January 28, 2009

Keep Thinking Pink, CBC

I just finished listening to Sue Palmer, the author of Toxic Childhood, which was the hook for that bafflingly ridiculous BBC article about how girls' brainwashed obsession with the color pink is bad--even if it doesn't alter their DNA.

Palmer was talking to the CBC, a show called The Current [it's online here]. Frankly, to me it sounded like the pink thing is just an excuse for her to criticize TV and kid-targeted marketing: "Pink is the symptom," she said, not the problem. She pegged the Pink For Girls Hegemony to the early 1990s and the introduction of children's television networks, which gave advertisers the all-powerful means to "brainwash" kids. She said "brainwash" like a hundred times.

For their part, the CBC tried to flesh out the interview with some digging into the process by which pink became the girls' color, and blue the boys', but it really didn't amount to much. The Nazi pink triangle expert they brought on just talked about pink as a universally recognized feminine color--and then he cited the US, where girl babies are all wrapped in pink blankets...

And we're right back to where we started, with a couple of historical anecdotes--presumably taken from the foreword to Palmer's book--but no real understanding of how this pink/blue cultural construct came to be. So if you can't come up with the title of a solidly researched, feminist history of the color pink, someone better come up with a thesis proposal like, yesterday. Meanwhile, my own theory is pretty cut & dry: it's all Kay Thompson's fault:

The Current for January 28, 2009 [cbc.ca]
1957? That means it's the Boomer mothers' fault: "Think Pink" from Funny Face (1957) [youtube]

6 Comments

Greg,

I think I might have found some kind of answer to this baffling conundrum.......

google answers has a thread on it: look up thread 238733 at the google answers website.

But, does it really friekin matter?????

http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=238733

Thanks for posting the link. I missed the original broadcast, but the mention of it on today's show caught my attention. Now I'll be able to listen (without having to take the time to look for it!).

They should have been able to flesh out pink more than just pink triangles from WWII. I'm fairly certain it was into the mid-part of the last century that pink was a boy color, and blue was more on girls. That's why the old Disney princesses wore blue and not pink.

And c'mon, you're telling me the majority of Americans during the fifties and sixties knew about Hitler's symbol for homosexuals? Really? I think the majority of Americans were still pretending they didn't know homosexuals existed.

I think the idea of transitioning to dressing boys in blue to look like our troops is a much more likely idea. It's something I could see going mainstream and people actually talking about in polite conversation. Especially in an era when so many men were off at war. Our need to indicate to the world what gender our baby is could then have easily created the flip to pink for girls. It's interesting that almost all of the study is on why girls started dressing in pink, rather than why boys started dressing in blue.

I agree with KT. I've read that pink was once considered a boy color because it was a lighter shade of red. And red was considered a strong, masculine color at the time. Blue was considered softer and more feminine.

The quotes from early 20th c. women's magazines quoted in the Google Answers research--and in the first BBC article on Shipman's book--made this reference, too. Also, there's the historical association of blue with the Virgin Mary, which meant blue was a symbol of virtue and purity, at least in art.

As for Tim's point, I think it's a good one; for all the pink hegemony, girls are still basically able to wear whatever color they want. But boys catch hell for wearing pink. And the variety and range for boys' clothes is actually worse than for girls'. I have girls, so I'm bugged most by the pink, though. [Also, Andy just posted this ad from 1910 about boys and the Indigo Hegemony.]

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