Our latest unit is looking at how humans use fashion to express our beliefs. One of the first ways that children feel this acutely is through colour. Even before they are born, we start labelling children as blue or pink.
I wondered how ingrained the stereotype was and how the children might react to a world so flipped the colour assignment for the binary question – pink for boys, blue for girls.
What was interesting was the reaction of the children was very gendered – while the girls and some of the boys were comfortable with the idea that they could like pink or blue.
There was a large group of boys in my class who were very uncomfortable with the idea of being associated with a ‘girly colour.’
The children then spent some time exploring how we use colour to show gender – the pink shirt anti-bullying movement, a ‘gender reveal party’, the ‘think pink‘ number from Funny Face and the history pink/blue. The children were surprised that colour wasn’t used to mark gender until fairly recently.
The kids seemed fine with the idea that there might not be a ‘girls colour’ and ‘boys colour’ so the Year 4 teachers decided to give the boys pink strips of material to wear for the day and the girls blue ones. The kids could wear the strip anyway they wanted to – the only stipulation was that the sash had to be worn prominently.
The same pattern emerged. All the girls were happy to wear blue yet only some of the boys were happy to wear pink.
The boys most uncomfortable with wearing pink weren’t the boys you’d expect – the loud, confident, sporty boys in the year group were not only happy to wear the pink sash all day long some of them had it done up in a bow. As I remarked to a colleague, for those boys the pink sash was a ‘bring it on’ statement.
Meanwhile, the boys that weren’t so confident in themselves quickly lost their sashes or they disappeared at snack – when pressed the boys admitted it was from fear of ridicule from others. Some of the boys did have a few negative comments come their way for wearing pink, meanwhile none of the girls had the same for wearing blue.
One of the more astute children in my class noted that it didn’t seem fair that girls can wear ‘boy’ colours but the boys can get bullied by other boys for wearing ‘girl’ colours. Which lead to a very interesting question:
‘Why don’t boys like ‘girl’ things?’