Creeping pinkification: “the persistent feminization of unisex commodities”

In breaking news, marketing drones continue to lack imagination, sticking to the apparently conventional wisdom that if you want women to buy things that both men and women tend to use and want, just run up a version in pink and do a fluffy/flowery/frilly ad campaign. Butterflies are good. In June last year (in an essay provoked by the launch of a special shopping flight from London to Paris named Fly Pink) the Guardian’s Vicky Frost summed up the extension of pinkification from childhood to adult women as follows:

It is now possible for women to experience their entire day in pink. You can work out with a pink yoga mat and weights; adorn your windscreen wipers with pink wiper wings; cook dinner on a pink George Foreman grill and style your hair with hot-pink hair straighteners. You can even see off would-be attackers with a powder-pink Taser gun.

My response to the whole Fly Pink concept was this photo-essay, Puking Up Pink. Documentations of the pink consumer ghetto on feminist blogs abound, especially the Pink Alley in toy departments, but it is the continued extension of pinkified marketing into the adult world which is being most keenly examined. Twisty anayses the latest version she’s found: women’s vodka.


Of course, this bottle is in hues of pinky-lavender rather than the far too common fluoro-candy-brothel pink, but that’s meant to be a nod towards sophistication; indicating that the potential consumers thereof aren’t quite as infantilised as those other pinkobots out there in girlyland. Of course you’re too grown up for candy-pink, sweetheart!

As usual, Twisty makes many excellent and provocatively phrased points.

The greater the sex-based dimorphism in commercial products, the easier it is to rationalize sex-based social discrimination. For it is upon the supposed enormous differences between men and women that our culture bases its wide approval of the concept that women’s essence justifies our ghettoization in the sex caste.
Behold the neat trick. First, you make women act like simpletons, broodmares, janitors, mannequins, and sex slaves before you grant them social approval. You call this behavior “femininity” and explain that it is their essential nature, and that any deviation from the program will be punished. Then you infantilize and ridicule the ones who get it right, and vilify and abuse the ones who get it wrong
With so much riding on it, whether femininity is performed right or wrong is an issue of enormous concern to women. That’s where the Empowerful Pink Marketing Juggernaut comes i[n].
Femininity, in fact, can’t even be practiced without stuff (which is one way of debunking the argument that it is an inherited sex trait).

That last quoted sentence is my own favourite take-home lesson from Twisty’s post. Women are naturally womanly whether they are wearing an evening gown, wearing army boots or wearing nothing. But it is impossible to be “feminine” without acquiring, using and displaying STUFF (datapoint: even naked women are oft-derided as “unfeminine” if they don’t display evidence of using depilatory products).

As this is crossposted to LP, I now await the latest instalment there of Eliot Ramsey’s tirades against all feminist theorising.

Categories: gender & feminism, media, relationships

Tags: , , ,

24 replies

  1. I don’t mind the colour pink, per se, and don’t mind the odd pink commodity. But I absolutely viscerally despise marketing where the only alternative colour is pink, with the idea that making something pink makes it especially/just for women.
    I’m less cheesed off if soemthing comes in a variety of colours, with pink as one of them, because it’s nice to have a choice, if possible. That said, I’ve nothing against the ‘normal’ (ie non-pink) colours whatever-the-product-is normally comes in, so find people trying to market it to mejust by slapping a bit of pink on it very condescending. If pink is the only colour, and it specifically tries to market to women, it practically sends me spitting.

  2. I agree. When i was young, my father and mother decided to fill my room with pink – pink walls, pink carpets, pink furniture etc. You felt like you should be in Barbies Dream House after years of it.
    One of my friends told me that her stepfather, in an attempt to impress her mother, had my friend and her brother’s rooms in their new house decked out in pink and blue respectively.

  3. I noticed the other day how much pink now makes up my daughter’s wardrobe. I hadn’t really noticed the creeping ‘pinkification’ even though I buy her clothes. It seems that just about everything (well pretty much everything at the local store) has pink on it somewhere. She could probably go for about three days dressed in nothing but pink. I think I would probably be hard pressed to dress her for three days in something that had no pink though.

  4. Then you infantilize and ridicule the ones who get it right, and vilify and abuse the ones who get it wrong

    And the Marilyn skirt on the bottle is vomitworthy.

