It’s not just “a” girl color, but the international spokescolor (yes, a made up word) for the female gender.
Here's a great post from Kyle Wiley of The Good Men Project (re-blogged via the Huffington Post, but hey, Arianna's rich enough). My favorite line:
Made up words are the best, because like all custom-made items, they fit better than the off-the-rack-versions. That is exactly the idea I have been trying to get across, less articulately, when I talk or write about pink and blue. Blue is NOT a spokescolor; pink is a spokescolor. Why is that, do you think? Is there something magical about pink itself? Mais non.
The magic is one of the oldest known superpowers: giving birth. Stay with me, friends. Here's how I see it: Women used to be powerful because they gave birth. The only way men could be more powerful than women was to control reproduction -- through marriage, through rape, through laws about birth control and abortion. But none of that transfered the magical power from women to men, so a cultural solution emerged instead. Make birth dirty, make sex a sin, make women dirty, weak sinners, lower than men because of their magic power.
Now all you have to do to maintain male superiority is make sure they are not tainted by anything remotely effete or feminine. Punish homosexuality. Raise little boys to be not-girls. Ridicule boys --and men-- who cry, or who are unathletic, or who like pink. It's a small price to pay for a place at the top of the social order.
Why have women put up with this? Many reasons, including a need to protect their offspring, their own survival and this complicated force called "hegemony", which results in acceptance of the dominant culture even when it works against you. (Kind of a cultural Stockholm syndrome.) But all is not lost; there are men and women, mothers and fathers, who believe that all humans have magical powers of love, imagination and creativity, and that humanity will benefit when every baby is valued for its potential to love, imagine and create, not its role in human reproduction.
Peace. (Steps off soapbox, returns to her index cards.)
Exciting news! The book is now listed in the Spring 2012 Indiana University Press catalog, with a release date of March 22 (my brother Bob's birthday, which makes it extra special)! I expect to be doing the final FINAL revisions between now and mid-July.
UPDATE: The release date has been moved to February 16. Sorry, Bob, that's someone else's birthday.
In late April, I presented my paper on Pink Boys at the Popular Culture Association conference in San Antonio. Once the book revisions are done, I'll be turning that into an article or two. The challenge for me is that this isn't history -- it's breaking news! The week before the conference there was the J.Crew nail polish kerfluffle, which precipitated a media frenzy that even swept *me* up for a while, just when I was trying to finish my presentation. A couple of weeks ago there was a smaller foofaraw* over Storm, the Canadian baby whose parents are trying to avoid gender stereotyping. That translated into two interviews shoehorned in an already busy day. (Links to the interviews are on the Recommended page)
Personally, I am in favor of anything that makes people pay attention to the everyday, and think about it in a critical way. (Not critical=negative, critical=analytical). Some people look beyond the everyday for meaning, but as an American Studies scholar I want my students and readers to realize that even the most mundane, seemingly trivial aspects of their lives have meaning. Turning off the autopilot in our everyday lives is a necessary step for anyone who wants to live more deeply and intentionally. That certainly includes our lives as parents!
*Can you tell I was raised on Pogo?
One of the reasons I wrote this book is simple and selfish. I got tired of telling people over and over again that boys used to wear pink. After finding the Infants Department quote about boys wearing pink about 25 years ago, I wrote articles, gave talks and worked on exhibits in major museums (beginning with the Smithsonian) that used that information. No cocktail party or online discussion forum was safe from me. Now and then I would be pleased when a total stranger would tell me that boys used to wear pink, having seen it "somewhere". But being asked the same question for most of my professional life was like being stuck in the academic version of Groundhog Day. I was in the first day of class in an introductory course forever; the conversation always started with boys wearing pink and seldom moved past that initial bit of information. I am hoping the book will at least establish the history of gender symbolism enough so we can talk about what it says about our culture.
The wildfire reaction to Toemageddon 2011 (h/t The Daily Show) has made me consider even more deeply the importance of history and historians in our civic culture. You could say that the history of fashion is trivial, but if more people understood how recent our "traditions" are and how they continually change, I have to believe it would help diffuse the culture wars.
Less trivial examples of our need for historians include the widespread misbeliefs that the American Revolution was about taxation, not representation, that the Founding Father were not only Christian, but had beliefs that were in any way similar to modern conservative Christians, and that the Civil War was not about slavery.
Wouldn't it be nice if all the networks would replace a few of their "former political strategists" with bonafide historical scholars? (And please, don't call Newt Gingrich a scholar. He's not.) We have great historians in colleges and museums all over the country - social historians, political historians, cultural historians, business historians. We also plenty of independent historians -- I am currently reading and relishing Sarah Vowell's history of our annexation of Hawaii, "Unfamiliar Fish".
Oh, and it also would be nice if the History Channel would produce a news show that brought in historians to put the news in context. I'm available!