Tuesday, January 20th, 2009
Pink Princesses and other Errata
I intended to compile research on the origins of genderized colors and their reversal about 100 years ago. Instead, I found a well researched piece on the subject. What follows are quotes from a few articles and images. I highly recommend reading the Straight Dope article linked below.
The above photo was shot and hand-colored (the girl in light blue, the boy in reddish-pink) between 1905 and 1913. It was obtained from images of the Vester and Whiting families, an American colony in Jerusalem, via the Library of Congress.
In the 1800s most infants were dressed in white, and gender differences weren’t highlighted until well after the kids were able to walk. Both boys and girls wore dresses or short skirts until age five or six. Differences in clothing were subtle: boysâ€™ dresses buttoned up the front, for example, while girlsâ€™ buttoned up the back. Why no attempt to discriminate further? One theory is that distinguishing boys from girls was less important than distinguishing kids from adults. Childhood was a time of innocence, whereas adulthood typically meant grueling physical labor. Perhaps mothers decking out their little boys in dresses thought: Theyâ€™ll get to be manly soon enough.
Check this Vester/Whiting family photo that better shows the physical differences between boy and girl clothing at the turn of the 20th century.
Maybe it was the dentistâ€™s Betty Boop inflection that got to me, but when she pointed to the exam chair and said, â€œWould you like to sit in my special princess throne so I can sparkle your teeth?â€ I lost it.
“Oh, for Godâ€™s sake,” I snapped. “Do you have a princess drill, too?”
She stared at me as if I were an evil stepmother.
[...] My daughter, who was reaching for a Cinderella sticker, looked back and forth between us. â€œWhy are you so mad, Mama?â€ she asked. â€œWhatâ€™s wrong with princesses?â€
–from What’s wrong with princesses? New York Times opinion.
“I mentioned it to a studio head whose movies were largely family fare,” [Geena] Davis told me in Los Angeles. “I said, ‘Have you ever noticed that in kids’ programs there are fewer female characters than male?’ and he said, ‘No no, not US! We’re all over this issue!’”
“What he meant,” Davis said, “was this: ‘We have ONE female in our movie; we make sure we have one female that everyone can approve of.’ I realized then that if we were going to address this question seriously, we needed facts. We needed data.”
[...] Geena Davis Institute’s results in three succinct points:
- Gender imbalance reigns across the media.
- System wide, when females are presented they are shown in a hypersexualized way.
- The highest concentration of this imbalance is in animated films and G-rated programming, where parents might assume their children are safest.