Pink is for girls – and Pussyhats

Just when feminism needed a shot of adrenalin it came and the hit was far greater than many expected. Over the weekend millions marched across the world in protest of Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of the United States of America.

#womensmarch saw more attendees in Washington than at the actual inauguration. The symbol of the march was the pink pussyhat. Created by the Pussyhat Project it was their visual way of reclaiming the word ‘pussy’ when associated with female genitals and in the colour pink as a feminine symbol.

While many marchers gathered for many reasons, it was driven by a movement of feminism that is standing up to the sexism experienced during the 2016 US election campaign to now. (It is a sexism that within days of the inauguration President Trump signed an executive order forbidding their foreign aid from assisting abortions.)

The Pussyhat had a real visual impact yet pink is not a feminist symbol. In fact feminism is against the genderising of the colour pink.

The feminist movement for centuries has been associated with the colour purple. At the turn of last century suffragettes adopted purple, green and white as the colours of their movements. Purple because it symbolised dignity, white for purity and green for hope.

Contrasting this the colour pink that not only symbolises femininity but traits associated with women such as nurturing, compassion and unconditional love.

Pink is for Girls

Finding the true history of how pink became a colour for girls and blue for boys is not so straightforward. On historian Jo Paoletti says the association of pink and girls really began in the 1950s but really took off in the 1980s. Up until then pink was a colour associated with newborn babies both male and female.

By genderising pink marketers have been able to target mass-produced products to one sex, which as we have seen has also meant an increase in price.

Pink has also become the symbol of higher priced products for women. This is an issue GetUp! has flagged under its women’s rights campaigns.

“The Gender Price Gap, also known as the Pink Tax or Women’s Tax, is an international phenomenon that sees similar or identitical products costing more when they’re marketed to women.”

This tumblr page they have created highlights many examples where this happens time and time again.

Is pink now the new symbol of feminism?

After looking at the sea of pink hats from the weekend’s march you could believe that. However reclaiming feminity is not always the best strategy for reclaiming your feminism.

In this article published on Feminist Current it’s argued that reclaiming feminity is flawed in that;

“The fatal flaw of this femininity-centric approach to solidarity is that it is not true that patriarchy’s objective in oppressing women is to squelch our “femininity,” as if men in power just can’t stand the colour pink or reruns of Sex and the City. Patriarchy does not, in fact, inhibit females from blossoming into the full glamour of their femininity; femininity is not verboten and it is no one’s “essence” — for women femininity is mandated, and then it is punished.

The reason that femininity is held in contempt is because it was engineered to make females seem contemptible, justifying male dominance. As Sheila Jeffreys said, femininity is the behavior of female subordination,” and it is impossible to be both subordinate and in power simultaneously. When we embrace femininity, we play with sexist stereotypes — only this time, it’s for ourselves! By embracing femininity we affirm the concept of gender polarity, that fiction Andrea Dworkin named the root cause of sexual oppression. And so we sabotage ourselves.”

They go on to say that when women celebrate femininity we are “keeping the costume of femininity tightly stitched into our skin” and reinforcing the very architecture that has constrained and suppressed us.

And “While being a feminist does not necessarily preclude wearing eyeliner or lace or even dipping your whole goddamn head in pink glitter, cuddling up to femininity as if it were a special treasure to prize and preserve is counter to the goals of feminism.”