How Did the Colour Pink Become Girly?

Pink isn't just a colour, it's an attitude 

We all know of the colour pink - especially here at Her Campus. Many of us also know of the stigmas around this colour, but we don’t always know why they came to be. We grew up in a separated world, taught that boys like cars, action movies, and the colour blue. Meanwhile, girls like ballet, dolls and the colour pink. The social meaning of pink has a complicated history and is still a widely debated topic today.

The colour pink is unlike other colours in that it has a history and social meaning surrounding it. It is the pink elephant in the room. However, the social rules surrounding the colour pink weren’t always so finely ingrained in our culture. In fact, these rules only came about within the past seventy years or so.  In the 19th century, it was completely different, with little boys often being dressed in pink as men wore red. The colour was seen to be an indicator of masculinity as well as youth. This does not mean that women didn’t wear pink, but when they did it had no social rules surrounding it. It wasn’t until after World War II that pink developed into something more than just a colour. This change is easily pinpointed by historians; on the American President Eisenhower’s inauguration, his wife, Mamie Eisenhower, wore a pink ballgown. Nowadays, nobody would bat an eyelash at this choice of colour. However, the inauguration marked a turning point in women’s fashion as during the war women tended to wear darker colours while they took up men’s jobs while they were absent. Many people favoured Mamie’s love for the colour pink, using it to push forward the idea that women should return to their ‘natural roles’ in the home as the war was over. This started a massive influx of ‘womanly’ things being associated with pink, such as the kitchen.

https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/brief-history-of-1950s-1960s-kitchens-247463

However, just because pink has been associated with dated social stigmas does not mean that loving the colour pink makes you ‘old-fashioned’. Some women went along with the pink-obsession, but with more of a feminist viewpoint. They used the colour’s connotations to prove the point that women could embrace their womanhood whilst also being equal to men. Racecar driver, Donna Mae Mims (also known as the ‘pink lady’) is an amazing example of this.

https://justbritish.com/champion-driver-donna-mae-mims-dies/

Donna was well-known for her love of pink, and she often competed wearing all pink (including a pink helmet) in her pink race car. She started racing in 1958 and did not let the sexism at the time affect her performance. In fact, she used the colour to break down those unjust labels associated with the colour pink. This is not the only time that women have used the colour pink to help break down the stigmas that surround women. Hilary Clinton during the 2016 president election used the colour as a subtle way of defeating those critics claiming, ‘she doesn’t know her gender.’ The movie Legally Blonde is another great example of this.

Nonetheless, the debate is still ongoing as many people still attribute this colour to dated preconceptions of the world. For example, a study investigating different colours and their social conceptions found that “Only 5% of respondents thought intelligent people would wear pink.” We can clearly see that this stigma around the colour pink is not as outdated as we would like to think it is.

Ultimately, there is no such thing as a ‘girl’s colour’. Even if there were - colours do not say anything about a person’s character, and Donna Mae Mims elegantly proves this!