The trouble with pink – you’re being manipulated

I am a woman and I don’t like the colour pink.

Now, I know most of you will think that I am therefore some kind of mutant whose ovaries must have shriveled up and dropped off, but I’ve never been much of a fan of the colour.

And yet, we seem to be told regularly that females are in some way genetically programmed to prefer pink and that they would prefer that every inanimate object they come into contact with was in fact pink.

You may be aware of the stories a few years ago when scientists ‘proved’ that girls prefer pink. Except that’s not what they found, both males and females preferred blue but that hardly matters when you have gender stereotypes to uphold.

What was fascinating was the bullshit evolutionary biology/psychology (not sure which as the researchers involved were experts in neither) tacked on to this misreporting of a study’s findings. I forget who once likened evolutionary psychology to ‘Just So Stories’ but I wholeheartedly agree. The ‘girls prefer pink’ story was padded out with rather implausible assertions that female hunter-gatherers (yes that old chestnut again) needed to be able to differentiate red berries when foraging.

But the study wasn’t about female/male abilities to differentiate colours but about preference. And anyway, colour significance is entirely socially constructed. Pink was a boy’s colour and blue a girl’s as recently as 1914 (warning: includes pictures of highly spoilt children).

“But,” I can here you cry, “my daughter/niece/friend’s kid loves pink and her parents have not forced it on her at all.” My first reaction would be really? Really have they not bought her pink things, not accepted gifts from friends and family that were universally pink? Did they not when she was under 1 year old and therefore indistinguishable from any other baby male or female, dress her in pink clothes and put a bow in her hair so that strangers wouldn’t say “Oh, what a lovely little boy”. Did they really? Really? Really, did they?

If your answer is yes, then fine but the little cretin will still go to nursery with little pink fluffy Shirley Temples, be bombarded with pink advertising and be generally encouraged, corralled and forced into liking pink.

This blue/pink thing has been largely manufactured by the advertising industry as a way of enabling product differentiation.

Companies can sell more of their product and charge more for it if they put pink on it, say its ‘specially designed for women’ and point out that if women don’t buy it they will be fat, ugly and hairy.

Look at razors. Only a few years ago the only ones both men and women bought were the orange and white bic razors. Yeah so they hacked half your face/legs off but progress in razor innovation has included marketing essentially the exact same product differently towards men and women. It has also *become important* to shave more and more bits of you, whether women needing to trim their bush:

Or men wanting to make their ‘tree’ ‘look’ ‘bigger’ (quote from Gillette website: “If you wanna see a tree you shouldn’t have to blaze a trail to get there. Trees look taller when there’s no underbrush”)

But who cares? I hear you cry. Well, apart from me… more and more gender stereotypes are less being propagating by the old forces such as religion, and more by rampant consumerism. For the nutritionist-bashing constructive critics out there, this is reflected in Vitabiotics different vitamin supplements for women and men, the women’s one advertised with the slogan “We are of course very different from men in many ways – so why take the same general multivitamin as them?”

Why indeed?

Pink Stinks
is a campaign for real role models for girls.

5 Responses to “The trouble with pink – you’re being manipulated”

  • Ruth Says:

    "Little cretin"??? Excuse me?!

    Hate pink here, but really, you should know better than to use terms like that.

  • Naomi Mc Says:

    You're right, I should really refer to children as 'gremlins' or 'evil midgets'.

    Will do so in future.

  • Green Gordon Says:

    It's funny, I see very little pink around, although maybe it's just the circles I move in. The one person I've met recently who does like pink is obsessed with it. It's also funny how Green became my favourte colour within this last decade.

    Guess I'm saying social cnstructs around gender roles are unhelpful, but it's ok to like pink anyway, and colour-preference can be constructed in all sorts of ways.

    I link pink, but if I wore a pink shirt, I'd look like a city trader ina wine-bar. Maybe that's just me being classist.

  • DrMcC Says:

    "Pink Think" by Lynn Peril is a very funny, very interesting book on the whole pink phenomenon.

    In my town, we have a theatre built in the 1890s and the original parlours were pink for the men and blue for the women.

  • figleaf Says:

    About the Just So business: David Barash of the University of Washington who was into Evolutionary Psychology back when they called it sociobiology has a book out with his long time collaborator Judith Eve Lipton called… “How Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So Stories.”

    What’s remarkable is he and/or she thinks it’s admirable that they’re just-so stories! The thesis itself, that science needs a healthy diet of imagination to stimulate hypothesis-formation is all well and good. But then he blathers on about how women must have evolved a spotty history with orgasms in order to test men’s fitness or something like that and you just want to go lie down on train tracks.

    Two other random (i.e. no citation) factoids about pink: it was once the preferred color for boys, at least in England, because the British Army wore red, and the diminutive of red is pink. The other being research in the 1960s suggesting that exposure to pink environments (paint in jail holding cells, lighting during a radio station publicity stunt) tends to make adults erratic, depressed, and prone to angry outbursts. Above and beyond what you’d expect either in jail or at a radio station I mean.


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