Well, maybe thinking about pink sounds better. But in the past couple of days I’ve had two different incidents that brought pink to my mind.
The first was when, two days ago, I was in a Walmart and passed through the toy section to get where I was going. At my age I don’t spend a lot of time looking at toys so maybe this seems obvious to others but I was amazed that the shelves in the aisle I walked through were totally pink. On one side every box was pink. Every single one. They were all toys, dolls, games or accessories aimed at girls so the manufacturers put them in pink boxes.
Glancing at toys for boys, of course, there was not a dash of pink in sight. The message was clear; pink = girls. Or does it? The next day I had another pass-by experience with pink. This time it was going into a coffee shop. On the way out was a guy in a pink tee shirt. Even better, across the front of his shirt were the words “Real Men Wear Pink.”
This guy was easily over six feet tall and was ripped. Muscles bulged from every part of his body. He looked like the kind of guy who, if you made a pink joke, was quite capable of tearing your arm off and beating you with it. He clearly did not get the pink = girls memo.
It is clear that in our culture pink has become a girly color. Toy manufacturers know this. Every fall a slew of products on the grocery store shelves suddenly sport pink labels touting that if you buy their canned soup, or whatever, donations will be made to help stamp out breast cancer.
The key question, of course, is does the pink = girls equation work because girls inherently like pink while boys don’t? Or are girls taught, right from their first trip down the toy aisle, that pink is their color. The other side of that might be that we are teaching boys that something pink is not for them.
Having lived overseas I can answer that question. In many other cultures there is no pink = girls equation at all. None. I first became aware of this when I worked with an electrical engineer from India who painted his bedroom pink. I had enough sense not to snort or in any other way show my surprise; which was good because in very little time I saw that Indian culture had no pink taboo for men at all.
The whole pink experience has me thinking about the evangelical obsession with gender roles; the idea that men and women have clearly delineated roles and responsibilities. Men always are the providers. Women always are the “keepers at home,” with that role clearly spelled out. But to what extent do the two pink incidents challenge that?
If the preference for pink is taught and not inherent; and if the body builder guy is comfortable in his pink shirt, what other roles that we think are “biblical” are in reality nothing more than cultural constructs? I suspect evangelicals may too often be defending their cultural norms and not the Bible.
How long, I wonder, would it take to package plastic toy tool kits in pink and easy bake ovens in dark blue before we’d just accept it? Even more, if we switched the colors like that, would more boys want the ovens and more girls the tool kits?