An Open Letter From the Colour Pink

Hot, bubblegum, baby, dogwood, millennial… whatever shade you go for, it doesn't disguise the real message of pink


School Boy Q at the 2017 Grammys with his daughter. Picture / Getty

Hello friends, hello strangers, or friends I haven’t met yet. Thank you so much for giving me the time. I know you’re busy, your hair looks amazing, and those shoes… Ugh. OK, I can’t keep this up. This bubbliness is giving me gas and your shoes look like pasties. It’s me, Pink. I’ve got something to say and I need you to shut up for one second and listen.

I’m hearing my name a lot at the moment and I don’t like it. You talk like there’s been some “revolution”, an enlightenment, the idea that I’ve thrown off the shackles of my existence in order to appear on a Fendi jacket with quilted detailing. You swoon over my T-shirts as if by simply adding a photo to your Tumblr you’re committing an act of radical resistance. Your crushed velvet, double-breasted, floor-sweeping, shiny patent, bubblegum accented, ironic Disney politics – I want no part of it.

By acknowledging that I needed to be reclaimed, fashion is admitting it had a problem with me. And I have a problem with your problem. It started with the language. “It’s not PINK,” you’d say, “It’s ‘cool’ pink, millennial pink, pale dogwood, post-pink…” Dude, it’s pink, I should know. It’s me, standing in the shade. It’s me, lying down after a burrito.

But I see why you say these things, however moronic you sound. You say them because I am everything wrong with society – pink is passive, pathetic, apologetic, infantilising. Because pink is “girly”, and that tortures you. Tortures! Ha, I can see you now, mothers, gnawing your fingernails until your cuticles are a raw fuchsia from the anxiety that a Barbie doll brings, wrapped in unfamiliar paper under the tree. It tickles me a little, I’ll admit, that you think of me as this terrifying Marvel villain, intent on dragging your daughters into my lair. Except, I’m just a colour. In your horror movie of femininity, the calls are coming from inside the house. I’m what you make of me.

I’ve long snorted at the middle-class parents who ban me from their homes (as if I’d want to live in their sourdough conversions anyway), and wondered if they realise how much they have in common with their counterparts across the park, the parents who dress their daughters as pretty princesses from the second they’re born, and paint the nursery in every shade of me. Both are acknowledging that I stand for femininity, enforcing its limits and its frills, but only one is blindly accepting that this femininity, this girliness, is bad. That girliness, as found in a pink dress, is rotten and reductive, and will prevent its wearer from achieving her full potential. I hate to use a four-syllable word, but it looks a lot like you’ve internalised an idea that girl things come second to boys, that you’ve attached to them a kind of shame, and that shame is coloured pink.

Oh God, and you men, so proud today with me on your arm. Do you know who you remind me of? Those “nice guys” who congratulate themselves on finding someone like Sarah Jessica Parker attractive, like they’re doing this big favour to the world. “Yeah, I’d shag her.” THANK YOU kind sir, please father my children, then quickly spreadsheet peace in the Middle East while I make your lunch. Dick. You act like you’re taking a stand – against what, conformity? – by buying a salmon Topman shirt. You act as if by pairing it with a bomber jacket you’re standing in front of a Chinese tank.

From the distance of the spring/summer catwalk, it’s clear I am not the issue, but the associations you lot have muddled together under my pretty blanket. That you think manliness is next to godliness, and that girliness leads to hell. OK, if pink princesses were the only examples of a life that children were offered, I could see the problem, in the same way I would if they were only allowed to play at being doctors or soldiers. Am I an excuse for your lack of imagination? For a parents’ failure to have a broad and reasonable view of what a child can be?

It’s this that makes my recent return to fashion magazines so radical, isn’t it? This lingering fear that simply by touching me, you’ll be tainted, like Seinfeld with his smelly car. Love that guy. Wear me, don’t wear me, you could carry all the shits I give in a Barbie handbag – I’m just sick of hearing my name used in vain. Nurture that girliness you’re so scared of. I hate to say this, but it’s time, I’m tired – it’s your fear of pink that gives me the power to seem political and important, and appear on catwalks like I mean something. I don’t need the drama. You can see yourself out.

The Observer

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