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?

News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
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

    Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

    £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own