The stereotyping of Pink

How do you feel about the colour Pink?

Has it become horribly stereotyped as being all about girliness, of being a princess, or … does it signify breast cancer awareness or support? Or is it just a colour which you either like or don’t?

When my granddaughter was born, the “no pink” message was spread to family members. While my mother argued, I supported the decision. Firstly, because I know if my granddaughter decides she wants to wear pink … she will, but also I’d no intention of buying pink, for I agreed with their sentiment.

Thing is, I haven’t always felt negatively about the colour. There are photographs of my sister and I as little girls in matching dresses, identical in every way except for the colour. My sister’s dress was hot orange, mine was hot pink – both styled as per the Beatles Sergeant Pepper outfits. As an early teen, I recall my first pair of hot pants being pale pink (and worn with cream canvas ribbon-laced boots – what can I say, it was the 60s!) In my early twenties, there’s a photo of me wearing a hot pink bikini, which I recall being my favourite at the time for it was truly excellent at showing off my tan. Clearly, I didn’t have any negative feelings towards pink.

Yet when my daughter was born, I realised that a horrifyingly early start is made with regard to gender conditioning in marketing and society, of there being separate and different clothes for boys and clothes for girls, even when they’re tiny babies. Now a babygro is the most neutral of clothing items, yet people were horrified if I dressed my daughter in a blue one. They acted like I’d cheated, or deliberately made them look foolish for assuming she was a boy when dressed in blue, that I was somehow obligated to dress my daughter in shades of pink. What …?

Total strangers were the worst. I stopped correcting them when they referred to my daughter as him or a boy. I decided the way to defend my boundaries in those circumstances was to exclude their words rather than engage or argue with their views.

Despite not having an aversion to pink, I was undoubtedly a tomboy. My daughter managed to be both feminine, and one of the lads. She ran uncomplainingly (and fast) for trains in her high heels, and drank beer rather than more expensive options when out with the lads, yet enjoyed dressing up, doing her hair, nails and make-up ahead of girls nights out with Prosecco.  On her 21st birthday, she asked for suede boots … in dusky pink, for she had no problem with the colour itself. Despite being assaulted by gender stereotyping from birth, she’d managed to find her own path to tread.

I don’t wear pink anymore but, to be honest, that’s more because my skin tends to flush and I don’t need anything which makes me look more like a beacon. But there is no doubting the colour has a bad name.

My rugby team’s colours include pink – or magenta to give it the proper name – but I’ve noticed that they’ve been stealthily changing its tone towards a darker red over the years. One outcome being – sadly –  that they no longer pick the sexiest and most manly of players to model the pink shirt!

One final, serious word on the pinkification of breast cancer. Breast cancer charities are the most successful of all cancer related charities, and I fervently hope there’s a direct correlation between improvements in research and treatments to that success. As someone who’s had breast cancer and been fortunate it has remained at bay for approaching 10 years, I cringe at some of the “pink” methodologies employed by these charities, because I’ve lost far too many friends to the disease to feel comfortable with their marketing style.

Tell me your reactions to Pink – be they fabulous or furious. I mean, it’s just a colour, right …? 


© Debra Carey, 2020

11 comments

  1. Great post. I agree with your sentiments. I feel like pink should be just another colour but it has become very stereotyped. When my daughter was born I dressed her in all sorts of colours (including blue like you did) but rarely ever pink. That was in part because she had red hair from birth and many shades of pink clashed with her hair. I was also very aware of stereotyping though. I was never a particularly girly girl myself and rarely ever chose to wear pink. I actually wear it more now than I ever did when I was younger. Sorry I’m rambling a bit here. Anyway – great post. I enjoyed reading it.

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  2. My spirit color is pink. My clothes are all black, my house is earth tones, but if I buy something fun, a scarf, a notebook, whatever, it is pink. It is clearly my favorite color because it has moods, from fuchsia to ballet slippers, pink manages to capture every mood.

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  3. I agree. I have a problem sometimes when I am making my baby books to sell on Etsy. I do tend to make the “boy” ones with mostly blues and greens and the “girl” one with mostly pinks. I’m trying to achieve a balance with more “neutral” colors.

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  4. Interestingly enough it is only since about the 1940’s that this ‘convention’ was established. Up until about 1918 pink was seen to be a boys colour and blue was for girls. Christian iconography typically has the Virgin Mary dressed in blue. This article from the Smithsonian explains some of the reasons. http://tinyurl.com/ybw7q4ym

    Alan

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  5. JustBeingMe, I’m so glad that you enjoyed my post & that my opinions resonated with you. Your daughter is a redhead – how lovely 🙂

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  6. Funny you say that LA, Himself recently persuaded me that I should select a bright colour for things like pens, notebooks, purses etc as “otherwise they just disappear into a sea of blackness” as, like you, everything I wear is black! He’s right – it does work! I alternate between hot, hot pink & red. I’m not a fan of pale pink – although, thinking about it, I’m not a fan of any pale shade.

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  7. Janet, oh I feel your pain in producing books while avoiding gender stereotypical colours. Such a tricky road to tread.

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  8. H’mmm: it appears that my earlier reply has disappeared into the abyss. Perhaps some electrons somewhere disapprove of a Mere Male commenting on matters pink! 🙂

    However, it is only since about the 1940’s that pink has become a ‘girlie’ colour. Up until about 1918 boys and girs alike tended to be dressed in white (easier to bleach) and even in the early 1900s it was still common for boys to wear frocks. Pink was a decidedly boy colour: girls wore blue. In Christian iconography in both paintings and sculptures the Virgin Mary is invariably in blue.

    There is an interesting article iin the Smithsonian on-line magazine which explains more fully: see http://tinyurl.com/ybw7q4ym

    Alan

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  9. Alan, I’m sorry you had to reply twice, but I’m so glad that you did for that information (and the excellent article you linked to) make for fascinating reading. A Mere Male ha! 😀 I think the changes mentioned in the article which took place in the forties came later to my family by dint of us being out in India and away from the power of UK & US marketing. Certainly, my brother, sister & I all wore the same – largely white – clothing as babies & toddlers.

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  10. I’m not keen on pale pink or blush as it is sometimes called. It looks weak to me, but more intense shades of pink like fuchsia I like. In the garden I try to stay away from planting pale pink flowers because they don’t show up, but we have a few hot pink rose bushes and I like them. I don’t know if the foregoing puts me on Team Pink or not? What say ‘ye?

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  11. I think you are 🙂 In the same way as LA & I are. While my daughter was young I did hate what I called Barbie pink, mostly because I wasn’t overly fond of Barbie and all that pink plastic stuff for small girls. I’ve also had problems with the pink & fluffiness that surrounds breast cancer charities, but have had to get over myself as they are so hugely successful – something I’d want my fellow sufferers to benefit from. But I have always loved a bold shade of pink as an accent colour, in a good fabric or texture (and flower petals would certainly qualify). I’d so love to be able to wear bright pink now, but glow-in-the-dark old lady face isn’t a good look! 😀

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