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The History of Pink
The color pink has come to represent all that is quintessentially girly. Barbie, the most famous of girls' dolls, frequently wears pink, drives a pink convertible, and lives in a pink house. In the movie "Legally Blonde" (2001), Elle Woods, the stereotypical ditzy sorority girl, is often dressed in her signature color—pink. Disney princesses, including Cinderella, Ariel, and Aurora, all appear in pink gowns at some point in their movies. The logo for breast cancer awareness, a disease associated with women (although men can get breast cancer as well), is a pink ribbon.
I know some women who love pink because it's girly, and some who hate it for the same reason. For some, pink represents the negative gender stereotype of a shallow and stupid girl. For others, pink represents a vibrant celebration of femininity. I myself like the color pink, not for any gender connotations, but because I think it is a pretty color. However, I know my fondness for pink clothes, accessories, and objects to decorate my house with sends a certain message to people, be it positive or negative. I have sometimes been criticized for my fondness of pink, and told that it makes me seem immature, unintelligent, and "girly" (that is, I'm like a little girl, not an adult woman). Strong Independent Modern Women don't wear pink! I think Strong Independent Modern Women can wear whatever they like but that is besides the point. Pink is a highly politicized color. But it hasn't always been that way.
The designations of pink and blue as gendered colors that we know today did not come about until the twentieth century, when children's clothing became gender specific. In previous centuries, young boys and girls wore dresses and skirts (because it was easier to change diapers that way) for the first years of their life. But this began to change in the twentieth century, and with gendered clothing came gendered colors.
It may surprise you to know that pink has traditionally been a masculine color. Pink, as a lighter version of red, had associations with blood and fighting, symbols of masculinity. Blue, today the color designated as masculine, has traditionally been the feminine color. In Christian tradition, blue is the iconographic color code of the Virgin Mary, and what is more feminine than the symbol of purity herself, the virgin mother of the son of God? In June 1918, the Infants' Department wrote:
So when did the colors switch, with pink becoming feminine? It was during the 1950's that pink became strongly feminized. This was not a sudden change, but the result of a gradual evolution. The designation of pink as feminine was the result of several factors, one of which was due to changes in the clothing industry. By the 1950's, most families bought clothing from stores, and clothing manufacturers helped to shape the idea of gendered clothing. In her book about the history of gendered childrens clothing, Pink and Blue, Jo Paoletti writes:
In recent years, men have somewhat reclaimed the color pink. In conjunction with the release of Baz Luhrmann's new adaptation of The Great Gatsby, Brooks Brothers sold a design based on Jay Gatsby's famous pink suit. Famous hip hop artists such as Jay Z and Kanye West have been pictured wearing pink. And preppy polo shirts and shorts for men come in a variety of shades of pink. So is the pink stigma being lifted? Only time will tell.