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Everybody, and I mean literally everybody has been making a fuss over the study that supposedly discovered the evolutionary reason behind men liking blue and women having a pink fetish. I declined making comments on this believing that discussing anything as silly as that would be giving it undeserved mindspace. But when every newspaper is running that load of bullshit, you just have to bring your pooper scooper out.

The first question that we have to address is: Does any such gender specific preference exist? From what i have observed the answer is a no. When pink shirts became a new fashion statement, the men who adopted them were variously branded as metrosexual or gay in the west. But when that happened in India, the media - except for some parts of the English media - was largely silent. The men took to it like people take to any new trend; some liked it some didn't. My point is that if at all there is a bias, then its largely a result of social conditioning. People tell you that guys are not supposed to like pink, the media tells you that pink is girly. Who wants to stand out? Everybody would rather blend in.

Also note this quote from the study:
The Chinese students showed a marked preference for red. As red symbolises luck and happiness in China, this indicates that cultural norms are also involved.

See? It is culture that is playing the major role here. Not genes.

Now for the rest of the claims that the story makes:

“The explanation might date back to humans’ hunter-gatherer days, when women were the primary gatherers and would have benefited from an ability to home in on ripe, red fruits.”
Flawed. The study just proves that women like pink. It says nothing about their ability to detect pink. By the very same logic why do men prefer blue? Were they delegated the task of looking for blueberries?

The second supposed 'reason':
Pinks are also involved in showing changes in emotional states, and might be picked up preferentially by women. “Again, females may have honed these adaptations for their roles as care-givers and ‘empathisers’,” the researchers said.
Blushing and other instances of the skin getting a shade of pink are evident only among people with pale skin. In a person with a darker skin tone such effects won't be visible. This supposed explanation thus conveniently ignores huge parts of humanity.

Its amazing that studies such as these receive funding. Mind boggling actually.

Update: Bad Science has a post on the same topic. Here is a quote from their article:
Back in the days when ladies had a home journal (in 1918) the Ladies Home Journal wrote: “There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger color is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”

The Sunday Sentinel in 1914 told American mothers: “If you like the color note on the little one’s garments, use pink for the boy and blue for the girl, if you are a follower of convention.” Some sources suggest it wasn’t until the 1940s that the modern gender associations of girly pink became universally accepted.


Disclaimer: This critique is based totally on the Times Online version of the study. You have to pay up if you want the original research paper. Even if i had the money, it would go to a hosting plan for my blog and a box of ferrero rochers for me. No supporting researchers who waste money on stuff like that.

More: Joe Paoletti on Dressing For The Sexes.


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