Internalized Misogyny Ruined Pink For Me. Here’s How I’m Reclaiming It

Internalized Misogyny Ruined Pink For Me. Here’s How I’m Reclaiming It
Photo: AZ Factory; Genny/iMaxTree. Adobe.

When I was six, I moved into my brother’s old bedroom with the knowledge and excitement that I finally had some creative freedom. My first design decision: blush pink walls. Combined with purple floral curtains and a quilt stitched with a garden scene, the femme final product looked like it came directly from a Land’s End or Children’s Place catalog.

It would be easiest to say that pink was my favorite color as a kid. Every toy or article of clothing I received as a birthday or Christmas gift was a different shade of the color, often decorated with flowers, ponies or princesses. Don’t get me wrong—I adored each and every bubblegum and ballet slipper hue. But around the time I turned 12, something in me shifted.

Maybe I got sick of seeing it, or someone remarked on the excessive amount of pink everywhere in my life. Maybe I didn’t like the connections being made between myself and the girls in movies and magazines, the ones who wore pink track suits and tiaras and only talked about boys and makeup. Whatever the reason, I could no longer stand my bedroom walls or drink pink lemonade. Just like that, pink became my nemesis.

From then on, I drank yellow lemonade exclusively, and I covered every inch of my walls to mask the pink paint I once adored. I told myself that every piece of artwork, postcard or Josh Hutcherson poster that I taped up around me was edgy and interesting. Looking back, it was all just to cover what I thought was a naive six-year-old’s biggest mistake.

It was easier to hate other girls and women who liked pink than to accept that I was anything like them.

The change was most noticeable in the way that I dressed. I didn’t purchase a single article of clothing in any shade of pink for years. And I didn’t trust other people to buy clothing for me, either, which eliminated a gift option for my aunts and friends. I had always taken a lot of pride in dressing myself once, and it brought me a kind of joy to know I would no longer fit the “girly-girl” ideal after purging the pink. I avoided trends and bandwagons because it was easier to hate other girls and women who liked pink than to accept that I was anything like them.

Without even realizing it, I had let societal expectations about gender and color decide who I was and how I presented myself to the world.

But it had never crossed my mind that hating things like pink, Twilight or Taylor Swift wouldn’t actually make me cooler than anyone else. I was afraid to love these things simply because I had seen how others who weren’t afraid to be themselves were often treated. The profound differences between men and women—and even women and girls—were only highlighted and abused by either party involved. I never wanted to give someone the power or ability to define me.

But I never understood that a misogynistic society was the cause of all my fears. And as a result, I lost hold of my identity because I was so worried about separating myself from the people around me. I thought that liking the color pink would define me as feminine in the worst way, just as being blonde would make me appear ditzy and stupid. I dreaded the idea of becoming a one-dimensional stereotype.

I stopped wearing and enjoying pink because of what I feared other people would assume about me. Some of the most influential years of my life were confusing and pinkless because of the heavy weight of misogyny on my mind. It wasn’t until I went to college that I figured out what was wrong with me—but also, what was even more wrong with our society. Only then did I buy my first piece of pink clothing in years.

I thought that liking the color pink would define me as feminine in the worst way. I dreaded becoming a one-dimensional stereotype..

The resurgence of the color started slow and small: First with accessories, then with shirts and pants until I had whole outfits built around a few shades of pink. I must give credit to a pair of fuchsia Hunter rain boots purchased by my mother at Nordstrom for getting me back on track.

A fuchsia/magenta blend actually covers most of those first staple pieces, which made for a rocky start because that specific shade honestly still gives me the ick. But those boots and a pair of flared dress pants from Target are still in my wardrobe despite my difficulty accepting that shade. I appreciate their role in my return to pink and my search for a pop of color in my style.

I must also give some credit to a pink puff ball ring that I found in my room after an annual deep-clean. It was definitely from a grocery store gumball machine, but it reminded me of the time when I still wanted to be a princess, and that it’s still perfectly okay to hold onto that dream.

Luckily, thrift store finds have given me some much-needed nostalgia and closure with pink jackets, shirts and dresses. I’ve noticed that whenever I shop, I look for reminders of my stolen childhood joy, whether it’s a bubblegum pink Care Bear top or a perfectly-pink early 2000s dress, reminiscent of something right out of 13 Going on 30.

My past love for pink does not carry the strength it once did—I don’t plan on painting my walls pink anytime soon—but I don’t mind seeing the shade peeking out of my closet.

With that, I suppose I owe an apology to pink, to princess, pop stars and anything else I wrote off because of my fear of social suicide by feminine association. Pink is only a color, not my entire identity, and I will continue to remind myself of this every single day.

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