Pink has become lazy shorthand for pretty, quiet, and female – isn’t it time that changed?

We all need to reclaim the colour, and fast, lest it do any more damage

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The Independent Online

I miss having pink hair. I wish I could say I didn’t. I wish I could tell you I was embracing life as a blonde, and that of course I don’t mind the fact that people no longer approach me in the street and ask me what dye I use, and tell me how fabulous I look. But that would be a lie. I hate to say it folks, pinks do have more fun.

There’s one thing I don’t miss though. For the year and a half I was pink, too many people took my choice of hair colour as a sign I no longer identified as a feminist.

I’ve been a feminist ever since I picked up my first Spice Girls album. I was brought up by strong, shouty women, and it’s hard not to let that rub off on you. Feminism was handed down to me. It was in my blood as well as on my CD player. Now I’m an adult, I read about it, I write about it, and I argue on social media about it. Guys, I am a bloody feminist. 

But the minute I dyed my hair pink, all previously hard-won battles about equal pay and sexual politics went out the window. Apparently I could no longer feel strongly about the emancipation of my gender because I favoured a cheery raspberry hue.

There can be no doubt about it; pink is a feminist issue. The colour will take centre stage this weekend with curator Dr Courtney Pedersen chairing the In the Pink panel at WOW Brisbane on Saturday, looking at the gender politics of my favourite colour.

Are girls more partial to pink because their parents have dressed them in it since birth? Am I fond of the shade simply because society has conditioned me so? Does liking pink make me a bad feminist? Writer Hannah Pool, who is on the In the Pink panel this weekend, wrote this week that she considers her passion for pink to be a “feminist failing”. How depressing is that?

My mum never dressed me in pink. In fact, she dressed me in anything but. As a child I wore greens, browns, blues, reds, and yellows – every colour under the sun. But not pink. It’s hard to argue that toy manufacturers didn’t force the colour on me though. I used to dress my dolls up in frilly pink dresses, the type my own mother never let me wear. Boys and girls toys are shamefully segregated, even today. Cars, bricks, and guns for boys; dolls, kitchens, and crafts for girls.

And there lies the rub. Pink is used, to its detriment, to pigeonhole girls and exclude boys. The colour has become lazy shorthand for girl and now everything about it feels, well, girly. And because of the damaging way we treat anything female, a thing that’s deemed “girly” is considered somehow second-rate. The colour has been judged pretty, quiet, and inoffensive – just like women. 

We all need reclaim pink, and fast, lest it do any more damage. Dress our girls in it and dress our boys in it. Give our children choices; offer them all the colours of the rainbow. And if they (boy or girl) plump for pink, embrace it! Pink is a strong colour, it’s vibrant, it’s happy. It’s the colour of love and life. There’s nothing wrong with the hue itself, just the negative connotations we’ve attached to it. It’s time we reversed those.

And, as I said to anyone who questioned my feminism while I sported the shade, you can like pink and still feel strongly that men and women should be equal. Fancy that, eh?