  5. Mindy:
    Stereotypes and gendered thinking have ruined a perfectly good colour – well two if you count blue

  6. I don’t mind pink as a colour – although I’m much fonder of a strong hot pink than the rather wimpy pastel lolly pink shade which is the default. I don’t mind wearing bright pink and fuchsia shades. But I don’t want to live my life in a Barbie house.
    I think the thing which annoys me most about the whole “everything in pink” trend is the way it shows the paucity of imagination of the designers. I mean, honestly, if you’re going to make a pink version of something, why not make a green one, a yellow one, cobalt blue, fire-engine red, jacaranda – hell, why not chartreuse or eau-de-nil? What about people who want an option other than pink (that isn’t either black, silver or beige for consumer electronics, or black, brown and white for accessories)? But no, there’s about three “boy” colour choices (black, silver, white) for most things, and then there’s this little lolly pink version tacked on the end, almost as though the designers are saying “yes, girls have permission to use this, too” by including it. (And Gods help you these days if you don’t include the pink version – you’ll be derided as being sexist, elitist and any other “ist” the deriders can think of.)
    Meg Thornton’s last blog post..Further cursing, swearing and mumbling…

  7. As this is crossposted to LP

    LP seems to be rapidly becoming the DailyKos of the Australian blogosphere: a shining testament to the way in which white ‘liberal’ men desperately cling to sexism.
    The pink-vodka thread is a string of simplistic dudely defences of consumercapitalism, with a few gratuitous slams at the women who raise questions about it. Don’t their patellar tendons ever get tired?

  8. That’s harsh on the actual LP male posters, Lauredhel. None of the actual post contributors are defending consumercapitalism, it’s mostly our roster of concerned dude commentors who regularly mock LP over at Catallaxy.
    I share your wonder at the robustness of their patellar tendons.

  9. tigtog is an LP clone.
    The comments are puerile – as usual.
    And the “feminist” rebuttal is, as designed, pathetically lame.
    Brett dear, I thought you weren’t coming back? And seeing as no Brett with your email addy has ever commented at LP, how well can your observations of the LP collective’s genetic relationships be trusted? ~tigtog

  10. Can we have a poll? Who here thinks I’m a total asshole. Because I’ve just been told I don’t have the gentle touch (based on more than one thread apparently). Maybe I have to tone it down. I’m just sick of the wall to wall schlongfest and I have several grump alleles, that is a given.

  11. Su, you definitely don’t seem like a total asshole to me. I’m not quite sure why those two have decided to get their scold on you.

  12. That’s harsh on the actual LP male posters, Lauredhel.

    I had hoped it was clear that I was talking of a vocal section of the commentariat, but on a re-read, I see that I wasn’t.

  13. Can we have a poll? Who here thinks I’m a total asshole.

    I {heart} you.

    Because I’ve just been told I don’t have the gentle touch (based on more than one thread apparently). Maybe I have to tone it down.

    I implore you not to!

    sick of the wall to wall schlongfest

    Best blog subtitle evah.

  14. Hee. I like it that the feminists of LP have been accused of being simultaneously uninteresting and inflammatory.

  15. Oh good. I’ll assume the stuff about gentleness is just an admonition to perform appropriately gendered behaviour then. Just though I’d check.

  16. Lauredhel, I’m not quite sure what Brett’s point is about LP, seeing as the only time he’s commented here is when I’ve crossposted both here and there, but he’s never commented at LP (at least not using that name/addy). I suspect we’re somehow meant to suffer in comparison, but LP also sucks, or something.
    I was also pretty sure that you meant a sample of the commentariat at LP in your other comment, rather than the collective, but I meant to clarify for other readers. I could have done that without implying that you mightn’t have realised the distinction. Sorry.

  17. I, too, suffered from a wall to wall pink room as a child, which, if my mother ever saw me for who I was, should never have happened. *sigh*
    Lost Clown’s last blog post..Here’s where I ask you to do something

  18. Su, you are the last person I’d accuse of needless aggression or asshol-ery. Clearly, the commenter over at LP was projecting.
    If it makes you feel better, an apologist for Boyz Behaving Badly over at RTS accused me of being Alan Jones (AND Miranda Devine) – Oh JG, how unfair of you to accuse me of being a luvvie lefty, when my wingnut cred was so good all along! 🙂
    Helen’s last blog post..Ten minutes to Earth hour

  19. Only a slightly happier pink note, read my best friend Rachel’s post on her very cool younger brother.
    Kirsten’s last blog post..Hallelujah.

  20. Cheers Helen :). To be a woman in possession of an opinion is horribly threatening, apparently.

  21. Lost Clown:

    Is there a support group for women whose parents made them have Barbie pink rooms?

  22. Keep up the good work su. If they can’t take as good as they give, then sucks to them.
    Mindy’s last blog post..You know you want to…

  23. Unknown Troper:
    We should start one.
    Lost Clown’s last blog post..Here’s where I ask you to do something

  24. Lost Clown:
    I’ll join!
    How do we start one?

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