I have a small, pink laptop that I use for writing. I bought it because the colour said “Ruby” and had a massive discount. I won’t lie, I feel pink is a fascinating colour but somehow it ended up being a taboo for us, men. I am curious as to why, this red-softened-with-white hue became a destroyer of masculinity, much agile than flying daggers. Nothing breaks the macho-male image more than a pink bag and matching sneakers.
When I took the laptop to college, I had many curious pairs of eyes peering on it. Giggling, looking at each other. I did not realise, it was about the colour. One student, female, came up to me after a lecture and enquired if it belonged to me or my girlfriend. I said, ‘Why yes! I just bought it the day before!’ Similar to this, the entire week saw a spotlight on my helpless little laptop from students and faculty, and the frequent question: ‘But Sir, why pink?!!!’ It was more of a surprise than an inquisition.
I decided, I must cover it with a black sticker on top. Probably ‘black-pink’ would be cooler than just pink, I wondered. I wasn’t bothered about the colour, but more about the constant curiosity and questionnaire. I scrolled through the options that night and came across a black one with an “Arc Reactor”. Probably, the heart of the sturdy, masculine iron man would restore my compromised manhood. After a few days, as I sat at a kiosk near the canteen the Marvel fans buzzed around my laptop during lunchtime. They were no longer bothered about the pink underbelly spread across my black keyboard but only marvelled about the coolness of the artificial heart that seemed to power my laptop. So, it worked!
‘Pink is for girls, Blue is for boys’
As I ventured into understanding the gendering of pink, I read at least three articles that suggested that this social construction was set in the 20th century, in the west. Whether or not this association has a scientific basis is a significant question without many plausible answers but it is true that our society has cordoned off males from liking anything that is pink. Do their origins also lie in domesticity? For instance (I had some crazy speculations while discussing with a colleague): since ages, females were more domestic—close to fire, warmth and redness: blood, often from their own bodies (menstruation) and of cooking (meat), while male who were primarily outside, the cold and ‘cool-headed’ with the predominant blue skies overhead and closer to blue water bodies. I don’t know: these seem wide and far-fetched.
But should we still be conformists when it comes to the choice of colours? One article says: “…gendered colours are totally outdated, and we should stop pushing colours on children if we want a world with less stereotypes, less sexism, and overall less prejudice”. I wonder how hard it will be to negate the colour-based associations with how we experience gender roles in our daily lives. The colours are so rigorously coded in our heads that to think of it— a guy in all pink would look ridiculous to most people. Or if I wear a bright pink hat to a party, how hard will it be for either of the genders to look me straight in the eyes and have a normal conversation. To decode this gendering of colour is to decode a deeply ingrained, internalised rule that we see as inherent and natural.
The problem of this gendered colour is deeper than I realise: I consider more than once, while ordering a strawberry mocktail. Or to carry around my copy of Murakami’s The Strange Library. I remember, from my college days I wore a pinkish T-shirt to a cricket match. This was a gift from a relative. Even though we won the match after I managed to save our team from an embarrassing defeat, for a few days, my name had been ‘pinky’. Perhaps it was supposed to be embarrassing. I don’t remember being called a ‘bluey’ or a ‘greeny’ for wearing T-shirts of their respective colours. I was not so conscious of colours then, and neither being nicknamed. So I did not mind.
So, let us conjure some thought bubbles: What could be the real problem if some consider themselves as ‘masculine straight’ male and are fond of the colour pink? They probably have to be closeted pink lovers, for fear of their manhood under suspect. Or perhaps what could be the issue, if someone fails to be masculine enough? Also, is femininity a weak virtue, for men and women alike? Because I don’t see a societal commotion when women wear blue or the clothes deemed to be ‘manly’—perhaps in the societal gaze, she is ascending the ladder, as it seems to suggest strength, independence and confidence after all. Should we, the sophisticated, open-minded techno-humans, living in the 21st century consider the embracing of pink as embracing weakness? I see that these questions are quite problematic. If they bother you too, we both know where to begin working on.
Anik resides in the northern part of Bengal, where he teaches and writes.
Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty