It’s freezing outside, but if I stay inside any longer with my two kids, there are going to be bloody fingernail marks on the walls… from all three of us. I start the Michelin Man process of getting them bundled. This is the process that starts my eye twitching the minute there’s even a hint of cold weather. I hate it but am obsessed with my kids being warm. I get all of their paraphernalia on and then comes the rotten cherry on the sundae. The mittens. I struggle to find a matching pair for my daughter, Pepto-Bismol pink and then find another pair in the Mount Everest of clothes for my son, but, gasp and shock:
they too are Pepto pink.
I stop. Nope. Those black and grey, “let them know I’m as manly as bark scented deodorant” mittens have to be somewhere. I start digging. I’m digging and digging and digging. No testosterone mittens. Nothing but the bright pink pair. He either wears them or we can’t go outside, and if we can’t go outside one of us… or all of us are going to die.
Is that how I want things? To be a headline? “Mother goes insane due to pink mittens on son.”
I put the mittens on him and off we went. He was happy. He was warm. He didn’t care. But I had cared.
I cared that my boy was wearing pink.
I was afraid of what others would think. What kind of mother was I? I was shocked that this fear had come about over a tiny pair of pink mittens. I believed that I was an open-minded woman up until this point. I wouldn’t have thought twice if he had asked specifically to wear pink mittens.
My son and I have done each other’s makeup and each other’s nails. I’ve helped him make dresses out of his favorite blue blanket. Right now, he’s the only boy enrolled in his tap/ballet class- a class he told me he wanted to be a part of.
But these little pink mittens from the dollar store put a mirror right up to my mothering face and I didn’t like what I saw. I was falling into the trap that so many of us seem to fall into.
The gender color trap.
As before mentioned, I have a daughter and a son. My daughter wears a lot of her brother’s hand me downs. Blues, browns, blacks. I don’t even think twice. There is no hunting for pastels or florals, just- these pants are super warm, and you’re wearing them.
But when it comes to pink, there is something about that color that gives me pause. Even as I write this, I still find my mind cascading down rabbit holes of centuries of gender identification issues for men and women.
The color pink holds such strong power, far more power than the color blue. A girl can easily say that her favorite color is blue and no one thinks twice. But if a boy says his favorite color is pink, then there’s something to talk about.
Why? Why is that? Why is pink such a powerful color in our society that I would rather hunt for an hour in my apartment for black mittens with skulls on the back than simply put on the pink mittens that are right in front of me?
I have been duped. I have drunk the Kool-aid. That day, I was terrified that by placing that color on my son’s hands, without his say, I was opening him up to being identified in a way that he might not necessarily want.
I was afraid of him being laughed at. Or someone asking him about his pink mittens and him hating me for putting them on him. I was terrified that he would be judged and it would become some festering memory for him that would no doubt land him in a therapist’s chair in his teens.
I was afraid of a color.
I came home that afternoon and while the kids were resting, I broke everything down in my mind. This is something I tend to do frequently. Why was our society so afraid to dress boys in pink?
When I looked up meaning of the color pink, the words, sweet, charming, affectionate, tender, nice, loving of others and oneself came up. And then it struck me, as I’m sure it has many of you with sons, that the world sees men with these qualities as weak.
Real men are supposed to like beer, sex, and sports. They don’t know how to communicate. They are supposed to like power tools and power trips. They like fast cars, fast women and fast food. They love violence, guns, and weapons: anything that kills. If it’s not leaking blood, they don’t want to eat it. Their colors are blue, black, red, brown and camo.
But you know what? My husband’s pink. My husband and so many of my other male friends are pink. Oh sure, they enjoy some of the stereotypically masculine qualities I’ve listed, as do I. But for the most part, they’re pink.
When you think about the perfect mate, aren’t the pink qualities ones that would be fairly high up on your list of “needs to be or have”? They were on my list as I hope they would be on the lists both of my children create.
Would the world be such a terrible place if boys and men were celebrated more for tenderness, sweetness, charm, and love? Instead of who can more dominate the other? Aren’t those qualities the very ones that separated us from our animal ancestors? Aren’t they the qualities that prove to the world how civilized we are?
I think so. I plan on teaching my son and daughter that value as well.
Pink might just be a color. But fortunately or unfortunately in our society, it holds a lot of value and identity to those who wear it. After thinking about it on the mitten day, I know without a shadow of a doubt that pink’s value is one I would be proud if my son chose to wear, and one I will gladly place on his hands, as long as he lets me.