.
Fifty years from now, things might be different, maybe girls will wear orange and boys will wear green. Pink has already gained some momentum as an acceptable color choice for men. I know I’m not the only one with a husband that owns at least one pink shirt. Perhaps that is a sign that our society is realizing just how arbritrary color choice really is.
My son has since chewed up most of the straw on his pink cup, so I bought another one. This time it was red with a blue top. Once again it was the only one in the store. My son has shown no preference for the more “masculine” color scheme. Because sometimes a cup is just a cup.