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?

Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    CRM Data Analyst – Part time – Permanent – Surrey – Circa £28,000 pro rata

    £15000 - £16800 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

    Mechanical Design Engineer

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A key client in the East Midlands are re...

    Year 5/6 Teacher

    £21000 - £31000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The JobWe are looking ...


    £90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The Job...Due to continued ...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice