Pink: Beyond Gender Stereotypes

When I was about six year old, I briefly changed my favorite color. I had always loved pink, but as I slowly saw girls get teased for being “too girly” and in effort to be different than every other six-year old girl, I decided my new favorite color was blue. Yet after a couple of months, I changed back. I was tired of trying to convince myself that pink wasn’t amazing. Cotton candy. Sunsets. Flamingos. Roses. Pink is associated with things that make me happy. So why did my six-year old self see other people making judgements about me based on my favorite color?

Color is very gendered, especially in Western society. From birth, boys are dressed in blue and girls are dressed in pink. The current popularity of "gender reveals" for pregnant women, who “reveal” the gender of their baby with either pink or blue balloons, cake, confetti or many other methods, has solidified these gendered colors. As a preschooler, I remember thinking with absolute certainty that pink and purple were girl colors, while blue and green were boy colors. These concepts are reinforced in everything from children’s toys to television shows and movies. Unfortunately, they have also become ingrained into toxic masculinity culture and the disempowerment of women. As kids, boys are made fun of if they like the color pink. Girls who wear too much pink are perceived as “too girly,” and are often seen as weak or dumb by their peers. The negativity conveyed in being “like a girl,” “throwing like a girl,” or “dressing like a girl,” has criminalized girlhood and the color pink associated with it. 

It is time for women to take back the color pink as a symbol of strength, not weakness. This has already begun, with the “Pussy Grabs Back” pink cat-ear hats popularized in the 2017 Women’s Marches held in response to Donald Trump’s degrading and sexist comments about women. Another example is the use of pink for Breast Cancer Awareness and the National Breast Cancer Foundation, which spread awareness about breast cancer detection and support services, and also circulate stories of the strong women who fight breast cancer. However, these examples of strong female use of pink do not mean that men are still socially banned from the color. The emergence of "millennial pink" has made pink a more androgynous color in fashion, especially as more people begin to see gender as a spectrum. As gender barriers and concepts continue to be reconfigured, I hope that pink remains on its current trajectory towards becoming a color filled with important history for women, and a color of strength to be appreciated by all. 

Roya Ann Miller Ktl