Questions and Chaos

Life in the 21st Century

Headlines Everywhere: Girls Love Pink

Monday, August 27, 2007

In my local paper I came across an article from Reuters London reporting a new scientific study that showed: Boys like blue, girls like pink and there isn’t much anybody can do about it, researchers said on Monday in one of the first studies to show scientifically that there are gender-based colour preferences.”

Scientific American has run the Reuters article verbatim: starting with the above quote. Newspapers everywhere are proclaiming the above line or something even more scientific sounding like that of the Toronto Star : “A new study, appearing this month in Current Biology finds for the first time that girls are hard-wired to like pink.

In this study 208 subjects age 20-26 looked at pairs of coloured rectangles and picked the one they preferred as quickly as possible. While both sexes preferred blue tones, more women picked reddish-blue tones than men. Based on the evidence, the conclusions published around the world are sheer nonsense and, sadly, people will believe those conclusions have been proven by science.

In the summary of her paper submitted to Current Biology researcher Anya Hurlbert talks about how no previous studies have found sex differences in colour preference and “This fact is perhaps surprising, given the prevalence and longevity of the notion that little girls differ from boys in preferring pink.

First off, in order for little girls to prefer pink they would need to be offered a choice. Babies and toddlers have no choice in the colours they are dressed in, girls are born surrounded by pink and boys by blue. Walk down the girls’ aisle in the toy store – what colour is everything? What would little girls play with if it wasn’t pink? How often do they have a choice between a blue, green or pink Barbie car? The choice is pink or pink or pink. Any little boy who who loves pink is quickly re-directed to the correct toys and colours. It is parents and marketers that choose pink for girls and blue for boys, not the children themselves.

It’s interesting to note the age of the subjects. Previous studies found no differences between the preferences of males and females. Subjects age 20-26 have been more heavily subjected to consumer culture, more toys and television than any other generation. Also interesting that Chinese subjects of both sexes had a greater preference for reddish tones than the British subjects. In Chinese culture red is considered a lucky colour.

Hurlbert explains these findings as having a biological basis because to her it seems logical that women would prefer reddish colours because it helped early females find fruit and be attentive to babies’ skin colour changes such as fever. However there was no evidence in her experiment that women noticed the colours faster, only that they preferred these shades.
If we’re going to look at this from an evolutionary perspective and let’s assume it’s true for a moment that women are hard-wired to prefer pink. If it were true, wouldn’t every man looking for a hot date be wearing some shade of pink?

Ben Goldacre on Bad Science points out that choosing pink for girls is only a recent cultural phenomenon. He quotes a 1918 Ladies Home Journal that says girls should wear blue and boys should wear pink because “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.”

It doesn’t really matter what colour you prefer as long as the truth remains that males are strong because they are the hunters and females are dainty because they are the berry pickers.

I abhor pink consumer goods, but I’m a darn good berry picker. So perhaps I need to accept that, perhaps, biologically I’m a Neanderthal.
In the comments Nikku said: This article is misleading as female humans preferring a slightly redder shade of blue has nothing to do with liking a pink shirt. EXACTLY! That’s my point. To use this data to say that girls are hardwired to like pink is just bad, bad science. Trouble is all the media in the English world, and maybe more, said this proved that girls liking pink is a hard-wired trait. It’s now three years later and if you Google “Girls like pink” you will read the following: “A new study, appearing this month in Current Biology, finds for the first time that girls are hard-wired to like pink.” — and that is just wrong on so many levels.

Newlywed in Their Nineties

Monday, August 20, 2007

“There is such a thing as being able to love again,” said the 90 year old bride as she married her 94 year old husband. August 17, 2007, in a lovely ceremony at Canterbury Court seniors lodge in Edmonton, Alberta, Aileen LeDrew and Ralph Arrison said, “I do.”

The couple had been spending time together for several years and cruised the Panama canal together earlier this year. Aileen’s eyesight is too weak to read so Ralph reads her the newspaper, historical non-fiction and Shakespeare. Aileen helps Ralph remember day-to-day tasks. They had considered living in sin but decided to honor tradition the way they were brought up.

 The wedding reception included champagne toasts, a bouquet toss, a belly dancer and a waltz by the newlywed couple. A honeymoon in Barbados is planned for this fall.

No one is likely to question their wisdom. Both partners were previously married for over fifty years. Together they have 116 years of marital experience.

Wedding Photos

Newlywed, Ralph Arrison had some good advice:

“You take as much happiness as you can at the present time,
whatever the situation is.”


Elders of the Global Village

Thursday, August 16, 2007

July 18, 2007 an event occurred for the first time in the existence of the human race and the media was incredibly indifferent.

