Friday, 4 July 2008

A Thought Experiment, or Empowerfulising Pink.

I was doing some reading recently that suggested that all cultures are created by men. Now, I would agree that, as far as we know, most cultures predominantly value men and the things they do over those of women. But, historians actually spend quite a lot of time discussing ‘women’s cultures’. They may not have had broader cultural or social significance or authority, but, women, in their various denominations, often had cultures, based around work, leisure, support networks, children and much more. These networks or groups allowed women to share resources, gossip, stories and to create their own values that were distinct (if not entirely removed from) patriarchal culture. They were often a place of power for women, even if that power restricted, and could also work to support women in their interactions with men.

So today I was in Halfords and there was a HUGE range of accessories for cars in, you guessed it, pink. And not a nice tasteful pink, but that particular shade that seems to predominate when things associated with men are girlified. And I thought, who on earth buys this stuff; I could barely walk down the aisle holding it. And it got me thinking about female culture. Do women buy into ‘pink’ merchandise or other similar facets of femininity in attempt to create a shared female culture? Can we see it as an attempt to create a distinct ‘women’s space’ that is exclusive to women and from which they can draw power (through excluding men and shared sisterhood), even if this power is restricted?

Now, I am not really suggesting that pink is the new feminism. Its association with girls, and thus its infantilisation of adult women, plus the fact that it is not a women-created culture, but one placed upon women by merchandisers, make it more than a bit problematic. But, perhaps, it is time to start claiming power in women’s cultures; to stop buying into a value system that trivialises anything associated with women and femininity; to ask what it gives to women and do they gain strength from it, before we castigate it as ‘womanly’ and shun it.

If we want to move beyond gender, then we need to think about what we want a new world will look like, and, perhaps it’s just me, but I tend to be suspicious of a vision of the future that buys into a world where women and anything associated with them is automatically shunned.

5 comments:

Anji said...

This is really interesting to me as I am actually buying a pink car tomorrow! It's been my favourite colour since I was in my late teens. I quite like the thought of this little pink Mini pulling up and then fat, hairy, shaven-headed me getting out of it. ;o)

Feminist Avatar said...

Hee. Nice image.

Anonymous said...

Heh. Looks like a pump....

There's also punk pink, although I'm a bit too fresh-faced to carry it off. A few of my SF friends did butch/andro pink for Pride last year, as a group, and I know of a few people--like Morty Diamond--who use it as a kind of, I dunno, fail-better drag.

Twisty has done some fantastic posts on the uses of pink as a marketing tool--basically, to create and package this sense of sisterhood. My biggest qualm is the way that pink can actually signal crappier products--the pink power tool kit is like a grownup version of the Barbie PC: not just a different color, but a crappier product. I like cute, even unironic cute, but it pisses me off when it's telling me that I'm not too bright. But then again, form is used to cover crap function in more products than the pink ones. Look, shiny!

Maybe I'm reading too much of a good thing into this, but I've seen femmey, "girly" stuff, including pink, used in gender-mixed queer communities to signal happy comfortable homey stuff. Muffins! Pillows! Ocasionally vibrators! And among people who maybe didn't get that at home or with the women in their biological families. I'm sort of fond of it, but then, I'm more of a nosher than a baker.

--Piny

polly styrene said...

This is the 'reclaiming' argument really. Can you 'reclaim' pink.

I do actually work with someone who buys stuff just because it is pink, and she is pretty 'femme'. Buying stuff like pink toolsets (which cost much more than, and aren't as good quality as regular tools - quality actually matters for some things as I've found out the hard way when I've bought tools from the pound shop)is just daft. Sorry.

I wouldn't avoid pink just because it's girly. And 'hot' pink (aka fuschia pink) actually really, really suits my skin tone and I like the colour. So I've got the odd pink garment. But it's not considered to be a 'cool' colour in the circles I move in!

And buying 'women's' stuff just because it's pink and paying a premium stinks. And will do nothing to create a women's community. I feel I'm most in a 'women's community' when I'm with a big bunch of lesbians. And we're usually doing very non femme stuff, like hiking or sitting in pubs drinking. There are women and women.....

Feminist Avatar said...

Piny- yeah I think I was channelling Twisty in Halfords.

I don't object to buying pink per se. I have two pink coats (which I only just realised, hmmm) and the odd pink t-shirt. I just don't like it when I am sold pink for pink's sake in that crass 'look this is for men but we coloured it pink for you so it's ok' or 'look this will demean you but we added pink to hope you won't notice (aka playboy)' way, especially when it it comes with crappy products attached.