Friday, March 27, 2015
I Have a Pink Problem
Several weeks ago, my mom came home from a shopping trip with two cellphone holders. One was black and white with pink trim, the other was blue and yellow striped. She asked which one I'd want, and I immediately grabbed the blue one. "I figured you'd pick that one," she said, "because you absolutely hate pink."
I thought she was exaggerating. I mean, look at my beauty collection: tons of pink lipsticks, a few pink containers and hair clips, and several lemmings for soft pink eyeshadows. I've watched plenty of movies in which the heroine wears a pink outfit I think is just fabulous. I have friends who look great in pink. There's even pink furniture at the antique store that makes me say, "Oh, that's pretty." I like pink just fine! I'm not biased!
But yesterday, when we went to Goodwill, I immediately nixed every shirt with a hint of pink in it. I grabbed blue, yellow, and of course, plenty of black...but anything pink was pushed to the side.
Part of my issue, I think, is that I don't think pink is particularly flattering on me. I've owned a few pink shirts in my lifetime, and the one that really sticks out in my memory is a Marilyn Monroe t-shirt. The screen-printed starlet wore her famous, almost-fuchsia dress from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and the shirt fabric was the color of sugary bubblegum. I remember that the shirt was a gift, so I wore it a few times. But it never felt right on me. The color was just so bright and so not-me that I felt like the center of attention every time I wore it. Eventually, the pink Marilyn t-shirt was donated to the Salvation Army, and I filled my collection with tons of black.
Pink has also become associated with femininity, at least in white western culture. This is an interesting association when you consider that pink clothing was the top choice for baby boys less than a hundred years ago; the justification was that pink is a lighter shade of red, a traditionally masculine shade. Prior to World War II, baby girls were often clothed in yellow or pastel green, which are the current "gender neutral" color options.
A lot of people don't believe me when I mention the above facts, but they're true. Pink is not inherently "girly"; that association is rather new. Yet our culture insists on maintaining this arbitrary gender segregation re: color. For example: my sister enjoys going to baby clothing stores to look for stuff to sell on eBay. Last year, I ran in to a former coworker who was expecting a baby girl. I mentioned that a dark pink pair of boots she'd selected was rather cute.
"Well, you'd only put that on a girl," the coworker said.
I shrugged. "They're just shoes. I don't think they have to go on a girl."
I'll never forget the co-worker's expression. I mean, there was very visible disgust on her face, as if I'd mentioned doing some kind of harm to children. "You'd let your son walk around in pink?" When I shrugged again, she turned away from me, clearly perturbed. I myself was rather irritated by her reaction, so I wandered off to read the children's books. (And I might've bought one or two for my personal collection. Go ahead, judge me.)
Pink elicits these strong reactions in people. And those strong reactions highlight how we favor what is considered "masculine" over "feminine;" clearly, we think it's less desirable to be "like a woman." Most people are fine with dressing a girl in, say, a cute blue playsuit or a dress, but put a little boy in pink, and you're apparently setting him up for failure. But why? It's just a color! Even if it's associated with femininity, what's so bad about that? Why is it okay for women to be tomboys, to project so-called masculine traits, and to wear things associated with men, but the reverse receives naught but scorn?
Babies don't even realize what you're putting on them, and children only become aware of our culture's gendered expectations when we reinforce them. It's society, not nature, that decides what clothing is "appropriate" for different people to wear. (If it was "natural" for girls to wear skirts, for instance, the ancient Egyptians would've painted the walls of their tombs very differently.) So why reinforce them? Why not let people wear what they want, with no preconceptions as to whether or not certain things make you "feminine" or "masculine"?
So I suppose, in many ways, my aversion to pink has more to do with how much cultural constructs, and our blind attachment to them, get on my nerves. I may continue to wear mostly-black because it's easy and I lack fashion sense, but in the meantime, pink doesn't deserve my misguided hate.