Lego have launched a pink range in an effort to make that most enduring of toys gender neutral. And now they’re labelled ‘sexist’. But before you start to foam at the mouth with feminist rage, here’s an alternative take on thinking pink.
What do you think when you think pink? Chances are, you immediately think something girly and frivolous. Maybe an image of Barbie in her pink convertible pops into your head. Or perhaps a picture of a new baby girl swaddled in pink blankets and surrounded by pink cuddly toys. Or maybe you associate it with someone you know who has a fondness for the colour. If the latter is the case, then chances are that person is female or gay. Pink, in all its various hues, has a very definite label and one that not everyone wishes to embrace.
Traditionally, pink is very definitely a feminine colour and conveys… well… girliness. In itself, there’s nothing wrong with that but, somewhere along the line, pink garnered itself a secondary tag of ditziness and dumb-downed dimness. Liking and wearing pink is akin to being ‘blonde’ in its most derogatory sense. If you’re blonde and happen to like pink as well, you’re well and truly perceived as being dim, shallow, giggly, empty-headed, superficial, dumb and so on. None of the adjectives are flattering. It may not be true but it’s the common perception. A label. Pink-loving persons (both female and gay male) are all tarred with the same brush.
But there is another take on pink out there. Research suggests that the female predilection for pink has more to do with evolution and biology than popular culture. It suggests that women are well disposed to pink because of a throwback to Neanderthal times. Professor Anya Hurlbert, who led a study at Newcastle University in the UK in 2007, reckons that women’s fondness for pink could date back to hunter-gatherer days when women were the primary gatherers.
Our Neanderthal forebears, it seems, developed an ability to home in on ripe, red berries and fruits and therefore trained the female eye to seek out and select varying degrees of pinkness. In selecting their mate, they went for the healthy-looking ruddy-faced specimens rather than the pasty-looking weaklings. So our pink-loving female ancestors were far from ditzy and dumb – they were powerful, smart, resourceful, industrious and intuitive. A much better set of adjectives indeed. The modern-day female fondness for pink is merely our legacy bequeathed by these capable women. We’ve evolved into natural pink-seeking missiles. Pink and powerful smart bombs.
The study team in Newcastle tested 220 British students and found that the girls showed a preference for pink. However, they also tested a group of Chinese students who had not been influenced by the Western cultural symbols like Barbie dolls and the general thinking that pink equals girly. A Chinese colour perception expert, Dr Yazhu Ling, who worked on the study, said there was no real ‘culture of pink’ in China so the Chinese group would have no cultural influence when making their colour choices.
And the Chinese group chose pink just as much as the British group. This, according to Dr Ling, indicates that there is a biological reason for our colour choices. There is something innate in the female that steers us towards pink.
Research that associates pink with strong, powerful women will be music to some feminist ears. In the past, many feminist groups denounced the colour pink because of the association with frivolity and giggly “girliness”. Now they want it back. A Swedish group, Feminist Initiative (known as Fi or F¡), has officially adopted pink as their party colour. They espouse the notion that women shouldn’t be deprived of the colour simply because society has given it connotations that are alien to their cause. If you want pink, you should be free to have pink and be proud of it. To deprive yourself of it is to allow yourself to be compromised and discriminated against. So, if you’re a feminist, you should think pink if you want to. Fi are also thinking similarly with regard to clothes – if you want pretty, frilly dresses and skirts, go for it. Wearing them shouldn’t mean you’re any less the feminist. You have a right to choose, they say. You shouldn’t have to spend your life in baggy jeans and big shirts just to make your feminist point.
So pink really says a whole lot more than giggly ditziness. And pink Lego? Fine with me … but…
What might not be fine with me is the pink Lego stereotypical concept. I can’t speak from experience because I haven’t seen the pink bricks in action but one of the criticisms being levelled at Lego is that the pink version is not as challenging or creative as the regular stuff. They haven’t just produced the basic bricks in a different colour – they’ve created a pink range which features a café, a beauty parlour and a fashion design studio, apparently. Hmmm.
But I know girls. They are as the research suggests – resourceful, strong, proactive, practical, problem-solvers. If anyone gives them a hard time for playing with their pinky, girly toys, they’ll simply take their nice pink Lego bricks, build themselves a nice pink bridge and get over it. Girls, you see, are sensible.
And, by the way… if you’re wondering why I haven’t posted to my blog for yonks, it’s because I had a busy few months. Work, family, life in general. In September, I got to wear a new hat – literally and figuratively. I was mother-of-the-bride to my youngest daughter. It was a fabulous, wonderful occasion. And, because I like it and it’s a kind colour to the pale Irish complexion, I wore … pink.