The Reversal of “Masculinity” In A Nutshell

by Samantha Lu on 2016-07-08 19:49:08 PDT
496
Nowadays, if you asked someone what are “boy” and “girl” colors, they’ll answer, “Pink is for girls, and blue is for boys.”
However, this has only been accurate the past few decades. In fact, during the early 20th century, it was reversed: blue was destined for girls, and pink was designated for boys. Before then, ranging all the way back to the 16th century, boys would often wear dresses until they were past infancy and well into childhood. What might’ve caused this sudden shift in fashion and culture?
The sudden shift in what was considered “boy” and “girl” colors might be explained by events during World War II. Previously, blue was considered daintier and pink was assumed to be bold and striking. During Hitler’s reign and the era of concentration camps, gay prisoners were given a large pink triangle as a form of identification. Western countries, namely the US, decided that associating such a color with their men was out of the question. Remember that is was during the early 20th century, and homophobia was the norm. In a blatantly biased move, the colors were quickly switched around so that boys in the US wouldn’t be associated with gay prisoners. Basically, the reason why girls are now expected to like pink is because the color was forced on them in an attempt to protect the masculinity of the boys.
As for the sudden decision for why boys didn’t wear dresses anymore, it was merely out of convenience. From around the 16th to the 20th century, boys would wear gowns until between the ages two and eight. This practice was commonly called breeching. Around some time in the 18th century, people decided that the proper way to bring up a boy was to have them wear shorts and jackets, not gowns and frocks. With the coming of the 20th century, more alternatives to dresses were available, like skeleton suits and knickerbocker suits. Compared to dresses, these suits were often cheaper and didn’t need to be replaced as often for a growing boy. Meanwhile, dresses stayed in style for girls.
So technically, a boy in a pink dress would’ve been the height of manly back in the early 20th century. In our day and age, other mothers would shield their children thinking that it’s too scandalous or too feminine to be socially acceptable. Of course, this shouldn’t be the case in the first place, since the idea of gendered colors and clothes is absurd. However, it should be acknowledged that the concept of masculinity is easily changed by plenty of factors, and isn’t set in stone.

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