Think pink: what it means and why some people don’t like it
April 13, 2023
Every spring, when I pull out my warm weather clothes from the mothballed-stench full totes, I shake a bit and get giddy as I pull out every piece. The best part about my spring-time wardrobe is that it’s made up of mostly pink garments. This isn’t purposeful; it just happens. Pink is a safe space. It is a getaway from the world where you can simply just relish in the beauty. I always marvel at the color and find myself gravitating towards it, and I mean all shades, natural or unnatural.
Come on, don’t you see the incredible shades of pink on a flower and just sit there wide eyed because of its beauty? Every time I go to the zoo, I always stare a little longer at the flamingos in awe, really contemplating the facts of why they are naturally pink (because of the shrimp they eat) and contemplating if they spray paint them sometimes to keep that perfect color.
Pantone decided the color of 2023 is “Viva Magenta.” Magenta is a deep pink with undertones of red and purple. It is described as a red color, but the observing eye is grouped to pinks and purples. It is a natural pink shade, similar to the azalea bushes seen everywhere in Southern Illinois during the spring. It is strong and bold, and stands out against most other pink colors.
The name “Viva Magenta” is derived from the Latin word “Vivus” meaning alive or vibrant, while magenta is the color’s name. The color itself was once naturally harvested from the cochineal beetle to make carmine dye, one of the most durable and vibrant natural dyes.
I am always shocked by and in love with the color pink but many find an aversion to it. People look down on, demean and disrespect it because of its meaning and associations. They associate it with many things but specifically femininity. Most people who stray from the color see negative connotations. Instead of seeing the strength that femininity can provide, they choose to see the things that are hard to swallow when being a femme-presenting person.
My mother once told me a story that rattled me a bit, and I have been thinking of it quite a bit recently. When I was a little bitty boy, no more than three years old, I went to visit some new family members for a Mother’s Day celebration. There, I started to play around with some tissue paper left over after unwrapping presents. I apparently bunched it up and waffed it about as if it was a butterfly.
A gentleman from the family proceeded to be upset with my playing, saying that I should be outside playing in the dirt like boys are supposed to and that pink was a girls color. My mother, rather angered by her interaction with outdated ideals, decided to pack me up back in my car seat and leave. My mother has never hindered who I really am, and for that, I am grateful. If she understands anything, it would be that you have to live truthfully to yourself and others or your life will go terribly wrong.
The color pink represents love, kindness and sweetness. These traits are associated with femininity and are viewed sometimes negatively by society. People take advantage of these attributes all the time, and it is specifically due to them being perceived as weak. Misogyny has caused people to see pink negatively because of its feminine meanings, associating people who wear pink as innocent, girly and romantic.
The color blue represents stability and wisdom, and is associated as a “boy color.” Stating that this color and what it stands for is only for boys and men alike, discredits that women can be stable and wise, as well. Many men will not wear “girl colors” such as pink and purple due to the stigma of boys having to be masculine. This idea of gendered colors did not really show in history until the 1940s, though it was subtly around long before.
The frustrating part about these colors are expectations that are put upon them and the wearers themself, and it isn’t only the color as a whole; it’s down to the shade and hue. Light pink is perceived as young and virginal. It is innocent and bashful, and most folks expect that the sweetest of souls to be gliding around in light pink. The same with the silly shade of “bubblegum pink”: they are youthful and associated with coyness and juvenile life. We associate them with little girls and their baby nurseries. Softer tones of pinks are looked at as clean, bright and most of all childlike.
Dark pinks are looked at in a different manner. Since the color has a heavy influence of red or orange, hot pinks are looked at as more exotic. We see these deeper pinks as a sexual symbol of maturity. When I think of these darker shades of pink, I always imagine the pink dress that Marilyn Monroe wore in the 1953 film adaptation of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She was very obviously placed in this deep set pink to look sexy while amongst a dance floor of men.
We associate the hot pink color with mature feminization, while we associate the lighter pinks to just little girls; we expect those who wear either color to play the part. A guy will almost always approach the girl in light pink, but the girl in hot pink is someone much more intimidating and very obviously in control of her womanhood. Hot pink took off during the Women’s Liberation movement during the 1970s as a symbol of female strength and unity.
I will always lift a brow to anyone who utters, “I hate the color pink.” Though I will be a bit offended at first and might even put up a bit of resistance, I will deeply understand. I will understand the pressure that pink puts on you, I will understand the stigma that the color has and I will definitely understand the expectation to always be pink.