Mon, Jun 25, 2007 - Page 9 News List

Never mind the little girls: Why do women think pink?

Pink at work and they're corporate toast, pink at home and they're outsize Barbie dolls. So why are women still thinking pink?

By Barbara Ellen  /  THE OBSERVER , LONDON

Before I tell you about the Pink Junkies (that growing tribe of otherwise sentient women who can't resist pink), I should admit that I'm not a very "pink" person. Too apologetic a shade for my liking, too passive, too "Don't worry, I won't bite."

In my experience, good men enjoy being worried; they quite like a woman with bite. However, even I have to accept that these days, pink is everywhere -- mobiles, barbecues, music sound systems. There are even pink Handyman tools, and Fly Pink, "A boutique airline designed especially for women" that has its very own pink airplanes.

It's like a pink Midas touch -- everything that can be touched (or, more to the point, merchandized) is turned pink, and the pinker it is the more women clamor to buy it. In this way pink isn't just a color any more, it's a lifestyle choice. Where the Pink Junkies are concerned, one could even call it a drug -- hen-party heroin for the masses.

One cannot help but wonder who allowed this to happen? Who let pink back in? For the longest time, pink was frowned upon as the color of gender conditioning, the hue that would make Barbie dolls of us all. Pink was also the working woman's Kryptonite -- wear it and you were corporate toast. Then slowly, imperceptibly, the rules fell away, and a good thing, too.

What's so awful about little girls loving pink? Ditto the teens, staggering out of high street chains with armfuls of pink sparkly every-thing. Much more worrying is that, these days, it's not just young girls -- it's grown women who are turning our pavements into churning oceans of girly pink. How often recently have I seen groups of women, in their thirties, forties and beyond, sashaying along in baby-pink velour tracksuits, or hot pink leggings, shrieking into bubblegum-pink phones.

Everywhere you look, grown women dressed up as little girls. It's horrifying. And bewildering.

It's not even as though every woman looks so pretty in pink. (It's a fine line between dewy youth and the full-blown Baby Jane.) In fact, only an elite set of women (and the occasional style-smart gay man) can do pink with aplomb. One example is glamor model Jordan, whose wedding was such a display of pink "shock and awe" one could only applaud.

The only surprise was that she didn't have husband Peter Andre dyed pink. Here was a woman, one of the very few, to make pink seem ultra-sexual and powerful: "You want pink, big boy, I'll give you pink."

Sadly, with most women, pink has entirely the opposite effect -- neutralizing them, taking away their edge.

And maybe for some of these women, that's the point -- as if, in these gender-blurred times, pink has become a short cut to express old-style softness and femininity.

It could even be that extremely tough women use pink to deflect attention from their true colors -- ruthlessness, ambition, drive. As in, "Yes I just broke your balls in that business meeting, but I'm wearing pink, so I'm lovely really."

Delving into the psychology of pink, questions must be raised. Could it really be the color of choice for those women who yearn to be like little girls again? Is being infantilized in this way the new female bliss? Tellingly, maybe, they're rumored to be shifting an awful lot of pink merchandise to divorced and separated women. What does this say -- that when reality bites hard, so hard it draws blood, it's time for a woman to reach for the pink stuff? Because then you are transported back to a time when everything is fluffy and pretty, and there are no monsters under the bed (or in it).

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