In a recent study at the University of Maryland, several thousand participants were asked to name their favorite color. According to the study, 7% of the female participants chose pink as their favorite color, compared to only 1% of men. Even if we discount the percentage of those men who are obviously full of shit, that’s a pretty big difference. What is it that associates femininity with the color pink, and masculinity with darker colors like blue? Why do we dress our little girls in baby pink?
Etymologically speaking, the word “pink” derives from a German word, “pinken.” Loosely translated, this means something like, “To decorate a border with a fancy pattern.” Right away, I feel like I’m reading a Martha Stewart catalog. When was the last time a dude decorated the border of anything? Let alone with a fancy pattern?
More specifically, this term may sound familiar if, like me, you enjoy sewing! “Pinking shears” are a special kind of scissor with serrated edges. They are used for clipping the edge of a piece of fabric to help it from fraying so much. They were invented in the late 19th century for the noble endeavor of patchwork quilting.
In Europe, pink had been associated with women in art and fashion since the Middle Ages. Renaissance artists noticed that pink was the color of young, nubile flesh, and began to paint their nude ladies with a delicate pink tint to their skin. They also noticed that bright pink is a rare find in nature, except in exotic places: flamingos, seashells, hothouse flowers. This exoticism was applied to the seduction and sexuality of the female body and female clothing, the lavishness of the color attracting attention to the woman who wanted it.
The funny thing is that, in the United States at least, pink wasn’t always an exclusively “feminine” color. Until the 1940s, pink was more of a color for boys and men, since it was “stronger,” while blue was appropriate for women because it was “daintier.” However, the new availability of vivid blue dyes for less money around the time of World War II meant that fabrics could be dyed a much deeper blue than ever before, resulting in a less “dainty” effect.
Blue has long been considered a “masculine” color, having been used as a color for military uniforms ever since the ancient Celts smeared the indigo-colored plant woad onto their faces before going into battle. The hue was later popularized by King Louis IX of France, who was an authority on all things fashion and art because he was a goddamn gentleman.
Ultimately, the pink/blue gender distinction could be for the best, if for no reason other than telling newborn babies apart. How else are you supposed to know? A baby is essentially a baked potato with arms and legs, yet people get unreasonably offended when you can’t tell if it’s a “he” or a “she.” Well, that’s what you get for dressing your baby in tangerine, you son of a bitch! In fact, let’s keep this tradition, and maybe people will let go of the need to pierce their baby’s ears.