By Almas Shamim

The other day I walked into the kids section of a famous clothing brand, to be greeted by two prominent colours- Blue and Pink. How lovely this little demarcation of colour appears! I remember how religiously I stuck to this colour coding for my twin nephew and niece, with all toys and clothes bought in pairs- the pink one for my niece and the blue one for my nephew. It almost became a subconscious choice later on- our hands automatically going for all pink things when shopping for the girl and all blue things when shopping for the boy. The absurdity, when pointed out in one of the ‘Gender’ classes I attended, was too large to be ignored, but it really hit me hard when I heard that my nephew, at 7 years of age, hated pink! The link between a young child hating pink and the constant reminder by his family that pink is the ‘girly’ colour is only too obvious. We later realized that not only did he criticize all things pink, he also constantly criticized all ‘princess’ stories and toys, coz’ obviously, they were meant for his sister, not for him. In one of those tender moments between a mother and a child, my nephew admitted that he wanted to play with some of those ‘princess’ toys, but, was only scared that others would make fun of him!

We do regret, now, that we had brought this colour separation between the twins, but, thankfully, we realized our folly when there was time still remaining. This slight colour segregation is a powerful example of the levels at which we segregate gender in our society. No child is born knowing the kind of toys it should play with or the kind of clothes it should wear. As the child grows, he/she is conditioned into becoming a boy/ girl! It is this very conditioning which makes it nearly impossible for a male to cry without his pals mocking him, and the same conditioning which prevents girls from taking up sports as a career. Not to say, that such gender segregation is cashed on by, and really- also driven by, multibillion dollar businesses. These huge companies know how to turn situations to their advantage and so keep coming up with more and more pink and blue child products to satisfy the great demand by the public to make the two genders stand out from each other. In doing so, they are also strengthening gender norms and are shaping further demand for themselves.

Yes, there is a start of advertisements attempting to be more gender-sensitive, trying to make their products more suitable for both the genders, and even toy companies coming up with a lot of products for girls which were conventionally thought to be ‘masculine’. Yet, the battle is largely for us to fight. We need to make sure that we, in our attempt to make our children’s rooms ‘cuter’ or simply to follow what others have been doing, don’t end up making our boys hate pink. I must also remind this to myself, especially when I go for the ‘Kinder Joy’ for girls…. I must remind myself that a ‘Kinder joy’ which is different for girls and boys, is a ‘Kinder Joy’ not worth for humans at all! 

Almas Shamim is a public health specialist with a great interest in sexual and reproductive health and rights, and feminism among Muslim women. She currently works for an international humanitarian aid organization in New Delhi and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.