There was a time in my life during which I despised the color pink.
I’ll give that a moment to sink in (take a look at my blog).
I decided to despise the color pink in the second grade. It dawned on me that there had never been a female president, and I approached my teacher about it.
I will never forget her face as she stared at me, clearly fumbling for words to explain the complications of gender stereotypes and inequality to a six-year-old. She settled with the elegant, “You know, I don’t know.”
I walked away pleased with myself. She had answered my question, alright. The reason there had been no female presidents was because we were females. My young brain, swirling with innocence quickly replaced with skepticism, connected the dots. Women were weak, and therefore we had never been allowed a true position of authority. But maybe if we didn’t act so weak, then we would be given the chance to have power. Maybe if we acted more like a man, we would be treated more like one.
I decided right then that I wouldn’t be the type of woman who wore pink.
This carried throughout the rest of my adolescence. Thanks to Lizzie McGuire and a host of other female role models who represented extremes, I put my ideas of female identity into two very distinct boxes: beautiful and stupid or commonplace and intelligent. Let us not forget one of the most famous quotes from Mean Girls: “On Wednesdays we wear pink.” This was the tagline of the popular girl, the fashionable girl — but not the smart girl. The smart girl wore earth tones and ponytails (and plaid, as you can see Lindsay doing here).
I am mildly proud of my young self for stubbornly selecting the latter as my identity; I wanted to be the smart girl in the room, not the cute one. I thought that if I admitted to liking the color pink, I was admitting weakness, stupidity, and too much femininity. To be a successful writer and a career woman I must wear severe colors and pants. On Wednesdays, we wear black trousers.
It seems silly in hindsight, but I grew up a woman determined not to be treated like a woman. How would anyone ever take me seriously in brights and high heels? If a female had never been president in pants, she certainly wouldn’t be one in a dress and dangling earrings.
For this reason, I often pretended to hate the color pink. I vehemently reminded my friends that I liked black and my favorite color was purple but sometimes blue. For the first day of fifth grade, I selected a boring black V-neck t-shirt for my back-to-school outfit. No one was messing with me.
Lies. All lies. I really, really loved the color pink. As I grew, I started to come out of my shell and realized that the boxes I thought defined womanhood were not, in fact, accurate or necessary. I started observing women who were successful and fashionable — each in their own charming way. Black trousers or pink sundress, women could do things. Amidst writers like the lovely Sarah Dessen in high school, and later among strong-willed professors in college, it hit me. I was free to claim my own box, sparkly or not.
The world I grew up in may have encouraged false ideals of femininity, but I allowed them to be true. I allowed myself to believe that a woman in a dress was weaker than a woman in pants. Oh, foolish adolescent me. I attached too much power to a color and an idea of a person I didn’t want to be. I allowed gender stereotypes to be part of my identity.
Not anymore. My identity has a lot more to do with what I want to be than what I don’t want to be.
And I want to be a woman who likes pink. Also one who wears eye shadow, lipstick, and dangling earrings. This same woman can be taken seriously for her ideas. This same woman can be president if she wants to. (Man, this blog post is really channeling Legally Blonde right now.)
And the fact that I enjoy dressing up and value how I appear does not mean that I value being smart any less, or that I don’t have plans to be a powerful woman. I am powerful.
Powerful in pink.