Pink Is For Girls

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I suppose I’ve bought into the stereotype that pink is for girls by having a pink feather on my blog. (And my original version on Blogger was even MORE pink–or is that pinker?)  But it’s an easy way to identify my blog as having something to do with females. I found out the other day from a Libyan friend that the pink is for girls/blue is for boys paradigm is also followed in his country. I don’t know if this is universal. It would be interesting to find out which countries and ethnic groups follow the same practice. Does it hold true in Papua New Guinea, for example?

Pink has been so strongly identified with girls that most boys wouldn’t be caught dead in something that’s pink. My daughter reports that there’s one little boy she interprets for who absolutely loves pink, especially his favorite pink shirt. He’s getting away with it now (he’s only five), but how long will that be tolerated? This is one area where boys are definitely discriminated against (another is being allowed to wear skirts). Girls can wear blue, but boys can’t wear pink.

But even when girls wear blue, they seem to like the blues that have a pinkish tint to them. A British study found that the women they polled preferred exactly that. (They also rejected most greens and yellows.) Pink is so identified with females, all you have to do is color your product pink and it will appeal to women and girls. (Click here to see board games that have been remarketed in pink. Do you think anyone would buy one of these for a boy? Also note the bottom photo where Legos are identified as boys’ toys.)

One of the teachers I had in college is absolutely bonkers for pink. I never saw her without at least one pink item on her person. She even has a pink typewriter on her web site (I don’t know if it’s real or just photo-shopped). I admire her for having the guts to announce her predilection to the world. Because even though grown women can and do wear pink, it’s more closely associated with little girls.

Most people have seen the pink ribbons that are associated with breast cancer. Last Saturday I participated in a Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure here in Columbus, Ohio. (Lest you get the wrong idea, I did not run, or even jog. I walked the 5 kilometers–but I made it!) Adding to the sense of solidarity were all the different ways people (and dogs) utilized the color pink (not to mention all the different shades of pink). Bandanas, tie dye t-shirts, baseball caps, wigs, you name it, pink was everywhere. There was a sea of pink (46,000 people!) surging through the downtown neighborhood. It had to have been obvious to anyone that the race had to do with women.

[The most moving part of the race was the biker contingent. They lined the street and gunned their motors as we walked by. All of them wore something pink.]

The Epitome of Femininity
The Epitome of Femininity

Back in the day, Second Wave feminists shied away from the color pink because it was so stereotypically feminine. They preferred the bolder statement: red. The fact that pink is being used the way it is these days is a signifier that super-femininity is back in fashion. (Think Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde.)

But was it always this way? I’ve run across references on the Internet (here and here) that suggest that pink wasn’t associated with the female sex until the 1920s and then mostly in the Western world. Some things that we think have always been that way (like the white wedding dress) are actually fairly recent traditions. It’s unthinkable now that pink ever stood for anything but girls. But who knows? Maybe someday it will be replaced by orange or purple or maroon. Or maybe someday all colors will be used for everyone, no matter the gender or sexual orientation.

Somehow that doesn’t seem as much fun.

[For more information about the color pink, click here.]

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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