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Briefly, on the colour pink

Patricia Arcilla explores the socialisation of the colour pink and how we can make it our own.

Since the rosy-fingered dawn of time, the colour pink has left little untouched. From fine strokes and flesh tones in Renaissance paintings, to Rococo and Madame de Pompadour in the French court, to Nazi armbands bound to accused homosexuals, to Elsa Schiaparelli’s ‘Shocking Pink’, to the swelling tide of needlessly gendered products, the colour’s history has undulated in ripples and cresting waves.

As young girls, we are taught that the only things intended for us are hued pink and trimmed with lace and glitter— an odd equivalency given that 13th century religious iconography saw the infant Jesus himself swathed in the same colours (minus, sadly, the glitter). Fitted with rose tinted glasses and with bellies full of food prepared in our kitchen play-set, with pastel building blocks, we reinforce the wall spanning the gulf of the gender schism. From toys to stationery, the distinction is not substantial; toothbrushes and Bic pens marketed ‘for her’ have no additional capabilities, and Lego in pink boxes is just as painful when stepped on as that in blue and red; is it any wonder that so many brands of washing powder and stain remover are packaged in pink?

Perhaps it is the colour’s connection to our childhood that links it to notions of puerility, and prompts our pubescent renunciation thereof in an attempt to distinguish ourselves from ‘other girls’. Yet liking paradigmatically ‘feminine’ things (the colour pink, florals, glitter) — or enjoying and choosing to partake in conventionally ‘female’ tasks like cooking or needlecraft — does not render one inferior.

Choice in place of imposition is paramount: Nicki Minaj proof of the fact that you can succeed whilst pretty in pink. There’s nothing wrong with a child wanting the pink princess backpack if they are aware of the option to have the green superhero one instead, no problem with them picking up the pink crayon once they know that the rainbow exists. So too should a woman be able to wear the colour pink without being subject to asinine imputations to her character as ditsy or immature, and a man do the same without fanfare. It’s 2014 and if we as a race are capable of producing things like ‘vegetarian pork’ for the tinned goods aisle of the supermarket, I am optimistic of our ability to dismantle and reconstruct the gender canon. Beyond this, and in the words of Audrey Hepburn, ‘I believe in the colour pink.’ Forever and ever, amen.