Brits Go Batty Over the Color Pink

Is pink just a nice color for girls, or is something more sinister at work?

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In the U.S., arguments can erupt over the secularization of holidays or the placement of crèches around Christmastime. In Britain, this year's melee is centered on a rather different conundrum: the color pink. The Pinkstinks campaign, championed by a new group objecting to the use of pink in products for little girls, is demanding a boycott of toyshops offering "sexist" toys for Christmas. Some, such as Britain's justice minister, whole-heartedly back the boycott. Others are horrified. The violent bickering between them has run riot over UK editorial pages.

  • Manifesto The Pinkstinks campaign website describes its mission "to challenge the 'culture of pink' which is based on beauty over brains and to provide an alternative." On the PinkStinks blog, May Carolan explains the PinkStinks Christmas campaign:
We want to show toy companies that girls don't have to be prissy in pink ... This Christmas and every Christmas, we want girls to know they can be whatever they want to be, regardless of what retailers want to sell them. We believe that companies have a responsibility and a duty to encourage girls to use their imaginations and be inspired to explore, as widely as they can, the world of possibilities that is out there for them.
  • About Time The Independent's Amy Jenkins calls the campaign "a timely response to evidence that body-image obsession is starting younger and younger in girls. The seeds," she writes, "are sown during this 'pink stage' when children receive narrow and damaging messages about what it is to be a girl." She cites a study showing that sexualisation "compromises [young girls'] brain function."
  • What Do You Mean, 'About Time'? Who Are These People? The editors of the Telegraph are horrified that British Justice Minister Bridget Prentice is supporting this boycott "by the revoltingly named Pinkstinks campaign." Calling the cause silly and "patronising," the editors contend that "little girls" simply "like pink," and that it is "part of their innocent charm, not an indication that they plan to waste their lives." Nastily, they add "what toys was Mrs Prentice given as a child to turn her into such a caricature of a humourless feminist?"
  • Ghastly Color, but Harmless The Telegraph's Cassandra Jardine sympathizes with those tired of "that particularly putrid shade," and writes that "the only thing worse than the ubiquitous pink is the depressing hues of sludge green and brown in which everything aimed at swathed." But while her three daughters all went through pink mania, "the great solace," she writes, "is that it doesn't last ... nor does it seem to have done any lasting damage."
  • Shouldn't We Be More Worried About Adult Pink? Emily Hill, writing for the Guardian, is baffled: "what's the colour got to do with it?" She says she loved pink as a young girl, but is now working as a journalist "as opposed to queuing up outside Boujis every night on a great, glittering quest to become a Wag" (British, apparently, for Wives And Girlfriends of professional soccer players). Yet the Pinkstinks campaign, she writes, is apparently convinced that "the relentless march of pinkification must be stopped before the nation's six-year-olds set out, en masse, to shred the last 50 years of the women's movement by setting their hearts on careers as manicurists and go-go dancers in a rose-tinted haze of glee for girliness." Frankly, she finds "more worrying ... the culture of pinkification in the adult world ... the colour for breast cancer awareness risks prettifying the disease rather than tackling it head on."
  • In Other Pink News, Ann Althouse, Tells Breast Cancer Groups to Back Off  American journalist Ann Althouse wants to break the association of the color with breast-cancer awareness campaigns. Dedicating two posts to it on her blog, she calls breast cancer "that one special cancer that petulantly insists that we acknowledge its existence all the time," and insists that it "leave pink alone!" She likes the color, and resents feeling like her pink sweater is in fact a breast cancer awareness sweater.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.