Before we get started, I should be clear about something. I am not talking about Pink the artist. I rather like Pink the artist, and have done since I was about 15 (in fact, I quoted her in my GCSE English Language exam). And I really like her in that relatively new video where she’s all buff and hangs about upside down a lot. This one:
This has been an issue on my mind for a little while, but it really came to light upon the birth of my niece in September. When visiting her for the first time, I was physically shocked (as in, I made a strange gasping noise involving a small amount of mucus that I think I successfully managed to disguise as a cough) at the sheer number of pink cards she had received congratulating her on her arrival on earth.
‘What’s wrong with this?’ you might cry.
Everything is wrong with this.
You see, poor little Lucy is being conditioned right from birth to be a poor little girl who likes pink. My own mother failed to see the significance of this. Her first retort was that, when Lucy is old enough, she will be able to make her own choices whether she wants to own / wear pink items. But a choice is exactly what she won’t have. She is going to spend the next few years being showered with pink presents, and before she even knows what a choice is, she’s going to believe she likes pink.
Mother clearly didn’t have an argument against this, so she quickly changed tack and said that the reason it was important for Lucy to have / wear pink was so that when she is out and about people will know that she’s a girl. Why is it important, that, aged two weeks, random members of the public know that she is a girl? Mother’s claim was that people need to know what pronoun to use: i.e. to be able to say “Isn’t she lovely?”. I swiftly responded that the pronoun “they” could easily carry the same message (“Aren’t they lovely?”) or, perhaps revealing my own opinions on babies, “it” could suffice.
Children aren’t born with a gender (a sociological term), they are born as a member of a sex (a biological term) – this is an important distinction. And there’s something in the eagerness to call Lucy “she” that is akin to dressing her in pink – it’s transforming her into a girl rather than merely a set of female chromosomes. I’m not suggesting that we only use gender neutral pronouns from now own, but what I am saying is that we need to think again about carelessly turning girls into girly girls.
Not that I am saying there is anything wrong with being a girly girl. Provided you have had a choice in becoming one. A friend of mine offered a snippet of information to me recently: apparently blue used to be associated with femininity (reminiscent of the Virgin Mary), whilst red was the colour of masculinity (war, aggression etc.). I’m not quite sure why we need colours for boys and girls, but somewhere along the line, pink has become associated with femininity, and not in a powerful way. Pink is the colour of the Disney Princess range, those girls who famously need their Prince to come and rescue them. Pink is the colour of delicate flowers, that need tending and protecting from the weather. Pink is the colour of pigs, domesticated beasts only used for their body and tortured for their meat… OK, I’m getting carried away now. But ultimately, pink is watered down red; something weak, lacking power and blatantly pathetic.
Normally, I wouldn’t suggest that jumping straight into banning something was a good idea: choice is clearly one of the benefits of a democratic society. But choice is exactly what young girls don’t have at the moment. Pink needs to be banned because, no matter how many more female CEO’s battle their way to the top of the business world (still a measly and insignificant number), the concept of feminine weakness is too ingrained in your average Briton’s mindset. As my Mother quite clearly illustrates, the older generation don’t understand this, and continue to exacerbate the problem by surrounding my niece with thousands of pink cards, so that when she gets old enough to make a choice, she’s already been brainwashed.
Even as an adult woman, I find it tremendously difficult to avoid pink. I am currently sat typing this in a pair of pink fluffy slippers (which, incidentally, I think were a present from one of the aforementioned pink baby-card senders) and suffer regular angst at trying to find gym wear that doesn’t contain even a dash of pink. The only female razor available in the Tooting Sainsbury’s the other day was pink, and I received a pack of pink earplugs ‘for feminine ears’ this Christmas. Similarly, the ‘Bic for Her’ range of pink pens was suitably humiliated by reviewers earlier in the year (worth a read, if you haven’t seen it before: http://tinyurl.com/dxdh3d8), and yet they are still on sale. The problem is that most of us don’t see the humiliation and the restriction in the constant everyday alignment of pink with femininity.
But the scary thing is, it’s not just the ‘oldies’ that are fuelling the issue. Having tested my theories on a trusted friend, I thought I was ready to start gently pushing my ideas on some pregnant women. It didn’t go well.
A month or so ago, I had a conversation with a seemingly strong woman in relatively senior position at school. She is probably only 6-7 years older than me, and is currently pregnant with a baby girl. When I floated the idea that she could think about not dressing her future daughter in pink, she looked at me as if I had suggested we abort her baby from her womb, right there and then in the lunch hall. If successful women aren’t even prepared to consider rejecting pink for their daughters, then how are we ever going to escape our pink prison?
So I guess what I’m saying is that, seeing as my words have very little sway with the government, and I’m not sure of the practicalities of banning a colour, we should all attempt to be a little more like Pink the artist and “Try” (yes, pun!) to give young girls a chance to be something, anything, more than a Disney princess.
You can start by not sending any more pink greetings cards.