The Politics of Pink, and the sexism assigned to it

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. 


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History Poetry Forgotten History Lost in History

You probably don’t know about Hettie Jones, a crusading Beat poet

You’ve heard of a Jack Kerouac, but have you ever heard of a Hettie Jones?

The Beat Literary Movement of the 1950s is coined for its explicit subject matter and bohemian lifestyle. Americans in the 1950’s lived in largely suburban towns and felt threatened by things like communism. Men went to work in suits and women stayed home to cook, clean, and tend to the children.

The rebel, beatnik, group of authors that made up the Beat Generation were iconoclastic. Much of their work explored and influenced American culture and politics in the post-war era. They experimented with form and structure while writing about sex, drugs, and religion. Traditional literary houses rejected them and looked down on them as a group as being defiant, untalented, and unprofessional. 

I think that their being unconventional was the whole point, though.

They were the antithesis of mainstream American life.

They wanted to publish anything that was deemed inappropriate by society. These people were tired of the routine, and frankly, felt beaten down by the conservative lifestyle that they were stuck in. They were highly controversial in that they were the antithesis of mainstream American life and writing. Many of their works of poetry and prose focused on shifts of consciousness and escaping “squareness.” The stereotype around the Beats is that they were not in favor of what they considered to be straight jobs. Instead, they lived together, packed into small and dirty apartments, sold drugs, had sex with each other, and committed crimes. They are also known for exploring homosexuality, which was a highly taboo topic in 1950’s America.

Though they set many precedents together, the Beats still succumbed to the blatant sexism of the time. Most, if not all, of the women involved in the Beat literary movement were overshadowed by their male counterparts for no particular reason other than gender. These women were just as intelligent and qualified to question society as the beatnik men who have become well-known poets and activists.

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One of the most iconic, and downplayed, female poets of that time who deserves righted acknowledgment is Hettie Jones. 

Hettie Jones published 23 books- and yet, we forgot her

Hettie Jones is most known for her marriage to the famous Beat Poet Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones). Few people know that Hettie helped run Totem Press, one of the more important beat publishers, along with her husband. She went on to publish about 23 books, one being a memoir of her time spent with Amiri and the rest of the Beats titled, How I Became Hettie Jones (1990). She has also written for many prestigious journals, lectured writing across America, and began the literary magazine “Yugen.”

Hettie is one of my favorite poets, so I think that her writing deserved to be at the forefront of the Beat movement, right there with the boys who got so much praise for their work. 

Hettie’s writing is rooted in practical idealism. She left her family home in Long Island to go to college and to fully discover herself. When she graduated in 1955, she never turned back, and moved to New York City. She met Amiri while working at The Record Changer, a jazz magazine. He was a young, black poet with just as much intelligence and intensity as Hettie. They quickly fell in love and moved in together. They would go to poetry readings at cafes and bohemian bars, where they met many of the other Beat poets.

Hettie deserved to be at the forefront of the Beat movement.

When the pair founded their own magazine, they published the writings of many of the iconic beat players who could not find a home for their writing in the traditional sphere. Hettie was in charge of editing the works that were to be published in the magazine. It was here that she honed her craft and found power in the refined writing that makes her work stand out from the rest. 

By 1960, Hettie and Amiri had two children, were married, and lived in New York City. Being a biracial family, though, countless bigoted remarks were directed towards them regardless of the Beat scene. Hettie was on the receiving end of most of these cold stares and was able to see the world through the eyes of her husband and children. This affected her incredibly and eventually became a recurring theme in her writing.  

When Amiri became tightly involved with the Black Power movement, he was criticized for having a white wife. They divorced in 1968. Hettie thrived on her own though and made a living with her children while teaching and editing. Her separation from her husband also gave Hettie an outlet to speak up and finally publish works of her own. She has been quoted to say, “Without a him in the house, there was more space/time for her, and I tried to redefine the way a woman might use it.” 

To this day, Hettie’s writing is compassionate. She writes about her own experiences in a compelling manner while weaving in the issues that she cares about. Currently, Hettie lives in New York City, and is a writer and lecturer. In addition, she runs a writing workshop at the New York State Correctional Facility for Women where she recently published a volume of writing by incarcerated women.

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USA Editor's Picks The World Policy Inequality

Of course, immigrants don’t want to answer the 2020 Census – they watch the news.

The Census Bureau plans to ask people if they are U.S. citizens in the 2020 survey.

The last time this question was asked, it was the 1950’s, and it led to the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans.

The Justice Department seeks to reintroduce the citizenship question to enforce the Voting Rights Act (which has been continuously challenged since its creation in 1965). Critics view it as an intimidation tactic towards immigrant communities who have been a target under the current administration’s plans to separate of families, deport en masse, and dehumanize via policy. The fear incited by the question could discourage immigrants from participating in the census, viewing it as just a deportation tactic.

However, abstaining from the census can result in the population being greatly undercounted, which has huge effects on the state level.

Data collected from the census helps determine the drawing of political boundaries, the allotment of seats in both state and local levels of Congress, and the annual distribution of about $700 billion of federal funds.

While the administration and the bureau report that they would try to provide other government records to fill in missing responses in anticipation of the undercount, states with large Hispanic populations run the risk of losing millions by this question. This threat of being underfunded has provoked more than a dozen cities and states to sue the Census Bureau and Commerce Department in an attempt to remove it from the survey, citing that it “undermine[s] the accuracy of the population count and cause[s] tremendous harms” to state residents.

Phoenix, Arizona, stands to lose up to $170 million annually pending the absence of the Spanish and Latino participation that they, a state that despite showing dissent towards this population, has joined the lawsuit.

And while the citizenship question doesn’t explicitly ask about one’s immigration status, the unease towards the bureau’s citizenship question has just as much to do with history, as it does rhetoric. During World War II, the bureau provided the Secret Service the names and addresses of some Japanese Americans that led to their forced removal after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. From 1942 to 1945, the government incarcerated American citizens of Japanese descent, froze their assets, seized items that were deemed as contraband, and forced them to live and work as laborers through President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. While the Bureau has since acknowledged and apologized for sharing said data, after years of denying the passing of microdata, it does nothing to expunge the stain left on the agency’s history.

As it currently stands, the Census Bureau is prohibited from sharing information with other government agencies for a period of 72 years after it collects personal data, as a way to restore confidentially and trust amongst citizens.

More safeguards have been put in place to maintain confidentiality, including a $250,000 fine and possible jail time placed on employees who leak information. However, the protections and code to maintain confidentiality didn’t prevent the legal transfer of information that incarcerated these American citizens. To think about what the current administration could do to obtain that information and do something with it is not far-fetched. Especially since this administration has been inundated with controversy and continuous abuses of power.

The question is meant to suppress the count. Fearful immigrants opting out will cause states to be underfunded, which benefits the government. Either way, they win.

We shouldn’t be surprised when immigrants of Hispanic and Latino descent shun the citizenship question.

They are simply paying attention to the words and actions of a country that has used everything in its power to persecute a group they resent and are refusing to let history repeat itself.