Pink – more than a colour?

pink roseWas there ever a colour with so much meaning attached to it? Associated for years with babies, Barbie, all things ‘girly’, it also has connotations of health (in the pink), communism (pinko) and feminised – and denigrated – work (pink collar).There’s something also slightly sinister about it.

The Nazi concentration camps used an inverted pink triangle as a marker of homosexuality, although the symbol, which was used to label and shame, has been embraced by the gay community as a symbol of pride. Less overt and potentially more pervasive, is the use of pink as a means of segregation of gender.

A 350 word blog is hardly the place to go into detail on gender stereotyping, but the connotations of pink in current Western society are revealing as an abbreviation. The relentless marketing of toys to girls show a tsunami of pink while boys are firmly based in blue (see JeongMee Yoon’s illuminating set of photos ). This, a variety of commentators have said, makes cultural and gender stereotypes culturally dictated. Follow this is up with the appropriate activities, where boys are encouraged to play with toys with moving parts, and girls with dolls, and you might make links to the dearth of women moving into IT and engineering.

Thankfully – although impact on firms such as Disney and the major toy firms is limited to date – people are starting to talk about this and make representation to the UK Government. It’s been noted that the retailers have much to gain by emphasising differences between boys and girls and ensuring toys and clothes cannot be passed down.

Perhaps we should just be aware of the seemingly “natural” choices we make. After all, it’s worth remembering that pink wasn’t always a colour of femininity – 18th century dress for young noblemen included pink. In Japan, pink is strongly associated with cherry blossom, which is itself has masculine associations as the sakura (cherry trees) are said to represent the young Samurai who fell in battle in the prime of their life.

Les Quatres Salons is about examining the meaning we ascribe to things and notions and taking our assumptions and turning them on their heads. This first meeting will examine a variety of aspects of ‘pink’ – and we’re NOT just talking Barbie.

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