Pink is a color that is pushed onto girls from the time they’re born and all through childhood.
Babies are dressed in pink clothes and little girls’ bedrooms are painted in shades of rose. It’s a fact that pink is commonly associated with femininity, and as you grow older, gravitating toward the color pink makes you a girly girl, so to speak.
It’s difficult to comprehend a world where pink is a genderless notion, but for most of history, people of all genders enjoyed the color freely.
Wealthy aristocrats of all sexes wore pink for hundreds of years; it symbolized luxury and distinguished one as belonging to the upper class. King Louis XV’s mistress adored pink and many in the royal court followed her lead, donning pink clothes and accessories, notes a study from Barnard University.
Historians believe that it was only after World War I that pink became so strongly associated with femininity, according to an article by Fast Company. Nazis assigned different colors to targeted populations and coded gay and transgender individuals with the color pink.
Advertisements from the 1950s depicted images of feminine housewives wearing frilly pink aprons and dresses while doing laundry and household chores. The color pink was used to perpetuate notions of the ideal housewife — one in a heterosexual relationship, obedient and subservient to her husband, according to the article.
Pink was associated with lingerie, the naked female body and the sexual and erotic allure of women. Modern research indicates that women are more likely to wear the color pink at peak fertility, suggesting that pink is linked to ovulation and thus traditional expectations of what it means to be a woman, notes research from the Association of Psychological Science.
In the 1950s and 1960s, pink became the signature color of Marilyn Monroe, linked to the era’s sexual revolution, according to Vogue.
The late 1990s and early 2000s saw the advent of toy store aisles containing pink toys targeted toward young girls, such as Barbies and hot pink toy cars. Hot pink was labeled a loud color, connected to cheap and disposable toys and clothes, according to an article by Art and Object.
The Journal of Gender Studies notes that pink and blue are now the most common colors used in cakes, balloons and fireworks for gender reveal parties.
It’s interesting to consider that many non-Western countries don’t also associate pink with femininity. In Japan, pink is actually considered a masculine color and is one of the most popular clothing colors for all genders. In India, wearing a pink turban is common for grooms at weddings, notes an article by The Sardar Co.
As of recent times, the LGBTQ movement has claimed the color pink as a symbol of pride.
During the 2017 Women’s March on Washington, 500,000 people gathered — many of them wearing pink pussy hats — to advocate for gender equality.
In contrast, sociological studies show that only a small minority of people — about 3% — genuinely like the color pink. A study from Live Science notes that blue is the most popular color choice for both women and men.
A National Geographic article suggests that the association of pink with femininity in Western culture is largely arbitrary. Gender is a social construct and so is the idea of femininity, yet products in everyday life are still so closely targeted to people based on these preconceived notions. Corporations are increasingly called out for “pink capitalism” and for commercializing and commodifying Pride movements to sell more products and extract profit.
I distinctly remember being in preschool when my friend told me that she didn’t want to like the color pink because she wanted to be different. She picked the color purple as her new favorite color.
This anecdote makes me think about the phenomenon of hating pink to differentiate one from “other girls.” A lot of my friends shied away from the color because they didn’t want to fit into the stereotype of being a typical girly girl.
Growing up, I saw how liking pink became something that divided the one subset of girls from others.
I am someone who genuinely loves the color pink. I’ve adored it since I was a kid. It wasn’t because my parents painted my childhood ceiling in shades of bubblegum or because they dressed me in pink clothes.
It wasn’t because I considered my greatest attributes to be that I’m gentle, nurturing or sweet — whichever traits Western society attributes to the color pink — but because I just absolutely love it.
Today, more and more people are trying to reclaim pink as something that doesn’t define the socially constructed and largely arbitrary idea of femininity. Artists such as Nicki Minaj are redefining pink as more than just an aesthetic; it’s a form of rebellion. It makes me happy to see more of my friends embracing their love of pink, realizing they actually liked it all along.