Sexualized Saturdays: Don’t hate on pink!

How many times have you read a story or fanfic or watched a movie and you knew the lady was going to be badass because she ordered a beer/hard liquor and not a Cosmo and because she doesn’t give a shit about her hair or makeup or clothes? Introductions like this make for an easy shorthand that ‘this character is a hardass and worthy of your respect’ but they also reinforce the stereotype that for a woman to be respected, she has to perform stereotypically masculine gender roles.

Female characters have been portrayed for so long as frail, rescuable love interests, and in a sort of backlash to that, we have been trained to see anything that calls out to traditional ideas of femininity as inherently bad, weak, or disempowering. This is patently untrue. Women can be feminine and still kick ass. Femininity is not inherently anti-feminist.

Think about the character of Uhura in the new Star Trek movies. It’s clear from the ensemble scenes that Starfleet uniforms allow women to choose to wear the dress or pants ensemble (unlike the TOS uniforms, where all women wore dresses). So Uhura wasn’t forced to wear that dress—she chose it. Does that make her weaker, or less of a character? Absolutely not.

Demonizing traditional aspects of femininity—such as wearing pink, wearing skirts or dresses, enjoying ‘girly’ drinks, cooking, or painting your nails—and insisting that strong women act in traditionally masculine ways if they want to be considered strong, is in and of itself misogynist. It says that if women want to be treated as equal to men, they have to discard the markers that society says are female and therefore bad.

The first time I read A Game of Thrones, I thought Sansa was super-annoying and Arya was the bomb. And then I went back and questioned myself. Why did I hate Sansa? Yes, she was annoying at first, because she was crushing on Joffrey and ew, Joffrey. But why did I see her as inherently less than Arya? Because she didn’t want to fight and get dirty and roll around with the guys? Not everyone wants to be a sword dancer. Some girls do want to be princesses, and that’s okay. There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to look, dress, or behave in a way that is traditionally girly. And you can still be kickass in any possible way, from being a great political schemer to a badass warrior woman, while also having a great manicure or snazzy outfit.

One show that balances this concept really well is Once Upon a Time, possibly by dint of having so many strong female characters. Snow White has a cute pixie haircut, wears a lavender cardigan, and kills an ogre with one arrow. Other women are shown to have more or less devotion to traditional femininity, which is how it should be—a diverse range, with no particular iteration being praised as better or worse than the others.

Sailor Moon also shows that you can be both feminine and strong—heck, magical jewelry is what gives Usagi the power to tranform into Sailor Moon—and again, because it has a large, diverse female cast, it portrays women realistically as being more or less in tune with their feminine sides according to their personalities.

Basically, what my point boils down to is that in a perfect world, the way a character behaves, dresses, and reacts has literally jack to do with whether they are a strong character. Being feminine doesn’t make you instantly weak just as being masculine doesn’t make you automatically strong.

12 thoughts on “Sexualized Saturdays: Don’t hate on pink!

  1. I was curious when I read the line about “for so long women were portrayed as frail, rescuable love interests.” I was reminded of all those old cartoons which would begin with a female love interest first being introduced as some sex object, wearing pink or a bow or other “female” signifiers and with makeup on and blowing kisses, which would then attract the unwanted attention of the bad guy, and he’d have his way with her if not for the brave hero who would then get a kiss at the end. Maybe this is what today’s generation wants to get away from, and I never seem to hear about WHY people want to get away from femininity in the first place.

    • I definitely think that the backlash is in part tied to that old cartoony ideal. It’s just a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater – it’s the ideas we tie to things like pink and baking and pretty dresses that have to go, not those things themselves.

  2. Yeah, it’s easy to see why some people would not take kindly to “feminine stuff” equating to damsel and whatnot, as the formula that I described happened from as early as the twenties (old Mickey Mouse cartoons), to the thirties and forties (old Superman cartoons, Betty Boop), to the fifties (Popeye and Mighty Mouse), to sixties and so forth (some other kiddie cartoons whose names escape me). Though I question just what “feminine” values are actually good, as most of what is shown as “feminine” has been created and controlled by male creators (hourglass figured characters like Tex Avery’s Red and bows to differentiate girls from boys due to the old Adam and Eve ideal). Do you think female creators should make up their own ideas of what is feminine? Would you also be tired if you were told that pink is the ONLY acceptable color for girls? Would this “hating on pink” thing be an excuse for girls not to be shown with colors other than pink, in the same way that “heterosexual awareness month” is used as an excuse for homophobia? Why aren’t men shown wearing pink as much as women (without being stereotyped as being “sissy” or effeminate), even though pink used to be a man’s color due to its link with the sun god Apollo?

  3. I think it’s important to note that while hard-ass female characters are often less colorful and frilly than their generic sisters, so are hard-ass male characters. Whenever MARVEL wants to make a more badass version of a superhero, be it female or (more often) male, what color do they make them? Black or grey. War Machine: gunmetal grey. Venom: black. So wearing a combat vest and drinking whiskey is not a badassery identifier exclusive to women.

  4. Sansa really grew on me as she lost her blinders and she’s actually become my favorite character. She’s a character that is literally besieged at all sides. Surrounded by people who hold (and are willing to abuse) their power over her. And yet she manages to survive in that hostile environment by using the social skills she originally developed to achieve her dream of becoming a courtly lady. Her feminine charm and social graces are as much a weapon for Sansa as needle is for Arya.

    I think GOT actually does a great job of showing how different women are trying to empower themselves in a world that is not predisposed to female empowerment.

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  9. I really liked this post. Though I do identify with Arya more, I like your point. I also think that in an ideal situation, “stereotypically feminine” traits shouldn’t exist. Like a guy should be able to use like lipstick or eyeliner to kill someone with having his identity questioned, while a woman should be able to use a bazooka or idk, something traditionally masculine. And then, be able to switch it up like characters could tailor it to their situation. Like every tool should be open to everyone. You know what I mean?

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