The Boy’s favorite color is purple. It’s not surprising really, since his father and I are both University of Washington alums, and not only that, his father was in the Husky Marching Band. For those who don’t know, UW’s colors are purple and gold, so there is a lot of purple in our world. And so, since he was old enough to express a preference for a color, he has chosen purple.
This would be unremarkable except that in 2013, purple is a girl color. How the fuck purple became a girl color is beyond me, but I dare you to find a single piece of purple clothing in the boy section of any major retailer’s website. Just like pink, purple is officially a female color. So, when he wants a purple coat, or a purple backpack, or anything else purple, we have to shop from the girl section of the store. He’s old enough now to understand that, so I have taken to buying things online whenever possible, so he can’t tell that I am buying him a girl’s coat.
Our stores are now very divided between boy and girl. Go to any large toy store, or the toy department at any big box store, and you’ll see that the aisles are color-coded. Pink aisles have dolls and…dolls, and more dolls, and maybe some more dolls. Oh, and clothes for dressing up. Boy aisles have trucks and guns and cars and dinosaurs and action figures (which are really just dolls with tougher clothes).
Now, The Girl is still young, but she seems to like cars and trains and dinosaurs as much as her brother. And she also likes dolls. But The Boy shuns dolls, and pink things. The moment he catches a whiff that something is a “girl” thing, he wants nothing to do with it. And, I think that’s fairly common, for girls play with boy stuff, and for boys to refuse to play with girl stuff.
How does this happen, that boys learn to reject what they perceive as feminine? Well, one way is this: a friend recently told me about her friend’s son being bullied because he has a purple bicycle, and purple is a girl color. (The Boy has a purple bicycle too.) It just gets worse the older boys get, and the more gendered every product is–the peer pressure to reject the feminine and embrace the masculine is powerful and cruel.
And don’t even get me started on people who think that letting their son dress up as a princess will make him gay. First off, as if being gay is a bad thing. You know who doesn’t accidentally knock anyone up when they’re teenagers? Gay people, that’s who. Check one worry off the parenting-a-teenager list, amiright? Secondly, if all it took was dressing my son in some princess dresses to make it so I never have to worry about him knocking a girl up in high school, I would go out and buy out the entire Disney store. Thirdly, how come people think princess garb can make a boy gay, but nobody is worried about a pirate costume Turing their daughter into a lesbian? Oh yes, because it’s OK for girls to be masculine now, but it’s not OK for boys to be feminine.
When faced with this reality, my first thought was, “How sad for The Boy to be so limited. Maybe it’s finally better, more powerful, to be female, because there are more options for girls.” But then I realized, what is happening is that the feminine is still seen as lesser in our society. Boys don’t want feminine toys because they think feminine things aren’t as good. And girls can go for masculine things because masculine is better. They’re just aspiring to be something “better” by choosing the boy toys.
It’s great that girls have more choices. But it’s not OK that the feminine is still lesser. We’ll know we’re on the right track when I can buy The Boy a purple coat without worrying about what happens when he finds out I bought it from the girl section of the store.
2 thoughts on “The Color Purple”
FYI, my boy is your age and he is a happily married man with 2.5 children who is not gay (not that there is anything wrong with it). When he was growing up, he and his bff LOVED playing with his sister’s play kitchen. His entire room was decorated with a doll house for his GI Joe dolls and family along with a mash unit. Since I bought the items above, I must not have been worried that I was going to turn him;). So buy your boy purple and let him play with dolls.
How interesting. My Boy’s favorite color is also purple. (He’s 14.) The same with the Nephew. (He’s 4.)
I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but … one really great thing about Justin Bieber: he wore purple all the time. Purple high tops, t shirts, belts. All of it. So, I have been able to find purple in the bigger boys department. It used to be that any time I saw ANYTHING purple in boys’ clothes, I would buy it because it was such a rare find. Now I can get all kinds of things. So that’s good.
But, you’re right on the money with the dichotomy in gender value–even in our kids. I remember one time that the Boy said he didn’t want something because “it’s for girls” and I went all kinds of apeshit on him because it pissed me off that he was equating it with the lesser. Oh, hell to the no!
Interestingly enough, at 14, he doesn’t have any issue with any of that. We bought him purple flip flops at Old Navy this summer. When we didn’t see any in the guys’ section, he said “let’s go see if there are any in the girls’ stuff.” And, he’s the kid who will carry my purse or flowery duffel bag anywhere, anytime if I ask. And he puts it up on his shoulder like I would. (“Because it’s easier, duh!”)
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