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Features / Opinion

Why Millennial Pink can do one

Illustration:

Cécile Gariépy

Millennial pink has to go. Why has everything (or at least a lot of things) to do with fourth wave feminism, and the rise in female entrepreneurship been pink washed?

I get it. It’s a gendered colour. We were reclaiming pink. We were reclaiming what it was to be girly, saying it’s ok to be into things traditionally associated with being a girl. But now it’s starting to feel like the visual representation of feminism lite. It has become the default, it’s so ubiquitous that it’s lost its meaning like the word “empowering”.

It started in 2015 when Pantone named its colour of the year Rose Quartz and it’s been hammered on our Insta screens ever since. We’ve covered our books in it, we’ve worn it, we’ve branded our new startups using it, we’ve kitted out women-only spaces using it, we’ve made it our aesthetic – it’s literally everywhere.

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Remember back in the 2015 election when Harriet Harman tried to woo female voters with her lurid pink Labour bus and was roasted for it? People said it was patronising and condescending. Dr Rosie Campbell, a politics academic from Birkbeck University, told the Huffington Post she could only hope the colour of the bus was an accident given worries about the “pinkification of girlhood”. So why in 2017 are we now blindly going along with it? Obviously Millennial Pink is a different shade and Acne use it on their bags but still we’re pigeonholing ourselves and limiting how we represent ourselves and how the world sees us. It plays into the idea that women are these one dimensional beings, only interested in a limited amount of topics – and colours.

Numerous brands have jumped on the feminism bandwagon. They’ve made light pink merch, stuck slogans on t-shirts and called it empowering. Sure it’s good if some young girls make their way to feminism through a t-shirt or a Kardashian sister but if it stops there and we aren’t actually talking about the bigger, deeper issues that affect a lot of women’s lives it feels like a wasted opportunity and an empty sentiment. You only have to look at brands like Boohoo and Missguided who peddle #girlgang cliches but then come unstuck when you scratch the surface. Missguided, whose customer base are mostly teenagers, put up a neon pink sign in their Manchester store that read, “Send Me Nudes”. What’s empowering about normalising potentially harmful behavior to teenage girls? Elsewhere in the land of fake feminism Boohoo came out with a campaign that claimed to be for “All Girls” only there wasn’t one plus size or darker skinned woman in the lineup.

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This might seem like it’s got nothing to do with one colour but it’s all relative. For fourth wave feminism to really make a mark and forge forward real change and equality for ALL women it needs be intersectional and not just focused on white girl issues like freeing the nipple and growing our body hair. It should be about those things but also so much more and we should visually reflect this diversity and complexity. We shouldn’t just be lashing millennial pink all over everything and pretending it’s edgy and cool and brands shouldn’t be desperately and hijacking feminism through a narrow lens of womanhood in a bid to sell more products no one needs anyway.

I’m not calling for a total ban on pink, I’m not a total asshole. Wear whatever colours you want, use pink here and there alongside a range of other colours but maybe next time you’re designing anything aimed at women look outside the obvious pink palette.

Feminism is about choice and that’s exactly it. We have the choice to use over 1,867 colours in the Pantone matching guides – why limit yourself to one dullard tone of pink?! Surely it’s time to stop making things pretty and palatable. Surely it’s time to stop making everything Insta-friendly, generic as fuck, boring and predictable. Let’s take a stand, be brave and create an aesthetic that doesn’t look like the time I’d eaten too many Wham bars and Flumps and puked all over the back of my Dad’s car.

Danielle Pender is founder and editor of Riposte.

This article first appeared in the AW17 issue of Printed Pages. Click here to get the magazine delivered to your door with a whole host of extra goodies.

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