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.)
Maybe you thought we'd settled the pants-for-women question back in the 1970s. Think again! A high school in California is laying down the law: girls must wear gender-appropriate clothing for prom and for yearbook photos. Guess they never saw Marlene Dietrich in a tuxedo.
I sat in my home Tuesday evening doing a live Wednesday morning radio show. Yes, we're talking about Australia's Life Matters. The comments on the station's blog made me wish I had access to real time travel. The first takes the show to task for presenting my work as "news" when actor Stephen Fry had the same information on his quiz show Qi three years ago. The second commenter recalls an even older John Cleese film about pink and blue.
I love Fry and Cleese, and I think they are both well-read and well-informed. They might have done their own inquiry about pink and blue, but it's more likely they read or heard about it from someone who did the research. It could be me, since I've been writing articles and doing interviews about pink and blue for 30 years. It could also be British historian Clare Rose, who has done parallel work in the UK, or some uncredited media intern.
Oh, for a real time machine! A researcher could publish the results of years of research at the moment of the first discovery!
From the Perryville, Arkansas school dress code, 1972:
After checking in some stores and talking with parents concerning the girls' dress, we have decided to relax the code. We will allow jeans that are made for girls to be worn, providing:
For those of you who prefer the real, page-turning experience of ink on paper, but like your books flexible, light-weight and less expensive, I have excellent news. The paperback version of Pink and Blue has arrived at the publisher's warehouse. Click, order and it's a very short wait...
One of the examples I use to show how pink used to be an acceptable color for boys is Walt Disney's 1953 animated film, Peter Pan. The youngest child, Michael, wears pink pajamas throughout the entire movie. (Don't take my word for it: just search for images for "Disney Peter Pan Michael")
Disney is re-leasing a special DVD version this year, and I've caught a few of their TV ads. It sure looks like Michael's pj's have been re-colored. All I have been able to find online is the cover art (on the left). Has anyone seen the new version?
Please don't tell me they got rid of the pink pajamas and left in "What made the Red Man red".
ETA: I suppose I should be grateful they didn't change Wendy's dress to pink.
One of the reasons I wanted to write about unisex fashions is that they seem emblematic of a very complicated -- and unfinished -- conversation about sex, gender and sexuality. Rick Santorum's comment from last year is one expression of that conversation, and I thank him for being so honest in putting it out there. Many of us who grew up in the 1960s have mixed feelings about that era, though mine are more positive than Mr. Santorum's. Unlike him, I feel that family planning is good, abortion should be safe, legal and accessible regardless of income and that biological sex is an interesting category but not my be-all and end -all.
But here's the catch: something happens in the coding for feminine clothing in the 1960s that essentially conflates femininity, youth and sexual attractiveness, and it shows up in girls’ clothing. Six-year-olds in bikinis -- thank the 1960s.
More to come, as I am deep in writing mode for the next nine months. This site will also be changing to reflect the widening scope of my work. In my ample free tie, as they say.
Everyday Feminism blogger Kelsey Lueptow offers smart, constructive advice for dealing with people who insist on sorting your kids into gender boxes. Point "2 ("Expect People and Society Generally To Put Your Child Into Gender Boxes") is spot-on, in particular. So many new parents and grandparents are shocked to discover that in the decades since they were/had a child, the cultural landscape for babies has become much more gendered than they remember. As a historian, I like to remind people that Things Change. (In fact, the entire point of Pink and Blue is to show how dramatically -- and quickly -- gender coding has changed.) Here's the reassuring subtext: Things Will Change. In fact, things are changing right now. Someday pink will be just another color, though probably not real soon. As Lueptow points out,
"Capitalism means that if the public demand for gender neutral toys rises, the toy companies will comply because even more than they care about perpetuating the current mainstream values, they want your money."
It's been a wild week. I have spent so much time looking at 70s fashions that I ended up making granola in my spare time.
Here's a quick peek at the men's side of unisex: underwear for peacocks. Yes, that's floral print undies for men, in a Sears catalog. 1975.
I can't decide which was more fun: doing the interview or seeing the "Fast Draw" segment created by Mitch Butler and Josh Landis. My only regret: not smiling more. (I am really not that serious!)