In this post I’m going to discuss the ‘blue for boys, pink for girls’ convention and a recent suggestion that ginger babies are ‘harder to love’. 

2013-07-18 11.24.48My wife and I decided not to find out the sex of our baby before its birth. Whilst I appreciate that some people want to find out, we felt that it would make things all the more special not to know in advance. For me, finding out whether we were going to have a girl or a boy in advance would have been like shaking wrapped presents under the Christmas tree in order to try to guess what they were.

One consequence of our decision was that some of our friends and family became unsure about what colour of clothes to knit, crochet or buy for our impending arrival. This may help to explain why our son has several beautifully knitted white cardigans. We weren’t really bothered about colours of clothes and indeed saw no real reason why a baby necessarily needs to wear either pink and blue as opposed to one of a great many other colours.

2013-06-30 11.36.52As it happens, our son wears several outfits that feature a bit of pink in them. One of them is a rather fetching butterfly baby grow (see picture above). Indeed, he may well have to get used to it as a pink scarf that shed some of its colour in the wash recently has increased the number of his garments that feature the colour. I also recently noticed from one of his Mister Men baby grows that Mister Mischief wears a pink hat. As Mister Mischief generally comes across as quite bloke-ish and something of an alpha male, I do wonder why a male character from a popular series of children’s books can wear pink but boys are generally supposed no to do so.

When you look at the history of it all, it turns out that the ‘blue for boys, pink for girls’ convention is a fairly recent phenomenon. Indeed, even within the last century the perceived masculinity or femininity of colours such as pink has changed. The history and reasons behind such views was discussed last year in an article on the blog Gender Focus.

One of the things that I don’t understand about the whole pink/blue issue is why some people see the need to provide visual clues to their baby’s sex via their clothes. Personally, I think that it’s particularly ridiculous to see babies with little hair wearing a large bow on their head as if to provide confirmation of their sex to onlookers. I don’t see why there is any need to feel embarrassed about asking whether a baby is a boy or a girl.

When looking through my own wardrobe recently, I noticed that I had a couple of pink shirts and also a pink tie. This made me think more about the issue; given that men can wear a pink shirt or tie without eyebrows being raised then why shouldn’t baby boys be able to do the same?

Whilst there may be occasional stories about people who paint their house pink in the expectancy of giving birth to a girl before repainting it blue when a boy arrives, it seems like attitudes may be evolving. Indeed, even the conservative right-wing British tabloid The Daily Mail recently featured an article that suggested forgetting about traditional colours such as blue or pink when decorating a child’s bedroom.

While we’re on the subject of babies and colours, I recently heard a British former reality television contestant state that ginger babies were ‘harder to love‘. Such comments are in many ways easy to dismiss, especially when they are uttered by someone with a track record for making similarly controversial declarations. However, there does often appear to be a presumption in society that many people would prefer not to have a ginger baby.

Whilst I am not a card-carrying member of any sort of campaign against a phenomenon known as gingerism, I should perhaps admit that I had bright red curly hair and freckles as a young child. I can’t say that I suffered all that much as a result of this, although I did suffer from a bit of name-calling for a while at primary school.

A few years ago, a power company in the UK provoked controversy after putting out an advert that featured two ginger parents and a ginger child along with the slogan ‘there are some things in life you can’t choose’. Although this ad wasn’t banned, another more recent ad for a television programme called Dating in the Dark that mocked the perceived lack of attractiveness of people with ginger hair was banned.

I may be somewhat biased, but I really don’t see why being ginger is seen by some people as an undesirable attribute. At times I also wonder if the hair colour ‘strawberry blonde’ has been invented in order to create a more acceptable sounding alternative to ginger. I must confess that at times I feel that ‘strawberry blonde’ is basically a synonym of ‘ginger but in denial’.

My wife and I didn’t really talk much about what sort of hair colour or baby would have but she did say that she kind of hoped that our child would have ginger hair. So far, our son’s hair is a sandy brown colour (….well that’s what I’m told, I am colour blind) and looks slightly ginger when the sun shines on it. If he grows up with ginger hair, we’ll both be just as happy as if it were any other colour. I just hope that he doesn’t grow up in a society that continues to have hang-ups about ginger hair and whether kids wear blue or pink.

I’d love to know your views on the issues I’ve discussed in this article so please feel free to use the comments section below or on the ‘Dad’s the way I like it’ page on Facebook and the new ‘Dad’s the way I like it’ page on Google+. You can also subscribe to this blog via e-mail using the link on the right hand side of this page.