Those of you familiar with the show Blue’s Clues will know the characters of Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper. When I first started watching this show with the kids I used to always get them mixed up. For some reason it just seemed to me that Pepper would be the Dad and Salt would be the mother. One day I was talking about it to some friends and they all admitted that they found it “backwards” and also assigned the opposite roles to Salt and Pepper. Even people who aren’t familiar with the show seem to do that if you ask (not that I’ve taken a scientific or even detailed poll of that!).
And so I started to wonder why. Why is “black” associated with the male and “white” with the female? Does it have to do with racial stereotypes and prejudices? Do we find it easier to imagine a black male with a white female, than the other way around? Is the white female considered to be a “step up” for coloured males? I sadly suspect that it is, if not in our conscious minds than in the subconscious mind of our culture.
Then again, I also wonder if it relates to the concepts of dark and light in terms of “good” versus “bad”, or “pure” versus “tainted”. Women are expected to be pure, sexually innocent, and embody goodness and motherly-ness. Men are expected to have some experience, to be the strong protector willing to fight for his woman. Toughness is universally valued whether you are in a culture of warriors or a gang-ridden ghetto. In the upper classes, toughness seems to relate more to wealth – and let’s face it, with enough money one has power and never needs to bruise one’s own knuckles to attain it. Nevertheless, it could be that our assumptions that Pepper should be the male persona and Salt be the female are a reflection of gender stereotypes.
So when you imagine the characters of Salt and Pepper, which one is the male and which is the female? Why?