Pink is the hue of femininity. It’s the color of breast cancer campaigns, of “female” gender reveal parties, and a genuine ‘no no’ for boys. It also holds the unfair tag of vapid girlhood. But why is this the case? Let’s delve a little into the politics of pink:
Pink was actually a color for boys
Assigning color to gender is a twentieth century trait that began in Western Europe and America. At the start, pink was actually a color for boys because it was a watered down version of red; a strong, bold color signifying ferocity. What was the color for girls, you ask? Blue; navy blue in fact, since this was the color of – surprise surprise – the Virgin Mary. Blue was also considered more dainty and delicate (I shudder as I think back to my Convent School’s depressingly navy uniform).
It was not until World War 1 that the color assignment switched. Men off to war were given blue uniforms, and almost immediately it became the color of masculinity. It was only fitting that pink was then handed down like an old sweater, and pushed to become the girl’s hue. “Think Pink” was the slogan used to motivate women to embrace their femininity, and to know their place was outside of the man’s new, blue world. A 50’s film starring the adored, feminine icon Audrey Hepburn showed her to wear only pink outfits, inspiring this generation of women even more. Ladies, our great grandmas were brainwashed to think pink was always for us. I suppose it’s not the worst thing they were told to believe about women, but it did provide a clear-cut color palette for throwing upon sexism for years to come.
I grew up hating pink
While I now think pink is possibly the greatest color yet, I actually grew up disliking it. I think subconsciously my brain realized pink wasn’t all that cool because girls weren’t all that cool. And I wanted desperately to be one of the effortless, unrestrained boys; the ones who ran amok on the playground without fear of dirtying their cute, pink frocks. While I’m embarrassed to have ever thought like that, I’m also grateful because it’s helped me understand why men may fear pink so intrinsically. They have been made to think that women – and anything associated with us – are beneath them. Pink, the bold color it really is, has come to symbolize fragility and gentleness, in their eyes at least. And that is not what men want to be. Heck, who can blame them – that’s not what I want[ed] to be either!
I asked a couple of my male friends why they don’t like pink. One guy said he’d “wear the occasional pink golf tee, but never choose to decorate with it in [his] house”. Why not, I said? Good point, he replied. My own boyfriend expressed his disdain for our pink couch cover and the pink plush whale I keep on our bed (even though he oftentimes and happily uses it as a headrest). This is the same boy who admitted his favorite color as a kid was this electric, hot pink on his mother’s nail file. What changed in him, then? Well, boys are scolded, molded and teased for liking anything girly, of which pink is the pinnacle. Whilst young girls like me who favor blue and wear shorts and tees, are cool. At least, until we grow up…
Why do we assume those who love pink aren’t smart?
One of my best friends is a pink advocate; her room is all-pink from the duvet to the curtains, so when the sun shines through, you get this luminescent, all consuming pink aura. I remember thinking to myself, it’s so funny that Adriana loves pink so much and yet she’s so smart. But now I think, why do we assume only dumb, vapid girls like Regina George and Gretchen Weiners like pink? Why was Elle Woods such a never-been-seen-before lawyer clad in rosy hats and coats? I’ll tell you why: it’s our own internalized misogyny telling us that femininity ≠ smart. And I thank Adriana’s sheer intelligence and unashamed embracing of pink for helping me see that.
I guess what I’m trying to point out is the ridiculousness of gendered colors. And perhaps the toxicity of them – how they help in setting clear, unwavering gender binaries. How they police boys into frigid masculinity and into othering women. How they play a part in gender revealing parties that set fire to whole forests. So PSA: you’re allowed to like pink, you’re allowed to hate pink. And it shouldn’t have to mean anything that it sadly still does today.
Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!