The Color Pink and the Quest for Embracing Femininity

Ever since I was introduced to the concept of a favorite color, I’ve always had pink in mind. For my seven-year-old self, the color is really beautiful and appealing. The color reflects the joy of childhood. Pink also symbolized the hidden femininity in my relatively tomboy self. I loved pink so much to the point where my mother joked about getting me a pair of glasses with pink lenses so I could see the world in pink without a hassle.

But then the comments came. My close friend, my cousin, every other girl began to tell me that pink is a color of weakness, a lame color. Pink is the color of banci (this is an Indonesian slur for both feminine men and trans women); and you don’t want to be a sissy banci even when you’re a girl (God, the Indonesian society is extremely transmisogynist), so don’t you ever put pink as your favorite color when your friend asked you to write your biodata down.

I didn’t want to be called as a weak, lame, sissy girl, so I said to myself that, from that moment on, I would hate pink and love blue instead. Blue is a cool colour. A symbol of strength, of stoicism, of awesomeness. A symbol of masculinity.

During my school years, mostly in junior and senior high school, I always felt that there was a sort of competition between girls to be the most boyish. The most tomboy one is the strongest and the coolest, thus deserves respect from other girls. To gain this title, I would wear loose jeans and t-shirts and trashtalked girls who wore skinny jeans and skirts. I would wear sneakers and dissed those who wore flat shoes. I took Tae Kwon Do lessons and, behind my pure love for the martial art, I had the motivation to become the strongest, the coolest, the most masculine one among the girls in school.

This kind of notion didn’t disappear even when I went to an Islamic boarding school for high school. In fact, it got even stronger. Living with other >100 girls in an isolated environment created an invisible, but strongly felt competition of being the Number One. Our school might be the atypical high school since we were supposed to be ‘the best students from across the province’ which is fully guided under the directions of Islamic doctrines, nevertheless the typical Mean Girls situation still existed, and the Queen Bees stated one thing: pink was off limit.

During junior high, I had re-embraced my love for the color pink. Avril Lavigne could rock the color in her entire The Best Damn Thing era, so why couldn’t I? I put pink rhinestones on my laptop to decorate it. I had several pink shirts, worn every few days though with cargo pants. I had a pink pencil case and sneakers that I would bring and wear proudly during classes. But guess what, there were one group of girls in my class who said, “Ew, pink. What a disgusting color. Whoever loves pink here must be a total loser.” They looked at my stuffs with cynical smiles on their faces, then they mocked another classmate who got a pink laptop from her parents. They might be joking, but I angrily thought, “What the hell is wrong with the color?!”

At that time, I only thought that maybe they were messing with someone who loved pink (me, in particular). But years after, I contemplated again about the situation and it came to my mind: perhaps they thought that, once again, the color pink is a symbol of ‘feminine weakness’ that they chose to get rid of in order to be above all other students. Femininity is something we need to have, but not too much. Masculinity is superior. This mindset is not exclusive to that group of girls but to nearly everyone.

It actually still blows my mind how such a puny thing as color could actually mean something bigger. Looking back at the past, there were no such thing as gender-specified colors until Adolf Hitler decided to assign pink to mark gay people so he could massacre them easier (as explained by Hank Green here). Babies and kids in the 19th century, from all genders, wore white. Blue was the uniform of women working in the industry during World War II. After the war, everyone just agreed on what Hitler said and bam, pink became the assigned color for girls.

Pink somehow became the symbol of femininity and all the bad things our patriarchal society assigned to it.

Back to high school, I tried so hard to be the most badass, hardcore girl in school. I rarely wore skirts after school hours ended. I listened to emo, pop punk, alternative songs. I never sat like a lady (still never do). I realized that I gave such a strong persona in order to beat some other tomboy wannabes in school, so people would call me the most badass girl and applaud me for it.

It was all for nothing, though. By the time high school ended, everyone gained their places by their accomplishments, not by the so-called competition I mentioned before. Graduation was a turning point for me as I began to explore the femininity in my clothing taste. I began to love wearing flowy skirts, cute dresses, high-heeled shoes. I stepped up my makeup game and ended up, not to brag, being good at it.

Being feminine, one thing that used to be shameful to me, became more and more comfortable and acceptable. I no longer dress to impress my peer, I began to dress to impress myself. I spent mornings looking at the mirror complimenting myself, “Dang girl, you look good today.” And I continue to adore pink for the color it is, not what it supposes to symbolize.

For a lot of people, the color pink remains a symbol of femininity which is linked to some supposedly bad things. But it’s just a color which should be genderless. And femininity isn’t something inferior to masculinity, but it isn’t an obligation to make a proper woman either. What makes a woman isn’t how she dresses up and acts; as long as you feel like you identify as a woman, then you are. And if she wants to love the color pink, let her love it all she wants. It’s just a color, after all.

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