The next day, the headline in the New York Times read: “Pull Out Bid Lost, Democrats Stop Debate on Iraq“; the Toronto Globe and Mail read: “Global Hunt Heightens for [Conrad] Black Assets“; the Edmonton Journal headline read: “Bid for Oilers [hockey team] Jumps $20 Million“. Those were the events deemed most important for public knowledge.

July 18, 2007 marked the first formation of a group of global elders. Modeled on the role of elders in traditional societies they are a group of “trusted, respected, worldly-wise individuals with a proven commitment and record of contributing to solving global problems.” The mandate of the group is to work publicly and privately to address global issues, resolve conflict and support the contribution of established groups working to stop unnecessary human suffering. Members of the group are free from all political, economic and military pressures.

Their only purpose is to ease human suffering in three essential areas:

  1. Offering a catalyst for the peaceful resolution of conflict.
  2. Seeking new approaches to seemingly intractable global issues.
  3. Sharing wisdom: reaching out to the grassroots Elders and to the next generation of leaders. Listening and helping to amplify voices for good all over the world.”

Desmond Tutu, Chair of The Elders, said, “Despite all of the ghastliness that is around, human beings are made for goodness. The ones who ought to be held in high regard are not the ones who are militarily powerful, nor even economically prosperous. The are the ones who have a commitment to try and make the world a better place. We – The Elders – will endeavor to support those people and do our best for humanity.” — wow.

Other members of the group include: Nelson Mandela from South Africa, Graca Machel from Mozambique, Kofi Annan from Ghana, Ela Bhatt from India, Gro Harlem Brundtland from Norway, Jimmy Carter from the United States, Li Zhaoxing from China, Mary Robinson from Ireland and Mohammad Yunus from Bangladesh.

Look at the faces of these people and compare them to those who rant and rage about weapons of mass destruction. Look at the resumes of what these people have already accomplished. These are the people we should look to as role models for ourselves and our children. These are the people whose faces we should see on magazine covers. These are the people whose life stories should become feature articles.

In his opening address Nelson Mandela said, “We are only human through the humanity of other human beings.” Let us choose our role models wisely.

How Can I File Life?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

In our information society everything needs to fit into a category. I find myself resistant to creating categories for my writing. Life is all inter-related. Our biology runs the thoughts we think and the philosophy we create. How can you file life?

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been a mother for twenty-two years that I have trouble thinking in categories. As a parent I have been involved in all the activities that are necessary to make a human being grow up healthy and happy.  I have not spent my life focused on one task, topic, specialization or career.  There is no specialization; there is only life.  When you live with children you teach spelling while peeling potatoes and conduct conflict resolution while driving down the freeway.  You wash the floor when the baby is sleeping and stop half finished when she wakes up.  As parents we don’t have the option of saying, “That’s not my job,” or “I’ll feed you tomorrow when my project is done.”

Our lives are affected by events on a global scale.  The fruit we have for breakfast is affected by the weather in Chile.  Economic conditions in China affect my life in ways that I am not even aware of. Like weather and other natural phenomena, life is a chaotic system where all the variables are interacting.  Life does not fit neatly in a file cabinet. 

Prior to the industrial revolution one person could build a whole carriage. A carriage builder could innovate, create and improve his work as time went on. A factory worker does not have that control over his product. He builds the same pieces every day and he does his work the way someone else tells him to do it. The mechanization of the industrial revolution has predominated the workplace to the point where we take it for granted. Everyone has an assigned job description and those are the tasks that are demanded and performed. We spend our days of gainful employment functioning like a machine.

The defining characteristic of living things is that they grow and adapt by responding to changes in their environment. This is a characteristic most of the modern workplace does not allow. We’re not allowed to stay home to get more sleep or come in a day later because it’s cold out.  A single celled amoeba can move away from noxious stimuli but, as an employee, we are not allowed to go home when the boss yells at us. Perhaps much of modern stress and depression is due to the fact that we are not permitted to function like living organisms.

As we constantly force ourselves into the mechanical model, we have lost touch with our biological nature. We forget that we need to breathe, drink and eat like every other living organism. As we have lost respect for our physiology we have lost respect for the rest of life on earth as well. We’ve forgotten that we are part of  the earth and dependent on the wind, the sun and the rain for our life.  We are not separate like the parts of a car or television. We constantly cycle the earth’s substance through our bodies.

Donella Meadows writes: “Between me and not-me there is surely a line, a clear distinction, or so it seems. But now look, where is that line? This fresh apple, still cold and crisp from the morning dew, is not-me only until I eat it. When I eat it, I eat the soil that nourished the apple. When I drink, the waters of the earth become me. With every breath I take in I draw in not-me and make it me. With every breath out I exhale not-me.” 

Life is complex and interactive with everything flowing together. The categories we create are only an invention of the mind to keep things separate.