Sunday, 3 February 2013

Reclaiming pink

I clearly remember as the young daughter of feminist parents not being allowed to wear the colour pink. It was check shirts and khaki shorts to the point that when I finally got a pair of pink trousers aged 4, they stick out in my memory as a wardrobe landmark. Now, I confess, I let my daughter wear pink without much complaint. The colour suits her, she is not obsessed with it (as I was!) and will often choose other colours but it is definitely a favourite. I still feel that there is a bit of a feminist taboo over pink though. If your female child is dressed head to toe in pink, you clearly don't believe in equality for women and probably want her to grow up a prissy madam who doesn't like getting wet. A boy dressed head to toe in pink must be the child of extremely liberal parents or from somewhere far away.

Now I remember from somewhere that pink used to be the colour of choice for baby boys because it was seen as vibrant and strong, whereas blue was the delicate shade for the passive female baby. My favourite colour is blue, I won't have a word said against it but pink is a very heartening colour and I really feel that we should reclaim it. Now there are positive associations for femininity and pink such as Breast Cancer Awareness and Code Pink:Women for Peace in the US. But I guess by reclaiming it, I mean just returning it to the mainstream. Pink could no longer be the colour of subjugation but, dare I say it, just another colour...?

There, I've said my piece. You can be feminist and like pink.


  1. There's no clear superiority between blue and pink, making it seem more like a glass wall than a glass ceiling; feminists who sweat the fight of raising boys with girl's toys aren't pushing them to inferiority. Nonetheless, when your parents were raising you, the barrier was thick and real, requiring a real effort to break. Since the barrier seems weaker now, you can probably allow her and encourage her to engage in male activities and identity facets without having to deny her traditional female stuff.

    If you find yourself distressed by the kid being overly femme, you could correct for that or wait for a bit; it's not like there won't be a new and different phase coming up. Or, if it doesn't come up, a femme identification isn't the handicap that it might once have been. It's true that the femme identification may be the result of patriarchal media influences etc., but fighting it on that basis seems much more like fighting the harmless symptoms than fighting the harmful cause.

    fwiw, I believe that there are pictures of me in head to toe pink, and probably of T in the same outfit; Mum was pretty radical. ;-)

  2. These women / this campaign sums up everything I think about pink much more eloquently than I can

    I'm not against pink as a colour but the "pinkification" of girls culture. For me it is indicative of cutesyness and the expectation for girls to like pink and be cute is a precursor to the expectation later in life that they will make sure that they are visually appealing (ie pretty) and feminine in order not to offend the status quo.

  3. I think James is right, the battle is different now or less defined. Yet the continuing fetishisation of pink as symbolic of feminine loveliness or patriarchal subjugation depending on your gender politics standpoint seems to me bizarre. Bringing up girls and boys to believe that the colour has some immense symbolic significance is unhelpful; denying girls pink obviously produces the reverse effect as it makes it more desired and pink in itself is not a bad thing, it is just a colour. It feels a bit like denying your child a biscuit because you are on a diet...

    By the way, on the topic of cutesy, is pink hoody bearable, pink tutu bad? My parents certainly thought so with the pink trousers concession. In fact, parents worrying about colours is a moot point, it is peer pressure when young children start to socialise that limits choice and reproduces society's gender norms. As James points out, a fascination with pink may be a symptom of girls learning to become society's definition of femininity but it is not a cause.

    So... at the end of the day, isn't feminism about freedom of choice? Shouldn't we bring up our boys and girls to resist society's pressures and confidently wear whatever the hell they want, be it a pink dress, a black spider costume or blue jeans? My 2 year old certainly exerts her freedom of choice when it comes to her wardrobe and as irritating as it is getting ready in the morning, long may she do so!

    PS It hasn't escaped my notice that my son is wearing blue and my daughter is wearing pink in the above photo. Am I failing at feminism again?? or maybe it's just coincidence...:)