Why do girls like pink?
Apparently, the answer lies in their genes...
As modern, enlightened parents, we try our best to break gender stereotypes that persist to this day: girls like pink, boys like blue, girls like dolls, boys like trucks, and so on. But when it comes to gender-based colour preferences, it looks like there’s little we can do about it, according to science.
Girls like pink: It’s encoded in their genes
According to a study published in Current Biology, women are biologically programmed to like the colour pink more than men, and the reason can be traced right back to prehistoric times!
Neuroscientists at Newcastle University, U.K., conducted a colour-selection experiment with 206 volunteers.
Participants were shown a series of paired, coloured rectangles on a screen that were controlled for lightness, saturation and hue. Then, they were asked to move a mouse cursor as fast as they could to the colour they liked the most.
Each participant did three separate tests. They were also retested in two weeks.
The results were quite interesting. In general, all people liked blue (which has been known for some time). But the women chose redder shades of blue (reddish-purple) while males preferred bluish-green.
In order to eliminate cultural preference to colours in the results, researchers also included Chinese volunteers, and still found the same male-female preferences.
“This is the first study to pinpoint a robust sex difference in the red-green axis of human color vision,” says Yazhu Ling, co-author of the study.
But what is perhaps most interesting is the evolutionary nature of these results, that goes back to our prehistoric ancestors.
Girls like pink for an ancient reason
Scientists explain the very simple reasons why girls seem to naturally like the colour pink. Since ancient times, the role of women (and girls) was of a food gatherer. Men, meanwhile, hunted.
Back in prehistoric times and even after that, berries and fruits were a staple food of many hunter-gatherer communities.
These fruits, when ripe, have pinkish/purplish undertones. The theory is that women developed better colour vision than their hunter-men, so they could spot these ripe fruit in thick forest or undercover.
In other words, they became biologically hard-wired to spot pinks and reds.
There’s yet another theory, this time, related to emotions and motherhood. Between women and men, it’s accepted that the former more easily express their emotions than the latter. When this happens, they flush or blush, and their skin turns pink. It’s the same with crying or sick babies who flush and turn pink/reddish when crying or if they have fever.
Since females are considered to be more emotionally tuned to the feelings of others, as well as nurturers, scientists believe they are extra-sensitive to all shades of red — including pink.
Is it possible to break this gendered colour-code?
Now that we know why girls like pink, should we just go along with gendered colour preferences anyway? Probably not.
The reason is because in subtle, yet gradual ways, this can give way to more serious social issues around gender and gender discrimination.
I can’t wear PINK! I’m not a girl, mummy!!
Ewww, no blue! Blue is for boys…
Can eventually morph to:
Girls are weak.
Boys are better at maths than girls. Sports, too.
Girls should learn how to cook and clean, boys don’t need to.
You probably didn’t get this job because you are a woman, and it’s a male-centric industry
Stay at home and care for the kids, mummy – that’s your most important role now.
So, mums and dads, if we want our boys and girls to have equal footing in this world as they grow, and once we are no more, it’s time we started teaching our sons and daughters that they are equal.
Try these tips:
- Pink and blue are simply colours, and that’s it. Teach your kids this. Boys can also wear pink and purple and girls can wear blue and black, too. It’s perfectly okay.
- Go gender neutral with colours (e.g. in the kids’ bedroom) and toys whenever possible.
- Avoid saying things like, “You can’t play soccer, it’s only for boys”, or “Dolls are for girls, let’s get you this monster truck instead.”
- Divide household chores equally among your sons and daughters. Boys and girls both will benefit from learning how to cook, wash and fold clothes and keep a clean house.
- Don’t excuse behaviour or use language that promotes gender stereotypes. For example, “boys will be boys”.