Pop-Culture | Posted by Talia on 04/20/2012

The Color Pink

why does pink = girly

I volunteer at the children’s service at my synagogue on Shabbat (the Sabbath). Every week, the kids walk around with kid-sized Torahs, some of which are stuffed toys. The Torahs are red, yellow, blue, and purple and were bought in the past few years, so they all look new and are in pretty good condition, but there’s one pink one, that is about twice my age. It’s very faded, a little corroded looking, and has been sewed more times than I can remember to keep the stuffing from falling out. Despite the clear quality disparity, all hell breaks loose every Shabbat when the little girls come running to grab the pink Torah before anyone else can catch up. And yes, innumerable tears have been shed and many fights have ensued over this issue.

The obsession over the pink Torah has been going on for a while now, and it’s really been bothering me. I know it’s not the girls’ fault that they love pink, since they’re being flooded by pink pink pink on a daily basis by the media. For example, a while ago I was at a friend’s house and we were watching the Disney movie Princess Protection Program with her youngest sister. I happen to love the color pink, but the movie’s insistence that princesses have to have lots and lots of pink things was nauseating. I know that I probably love pink because society has conditioned me, a possessor of ovaries, to like the color. It’s nobody’s fault but the media and society for allowing it.

Is it really a big deal, though? If girls love pink, does it matter so much? While it may be just a color — not exactly life or death — I think it does matter, not so much because of the specifics of the matter, but because of the concept. When one gender is conditioned to prefer one thing to another, it becomes the property of that gender, not to be enjoyed by the other. Pink is liked by girls, which makes it girly; if it’s girly, boys who like it are considered effeminate. Boys like cars, which makes it “boyish” and therefore girls who like it are tomboys. Gendering things as basic as colors separates the men from women, forming a dichotomy.

I’d also like to point out that “girly” doesn’t have any real male equivalent. I used “boyish” in the above paragraph for lack of a better word, but it doesn’t have the right connotation — probably because while “girly” is a condition, “boyish” is the cultural standard. So when the girls at my synagogue fight over the pink Torah, they’re reinforcing the idea that they’re the “other” group. This isn’t just bad for girls — if a boy naturally likes pink, they’re looked down upon because it’s seen as “girly”.

One Shabbat quite a while ago, a boy actually asked for the pink Torah. It had already been snapped up by one of the girls, but it made me really happy that neither his parents nor society at large had (yet) conditioned him not to like pink. He hasn’t asked for the pink Torah again, but I really hope he still wants it.

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  • Gigi @ at 4:17 pm, April 20th, 2012

    “probably because while “girly” is a condition, “boyish” is the cultural standard.”

    “if a boy naturally likes pink, they’re looked down upon because it’s seen as “girly”.

    These two quotes are very thought provoking and truthful, particularly the fact that if boys like something that is considered ‘girly’ they are looked DOWN upon, as if being’ girly’ when you are in fact male is a shameful thing. Sometimes people assume that a ‘girly’ male MUST be homosexual because he’s just so effeminate, and obviously all gay people are effeminate. This stereotyping affects so many different people. It’s saddening that these gendered expectations are forced upon kids from such a young age. I can only hope that this ridiculous colour stereotyping dies down within the next few years; people shake it off as if it’s not a huge problem, but in reality, an ‘effeminate male’ or a ‘tomboy female’ can suffer bullying from others, and other people judging individuals negatively simply because they deviate from this strict colour/gender specific path is very damaging.

    Thanks for writing this. (:

  • Talia bat Pessi @ at 5:00 pm, April 20th, 2012

    Thanks for liking it!

    I see what you’re saying. I hang out in a dog boutique a lot, and it’s funny how many people with male dogs won’t even look at pink items, and how many people with female dogs won’t even look at blue items.

  • Candace @ at 6:45 pm, April 20th, 2012

    Ever since I went through puberty I have had an intense hate for the color pink and it wasn’t until I got older that I realised why. Pink stands alone as a totally gendered color because any other color can be considered unisex. It’s so annoying because there’s absolutely no reason for it (except of course to keep girls seperated from boys). And don’t even get me started on the Victoria’s Secret “pink” brand!! haha! That shit drives me crazy.

  • Gigi @ at 7:30 pm, April 20th, 2012

    Ha, the fact that it extends to dogs is both hilarious and extremely disturbing…x.x It’s almost like society wants you to be able to look at something you might not know the gender of, like a young baby or a dog even, and automatically identify it because of the colour that it’s wearing/the toys it has…Next stop, gender-based assumptions!

  • Renee @ at 7:53 pm, May 7th, 2012

    I don’t see a problem with it. Children see in black and white (or in this case Pink and Blue) and you see this in the clothes they pick out, their teams, etc. But as they get older they start to see in shade of grey. My little sister used to love anything pink my little brother anything blue. My little sister now likes pink, purple and a very specific shade of green. My brother will wear any color as long as it comes in a button down. He freaking loves button downs. So I don’t sweat it I just see it as congruent to the way children think at this age.

  • Ricky @ at 3:13 pm, May 24th, 2012

    When I was born my mother insisted that my grandmother knit me a red baby blanket – not pink. They made a point of surrounding me, my sister and my brother with a rainbow of bright, primary colors. The only time we had a major pink factor was when my sister & I painted our bedroom pink, and my Mom paired it with olive green bedspreads and curtains which sounds weird but looked great. Now I see all the little kids I know refusing to wear anything but pink or purple, preferably with sparkles, and I think “Thanks Mom!”

  • Anna @ at 4:55 pm, October 15th, 2012

    I never really got the pink thing. In primary school all of the girls were obsessed with pink and purple but I loved the colour blue.

    Because of this I think the media is to blame because as a toddler I probably watched like 3hours of TV a week. I read books instead and I have never been intrested in pink, fashion, shopping, shoes etc.

    But mabye i’m just wierd.

  • tanie wycieczki @ at 5:13 pm, May 27th, 2013

    Just read it and went gosh, I know why I was poor in the debate class. – I dont think my parents liked me. They put a live teddy bear in my crib. – Woody Allen Born 1935

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