Pretty in Pink – how to complicate what should have been a simple fashion choice

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So I’ve been thinking (a dangerous occupation when you’re walking across railroad tracks, but that’s another topic altogether). I was listening to an episode of a very interesting CBC podcast, DNTO (Definitely Not the Opera). This particular episode was about colours: how they affect us, why we like them, why we don’t like them, and why they mean what they mean.

The particular segment I’d like to address is that of the colour pink. I’m of the opinion that pink is for everyone who looks good in it. If you’re a girl with the wrong colouring, then you shouldn’t wear it. On the other hand, a guy with the right complexion should totally wear pink – and rock it.

Surprisingly enough, I tend to live in a bit of a bubble. Many are surprised, as I am also (oddly enough) quite in tune with some issues currently at hand in our society. And I hadn’t realized that not everyone agrees with my rather permissive usage of pink.

I was particularly surprised when I read about a high school bullying incident targeting a teenager wearing pink. Whaaaaaaaaaaaat? Teenagers, who are usually quite on top of fashionable trends (and, unless you haven’t noticed, pink on men is quite the rage at the moment), were teasing someone for being fashionable?

What was impressive about this story is what happened afterward:

“David Shepherd, Travis Price and their teenage friends organized a high-school protest to wear pink in sympathy with a Grade 9 boy who was being bullied…[They] took a stand against bullying when they protested against the harassment of a new Grade 9 student by distributing pink T-shirts to all the boys in their school.

‘I learned that two people can come up with an idea, run with it, and it can do wonders,’ says Mr. Price, 17, who organized the pink protest. ‘Finally, someone stood up for a weaker kid.’

So Mr. Shepherd and some other headed off to a discount store and bought 50 pink tank tops. They sent out messages to schoolmates that night, and the next morning they hauled the shirts to school in a plastic bag.

As they stood in the foyer handing out the shirts, the bullied boy walked in. His face spoke volumes. ‘It looked like a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders,’ Mr. Price recalled.

The bullies were never heard from again.” (full article here)

Never underestimate the power of a pink tank top.

So what’s with pink and boys? I decided to turn to one of my good friends, Wikipedia, for some answers.

In Western culture, the practice of assigning pink to an individual gender began in the 1920s. From then until the 1940s, pink was considered appropriate for boys because being related to red it was the more masculine and decided color, while blue was considered appropriate for girls because it was the more delicate and dainty color, or related to the Virgin Mary. Since the 1940s, the societal norm apparently inverted so that pink became appropriate for girls and blue appropriate for boys, a practice that has continued into the 21st century. (…)

That only helped to further confuse me. Pink used to be the strong colour, and blue, the weak one? I’d say that pastels, either pink or blue, are the weak colours, and gem-like colours, either pink or blue (or should I say, fuchsia or indigo), are the strong ones. In any case, what happened in the 1940s that would so drastically change the gender identity of these two colours?

Whereas Jewish people were forced to wear a yellow star of David under Nazi rule, and Roma people were forced to wear a black triangle, men imprisoned on accusations of homosexuality or same-sex sexual activity were forced to wear a pink triangle.

Ah. Now we’re getting somewhere. Wikipedia confirmed what DNTO said about pink (sory DNTO – I had to check it out), but neither answered another important question: why did the Nazis choose pink to represent homosexuals?

The answer seemed pretty obvious when I found it: pink was chosen not because it meant the wearer was feminine, but because they liked other men (Source… Wikipedia, again – tucked away under another heading).

Having figured all of this out, it makes me want to go out and convince all the guys in my life – family, friends, coworkers and readers – to go out and buy a pink shirt. Not only to have something to wear on Pink Shirt Day (part of an anti-bullying awareness day), but also to stand up against the Holocaust, to remind us that discrimination, prejudices and violence should be a thing of yesterday, and doesn’t belong in the 21st Century.

I don’t think people realise the power of simple actions. Two teenagers in Grade 12 and 50 others wore pink; they changed the life of a Grade 9 (fashionable) boy and, possibly, of at least a dozen other people. Pink Shirt Day happened in many High Schools of my area; I have a note in my agenda to promote it next year, and I know a couple of fellow bloggers who are planning on doing the same thing. And now, knowing more about the history of the relation of pink with gender, I would go even further – that wearing pink is like telling the world that we will not let the Holocaust define anything about our day to day lives.

And it also tells us that pink rocks.

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