Pink to make the girls think

It’s 2011’s hottest shade for faces, fashion and furnishings. But in a post-feminist world, can we make our peace with puce? By Bethan Cole

Pink is no longer simply a colour. It has become an ideological battleground for feminist and post-feminist thought. On the one hand, post-feminism tells us to forget the politics and enjoy the colour, because it’s having a moment in the sun. On the other hand, feminist thinkers are warning us to beware the pernicious use of the colour in conditioning little girls into submission. Who is right?

It all started in the autumn of 2010 when various fashion designers decided to make pink a bit of a leitmotif on the spring/summer 2011 catwalks. At one of the most critically acclaimed shows, Jil Sander, the designer Raf Simons liberally used a shade of bubblegum to light up his collection. What’s more, pink also appeared at key shows such as Prada, Lanvin, Marc Jacobs and Christopher Kane, mostly in Schiaparelli, hot and neon incarnations.

As if that wasn’t enough, at the end of 2010 along came rapper Nicky Minaj with her debut album, Pink Friday, often clad in head-to-toe pink and sporting a candy pink wig, as if to compound the au courant status of the hue. Her limitededition MAC pink lipstick became a cult hit, selling out and fetching up to £40 on eBay, four times their original price.

Then, at the beginning of 2011, Leatrice Eiseman, the executive director of the Pantone Colour Institute, declared honeysuckle – a pinkish red – to be the shade of the forthcoming year. “Flirtatious honeysuckle is a feel-good hue that brings a festive sense of playfulness to this season’s palette.” says Eiseman. “This vibrant pinkish-red for both apparel and cosmetics makes consumers feel alive, and is a perfect post-winter pick-me-up.”

Pantone, a world authority on colour, see their shocking pink delivering a shot of optimism to tired winter eyes. Retailers, however, have a more prosaic take on the subject. Pink equals pound signs. Helen Spencer, a John Lewis lingerie buyer, says: “Pink continues to sell well, with pink and black silk lingerie sets seeing the biggest uplift week on week.” And John Lewis girlswear buyer, Lindsay Dickson says: “So far, half year to date, 25 per cent of our sales are of pink products and this week alone, 10 out of our 20 best sellers were pink – proving the colour continues to soar up the popularity stakes.”

So, fashion people love pink, rappers love pink, colour experts love pink and so do the shops. Post-feminism says forget the dogma, just take pleasure in the perkiness of the colour. After all, it’s just a shade, it doesn’t intrinsically signify anything. Or does it? “Pink makes you look chic but not in a hard way,” says the fashion designer Peter Jensen, who used the colour for several outfits in his spring/summer collection. “We used it because we wanted to make something that had a 70s feel, something that would look young but at the same time sexy without being vulgar. I would also use words like playful and happiness to describe the shade we used.”

Pink was also popular with beauty tastemakers, too, with shocking pink lips a feature on the Jil Sander, Diane Von Furstenberg and Marc Jacobs runways. Neil Young, senior make-up artist at MAC, attributes the trend to celebrities. “Lady Gaga has dramatically influenced the way women wear colour with her Pepto-Bismol pink lips. Matt is the most contemporary way to wear pink, as the finish feels more expensive.”

But it’s not roses all the way for pink. For some of us, it has come to represent a more spurious saccharine version of femininity, rather than the chic flirtation the fashion designers attest. Just think of Katie Price head to toe in bubblegum pink and knee socks; you think of a woman disporting herself rather tragically like a little girl. A spoilt little girl with orange fake tan at that. Pink, for grown women and little girls alike, has got some rather sinister undertones.

Abi Moore, the co-founder of the protest organisation Pink Stinks, says: “We started as a reaction to the rampant stereotyping increasingly evident in products and clothing marketed towards children, and the use of the colour pink as a signpost for girls as to what is ‘for them’. “We think that this ‘pink’ phase is the beginning of a journey, instilling seemingly innocent ideas of princesses, beauty, fairy tales and sparkles above all else. It limits girls in their early development to conform, be ‘girly’, and look pretty, preparing them for a life of bodyimage anxiety and insecurity ahead ... a marketer’s dream.”

So, according to the feminists, pink isn’t just a colour, it represents submission, insidious gender stereotyping and prettification. It is preparing little girls for a life full of kowtowing and compromise. “Obviously there is nothing harmful with the colour pink in itself, but it’s important to question the way it’s used at the moment,” says the feminist writer Natasha Walter. “We seem to assume that young girls are programmed to like pink – and dolls, and fairies, and ballet, and so on – while boys are programmed in the opposite direction. It leads to the assumption that women will be drawn naturally towards self-decoration and domesticity, holding us back from creating a truly equal society.”

As pink has its moment in the fashion sun this season, what you have to decide is: is it an innocent, post-feminist, fun colour to wear or is it, as the feminists say, a signifier of a darker conditioning, ultimately preventing us from creating gender equality? This season, at least, the shops are going to be full of it. But will you conform, or will you protest?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
British musician Mark Ronson arrives for the UK premiere of the film 'Mortdecai'
music
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

    Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

    Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

    Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

    £15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

    Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us