Book Review: The Pink & Blue Project
By Ashley Yu
The minute you walk into a Toys R’ Us, you can already tell the clear demarcation between dolls for girls and trucks for boys. Color-coded designating specific spaces for the gender binary, the difference between the sexes is ingrained in the minds of many since childhood.
The children who dabble in the toys of the other gender are accused of impropriety, like in the episode of Friends dedicated to Ross’ indignation when he witnessed his son playing with a Barbie, instead of “manly dinosaurs.” In JeongMee Yoon’s The Pink & Blue Project, the photographer meticulously arranges the bedrooms of both Korean and American children, either drowning in blue for boys or in pink for the girls. Her photographs evoke much of the contemporary discourse over gender conditioning and the overwhelming ways in which it manifests in consumerism.
Beginning in 2005, The Pink & Blue Project is one of three volumes from Yoon’s years-long project. Her project involves documenting the ways children grow into their gender roles over time. In a way, Yoon explores the modes of gender conformity that dictate our lives since birth. The children are not only engulfed by their material possessions, but it also becomes evident that many people are unconsciously influenced by the color coding of marketing and manufacturing--pink to reinforce femininity and blue for masculinity. Yet even in the foreword of The Pink & Blue Project, Yoon describes the pure arbitrariness of this situation, referring to an article in 1918 dictating that boys should wear pink and girls should wear blue.
Divided into two overwhelming parts of pinks and blues, the book contains moments of irony that are interspersed throughout the monochromatic images. Sometimes the girls have small sections of cyan, sequestered aside from the bright fuschia, a few children have areas dedicated to purples and lilacs--a cheeky combination of both gendered colors. One bedroom of a teenage boy, returning from the military, sits solitary in a beige room that is sparsely decorated with a few navy blue posters on the wall.
Her choice to focus on her native state of Korea and her current residency of America, is also telling of her implicit critique of the supposed racial perceptions of gender. America--land of the free and of feminism constantly bolsters itself as immune to sexism and racism, unlike the antiquated modes of thought in the East. However, Yoon’s photographs are like exposés, incriminating evidence that both the East and the West are complicit in the indoctrination of gender.
Although it would be unjust to not acknowledge the progressive incorporation of the people who do not identify strictly to the gender binary in current times, the issue of sex and gender is an international phenomenon. It is, unfortunately, an inescapable foundation of the way people conceive gender; beginning from the moment you leave the womb, your parents waiting anxiously for the doctor to declare the color their infant shall wear.