Liking Pink Isn’t Misogynistic
by Nishi Uppuluri
A disdain for dresses, the color pink, and having tea parties is a uniting characteristic of a lot of female main characters in children’s books . Liking one or more of these things will bump the character to being either the annoying older sister or the prissy, ultra-petty girl next door. After all, what kind of anti-feminist message would a girl enjoying traditionally feminine activities send to children?
This phenomenon is not just confined to literature, though. It’s present in almost every facet of day-to-day life, even appearing in naming practices. According to The Atlantic, “‘…some parents “celebrate the idea of naming a baby girl James,” but “‘It’s clear from the data that boys are not being named Sue or Sarah or Elizabeth.’” The reason for this? Having a more masculine sounding name is perceived by society as a sign of empowerment and of being a “strong woman.” A name like Sue or Sarah, on the other hand, has connotations of, gasp, femininity, a.k.a weakness and fragility. That’s all femininity is, right? According to a lot of people, it’s just being a delicate and submissive china doll.
I’m a self-proclaimed “girly girl,” and I didn’t find anything wrong with being like that until society told me that it was wrong. As an eight year old, I remember watching some of my peers proudly declare, “I’m not like other girls; I love basketball and I hate Disney.” As a twelve year old, I was called sexist for liking the color pink. And now, as a sixteen year old, my (female) friends tell me quite frequently, “No offense, but girls are too dramatic and petty. Guy friends are sooo much less drama.” It’s constant – everything associated with femininity has to be turned into something negative.
Looking back into history, it starts to make sense. Women were forced to be wives and mothers, to listen to men, and to be sweet, passive, demure people with no voice. Many were expected to stay at home and “mind the family,” never mind holding leadership roles in a company. Even in the present day, girls are pressured to be more “feminine;” they’re told about “boy colors” and “girl colors,” considered bossy if they’re anything but pin-drop silent, and if they do work a job outside of their home, according to Today, they are likely going to spend two hours more than their male counterparts on housework.
But femininity isn’t the instigator – it’s the lack of choice women have in such situations, the intense societal pressure to fit into the mold of a “perfect woman.” By using femininity as a scapegoat for all the problems women have faced and continue to face, we are removing agency from the actual perpetrators of such sexist actions, and instead pointing to some abstract concept which is really just a term denoting a group of actions and traits typically associated with
Simply liking the color pink and gardening doesn’t further sexism — being forced to like the color pink and gardening does.
While it may seem obvious, a lot of people are unwilling to believe (or don’t care) that the widespread phenomenon of associating femininity with weakness hurts women. Growing up, my mom used to always compare my sister and me, gesturing at my sister, and saying “This one? She can always stand on her two feet. She’s brave. She can stand up to boys.” “But this one,”
she’d say, gesturing towards me. “She can’t. She’ll need her sister for help.” All because my sister erred on the side of being a “tomboy” while I was a “girly girl.”
And for a while, I believed that. I believed that I was unassertive and non-confrontational. Just because I was slightly on the sensitive side and was interested in fashion, I thought that I could be easily dominated. This preconceived notion that I was somehow mentally “weaker” than my sister, who enjoyed digging for worms and hated fairy tales, on top of my pre-existing awkwardness, only caused me to retreat into my shell more, to the point that even making eye-contact in public became difficult for me. It’s only recently that I’ve been able to come out of my internal hiding space, and even now it’s still a struggle.
My mom’s labelling of my sister and me as being “strong” or “weak” just based on our interests and a few personality traits also pitted my sister and me against each other for some time. My sister would frequently claim that she was more fun and outgoing than me because she “wasn’t a dumb girly-girl,” and I resented her for that. My sister would also make every effort to be the exact opposite of me – if I liked the color pink, she’d loudly yell that she loved the color green, if I liked Disney princesses, then she’d be a massive fan of Disney villains. It went on and on like that for several years, though in recent times, my sister has been able to change this toxic mindset.
We may not immediately realize it, but not only does society’s villain-ization of femininity hurt stereotypically feminine girls, it also hurts boys who hold interests and exhibit behaviors associated with femininity. Even today, guys who are interested in activities such as cooking and fashion might be looked at disapprovingly. A guy who is naturally more on the sensitive side might be called “gay” in a derogatory fashion. Fathers “babysit” their own children. Male nurses are outnumbered 1:9 by female nurses, a number which, according to Registered Nursing, has yet to shift, likely due to society’s view that the nursing career belongs with “caring, gentle women” — of course, why would a man ever want to be characterized by such lowly feminine qualities?
Being a girl who likes pink does not make you a misogynist, and being a girl who’s sweet and quiet doesn’t make you weak. Likewise, being a girl who enjoys sports doesn’t make you any less of a girl, and being a girl who’s loud doesn’t make you “rude” or “brash.” Enjoying things and having certain traits doesn’t define you as being something – being forced to enjoy certain activities and/or forcing others to enjoy the same activities as you, does.
About the author:
Hi! My name is Nishi Uppuluri, and I am a rising senior in high school. I’ve been passionate about writing since I was young, and my writing has been recognized by Scholastic, Columbia College Chicago, and Teen Ink. I’m also highly interested in empowering teen voices, especially teen girl voices, and I believe that writing is a really strong avenue for making change to our world. Instagram: @ni_shi10