The Emperor’s New Color

I’ve read it takes a generation and a half to believe something is traditional.


That can’t be right—I can think of 2 instances off the top of my head where “it has always been this way” is being chanted about topics that have changed during my lifetime. It is really creepy. It is scary. To think that people are so willfully gullible as to follow tradition that isn’t at all traditional is a horrible, horrible thought.


I’ll start with pinkwashing.   Pinkwashing refers to the practice of marketing everything for girls and women by making things bright pink. I specifically say “girls and women,” because, dammit, I am NOT a girl. But that’s another story.


I was a child in the 70s. There were strict gender roles, but color was not the issue. As an example, popular toys were “Doctor’s Kits” and “Nurse’s Kits.” They contained the same things, bandaids, toy stethoscopes, that sort of thing, but boys got the doctor kits, as a rule, and girls got the nurse ones. I got an orange nurse kit, after considering carefully whether I’d rather be a nurse or a doctor.

It is soooooo easy to verify that color was not a gender divider in the 70s. Look at any vintage advertisement. Or TV show. Marcia, in the Brady Bunch, wore a great deal of orange.

The most iconic females of the 80s were not in pink, even the girliest ones. Buttercup from The Princess Bride wears mostly red. Her bridal gown is blue. In one scene she wears a salmon gown. No pink.

Sarah from Labyrinth wears an off-white shirt with blue jeans. Her gown is white.

In the late 70s movie Grease, the Pink Ladies are distinguished from other characters because they, UNLIKE the other girls, wear hot pink jackets. Same with the 80s movie Pretty in Pink—her wearing that was a BIG DEAL.


When my daughter was born, in 2005, the pink thing had been happening for over a decade. So I went from my own color-gender-free childhood to, “What in HELL? Can’t I just get my child some goddamned shoes???” I could get non pink, non flower encrusted things if I went to the boys’ department. And guess what: My child got teased so cruelly for wearing “boys’” clothing—whatever in hell that is—that she refused to wear jeans of any kind for years.

What’s really really scary is not so much the people born in the 80s who insist the color divide was always there, but the people my age who don’t remember its absence. That both groups have all seen Princess Bride and Labyrinth and still don’t get it that the pink thing is new makes me vomity.


The other issue is abortion. I absolutely remember a time when it was considered none of your goddamned business. That is, yes, it was illegal in many places before Roe VS Wade, but . . . yes, women died having illegal abortions, but . . . no one would have thought to protest a clinic during my teens. It just didn’t happen.


Life beginning at conception is such a new concept. And again, like the pinkwashing, the evidence is all around you to support what I say—we have just been so inundated with a PR campaign that we don’t see it.


“Born again Christians.”   Let that sink in for a minute. The phrase comes from the idealogy that life begins at birth, which, BTW, comes from the Biblical repetition of the phrase “breath of life,” meaning that life begins when the first breath is taken.

Jessa Seewald, nee Duggar, accidentally spread a prochoice message. She cut and pasted her blog from the work of a man named Richard Baxter, and here’s some of it:

“These people are born again. It is as impossible to be the people of God without being ‘born again’ spiritually, as it is to be children of humans without first being born. The greatest reformation of life that can be attained without this new life from God may provide us with further delusion, but it will never gain us salvation.” Read more at



But the thing is—the thing that drives me nuts—is that the phrase “born again Christian” is still being used, and at the same time people don’t stop to think what it means. But there it is, reposted by a Duggar, even: You are not a living human until you are born.


In the 1920s, Dorothy Parker wrote several short stories where part of the plot is a woman having an abortion. And she wrote for pretty mainstream places, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair. Dorothy Parker is long gone, of course, but her work is easy to find and even studied by High School students, not those particular stories, of course, but she is not condemned as that horrible woman who wrote about abortion.

The very first page of the children’s book Mary Poppins is about family planning. (Mrs. Banks was given a choice whether she could have a nice house, or four children.) Again, an old book, but a great many children still read it.


Even the Catholic Church didn’t used to be so pearl clutchy about abortion. It was considered a woman’s business (until “quickening,” before which most abortions STILL take place) until about the 1890s, and only considered a venial sin at least up until my Catholic School days in the 1980s. (If you ever get a chance, read the play Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You, from that time period. Not only is it a great play, the most Catholic of Catholics, Sister Mary Ignatius, goes batshit when she finds one of her students is gay but shrugs off her other student’s two abortions. And this is considered not at odds with her being a nun.)



So why did I put pinkwashing and abortion in the same blog?


Cuz in the 1980s or so, the attitude changed in both cases, and in both cases the attitude changed to control and marginalize women.


This is no mere coincidence.


Let’s call this nonsense out.


5 thoughts on “The Emperor’s New Color

  1. “Born again Christians.” Let that sink in for a minute. The phrase comes from the idealogy that life begins at birth, which, BTW, comes from the Biblical repetition of the phrase “breath of life,” meaning that life begins when the first breath is taken. In John 3 we find the term born again being used twice and not in that context.


    1. In John 3 it is even more specific, that first one must be physically born, and then born again. Must be physically born from mother’s womb. That is exactly why born again Christians started with the term. Thanks for reading.


  2. I work at a daycare so yeah, I’m sick of pink everything too! I hope I have a girl someday so I can dress her in blue, green, and yellow! Also, nursery will definitely be a not-yet-decided non-pink color. I think it’s getting a little better though. Lots of my students come in with blue jeans or black leggings and non-pink (not even purple!) shirts. One of my female student’s favorite shirts was bright green and had the Incredible Hulk on it!

    I read this memoir recently where the author’s best friend gets an abortion pre-Roe v. Wade in New York City. She points out how it just… wasn’t an issue. There was no question of whether or not her friend would get an abortion, even though she was a 30-something woman and could theoretically support a child pretty easily; she knew she wanted to get one, so she did. There was no shame associated with the event at all. Reading about it was like reading about someone going to get a cavity filled.

    I was shocked that the shame and the stigma wasn’t actually “how it always has been.” The sad thing is, for women of my generation, that IS how it always has been.

    Abortion and the pinkwashing to me are even less about “society” or some undefinable collective of men policing women; they’re about women policing other women and themselves. I’ve seen too many women out there protesting against abortion. According to abortion providers, some of these women eventually seek an abortion themselves; they truly believe “the only moral abortion is my abortion.” And the pinkwashing too. I don’t want to stereotype, and I may be wrong, but I do feel that it’s generally girls who make fun of other girls for being not girly enough/ugly/fat/stupid/slutty/etc. Even as an adult I’m not dressing or wearing makeup to attract male attention, I’m doing it so I don’t feel inferior to other women (who somehow look like so put together, even if they’re just at the grocery store, like with perfect hair and makeup and I’m just this mess…? But that’s another story lol). Good post!!


  3. “Abortion and the pinkwashing to me are even less about “society” or some undefinable collective of men policing women; they’re about women policing other women and themselves.”

    Why. Why do we do that? 😦

    And also why . . . I do understand that for younger women the attitude has always been there. What I don’t understand is why I am so frequently alone even in the company of my peers, saying, “Whoa, this is NOT how it was.” Then they sometimes go, “Well, yes, but . . . ” And I don’t understand that at all. It’s more policing, and false policing at that.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s