Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pink Until You Puke

"Blue is for Boys, Pink is for Girls." Don't we all know this? This is why Transformers come in icy blue packaging, while Barbie smiles perkily from her pink cardboard box. Pink! Pink is for girls!

Where is pink? pink is not just in the toy aisle, but it spews its mighty presence all over anything a girl might be shopping: backpacks, sneakers, art supplies, clothes, bicycles, bed sheets. Visit a local Target and check out the aisle of homegoods for decorating children's bedrooms: Boys have Cars merchandise, while girl items drip with Hello Kitty and Bratz in a pink paradise of throw pillows and storage boxes.

But wait! Pink is not just for little girls! Pink is also for breast cancer! That's why we have pink ribbon magnets for our cars, and pink rubber bracelets, pink scarves, and pink shopping bags. Support the cure! Wear pink! Any merchant wishing to jump on this bandwagon need only change the color of their product: make it pink!

And pink is for business women! There's Pink magazine, to tell you all about how to be a successful up-and-comer in the business world. Networking group Downtown Women's Club boasts a pink color scheme. You can carry any of a wide range of pink briefcases or business totes. As one site boasts:

"Pink briefcases

Pink briefcases are the color craze of the moment. Pink luggage in general is hot (sometimes literally in "hot pink"), with accessories ranging from pink laptop cases to pink backpacks. The trend has been explained as girl chic, but whatever the reason, the pink briefcase looks to be an industry fixture for years to come. (Italics mine)"

Pink is also an "ironic" fixture of women's websites. Take Salon's blog, Broadsheet (get it, Broadsheet?). On this lone page, the magazine's iconic red "S" logo magically changes to pink. This is to indicate that the page deals with women's issues. (That, and the cute swishy pink scarf on the sassy cartoon editrix featured below it.) Many blogs feature a pink theme, like Pink Slip or Little Red Suit. (Here's where I have to say I visit and read these sites and have a high opinion of the content, so my pink-tinted rant doesn't make you think I'm attacking these sites.)

Pink is everywhere, and I'm tired of people associating women with it. I'm tired of people thinking that adding pink to something with make it more appealing to women. I'm tired of pink in all its institutionalization. Why can't pink just be a color? Why must it be inserted into every orifice as a "girl thing."

Pink--love it or hate it--is not taken seriously. If I were a manager, and you walked into an interview carrying a pink briefcase, I'd really question how serious you were about your professional image. (There it is: I'm a sellout.) And yet, pink is all over business guides for young, enterprising women:

The cartoon-y women on the covers, splashed with gooey magenta are certainly not my idea of "real" women. They are figments of the imagination, or simply stand-ins for real women. They are Barbie dolls, plastic figures in little pink worlds, with their pink dresses and desks, swirling in mists of pink fog, never to escape to the real world.

Let's just stop the silliness. Let's stop making pink = girls. Because I think the association between "pink" and "girls" is much stronger than "pink and "women" (with the exception of breast cancer kitsch). And by adding pink to the vocabulary used to create women (entrepreneurs, CEOs, writers, or whatever profession), it's sending a subtle message to the women that these women aren't "women;" they're girls. They're girls in pink, playing dress-up. If women are to be taken seriously, they--no, we need to abandon this need to broadcast our femininity through a single color. We need to show that we aren't "little girls," but adults, with minds and ideas, who can do just what men do.

And if that means buying a black briefcase, so be it.

3 responses:

Maureen Rogers said...

Kate - Great, provocative post. I suspect that some of the grown women "pink" - briefcases (!),Red Sox caps (ugh!) - is to signal to men not to be afraid: I may be a businesswoman who carries a briefcase, but it's pink, so I'm not all that threatening; I may like baseball, but I'm still "all girl."

As for my blog title (Pink Slip), it was chosen primarily because of all the lay-offs I went through during my career in high tech. (But admittedly I also picked it because of my perspective as a woman in business.)

And as for litter, I don't need to come to Eastie to see litter - my neighborhood has plenty, thank you. Still, there is less of the toss the can out the car window, toss the candy wrapper on the sidewalk littering of my childhood. A lot of the litter I see is from overflowing trash cans, ransacked garbage bags, etc.

Finally, nice to meet a fellow Worcester-ite, liberal, democratic transplant to Boston. (Main South-Webster Square-OLA, by the way.)

dkdanielson said...

Great post. And, yes, the "pink-ness" is out of control. At the DWC site, we do have the pink, but do we get credit for playing up the grey/platinum on our main site and our blog ( has mostly gold! What do you think, gold and platinum for the new female power colors?

Diane K. Danielson
ceo, Downtown Women's Club

KEHutchinson said...

@ Maureen: I take your point about women trying to signal men not to be afraid with pink accessories, but it bothers me that men would be "afraid" of women in the first place.

@ Diane: Yes, I like the idea of transforming power colors to work for women. Men have long had the red "power tie." Women should have a power color too.

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