Happiness is rumored to come in rose-colored glasses. So why is pink excluded from the rainbow?
It is a tragedy that there is no pink in Roy G. Biv. Historically, pink has been one of the most controversial colors, and it’s also the oldest. Modern-day researchers have traced back bright pink as the oldest known biologically generated color. In the early 18th century, Westerners typically regarded pink as a slightly lesser red, associated with aggression. By the late 18th century, it had become a high society color after Madame de Pompadour favored the color. The color wasn’t gendered; rather, it signified class.
In 1918, an article in “Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department” said the “generally accepted rule is pink for the boys and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”
Pink’s societal switch to being considered feminine is rooted in homophobia and oppression. Prior to WWII, pink was reserved for boys, and blue was considered a feminine color. However, in WWII the Nazis forced gay men to identify themselves by wearing a pink badge. The Nazis did not systemically persecute LGBTQIA+ women the way they did LGBTQIA+ men, and there was no Nazi law prohibiting women from engaging in sexual relations with other women. This is not to say Nazis did not terrorize lesbian communities, as beginning in 1933 the Nazi regime harassed and destroyed many of the communities and systems queer women felt safe in. However, it is after the color pink was designated for gay men under the Nazi regime that the color became societally categorized as feminine.
Once the color became seen as feminine, people began to theorize it may have calming properties. In the late 1970s, Alexander G. Shauss suggested that the color pink can have a calming effect due to how its wavelength is received by the human eye. One specific shade of pink, known as Baker Miller Pink or “drunk tank pink,” has been used in jails in an attempt to tranquilize prisoners. Unfortunately, more modern research has proven that the calming reactions are short-term, and can even cause regression into an even higher state of agitation once a body returns to normalcy.
However, debate still surrounds pink’s calming abilities. Baker Miller Pink was a bright, hot pink and in 2011, Swiss psychologist Daniela Späth began experimenting with the effects of a softer shade of pink. “Cool Down Pink” was painted into rooms in the Swiss penal system, and prison directors reported a significant decrease in prisoner aggression. This softer pink shade has been noted to reduce blood pressure, making it an efficient instrument in reducing aggressive behavior.
In 1979, Iowa football coach Hayden Fry decided to paint the visiting team’s locker room pink, hoping to give his team a competitive advantage. This color has lasted for decades, even surviving a 2005 remodel. Recently, the paint choice has received criticism as a homophobic and misogynistic attempt at emasculating the other team. However, these critiques have not beat out the popularity of tradition.
Pink is a great color. Whether it has psychological calming properties or not, it is simply fun. Beautiful things come in the color pink: flowers, strawberries, glitter. Things should be pink for the same reasons they should be blue or yellow: aesthetic. If someone were to paint a locker room green, it would simply be green. The politics of pink restrain it from the same freedom. There must be a reason as to why something is pink, it cannot simply be.
Reclaiming and redefining pink is amazing, but letting it be just a color is perhaps the peace pink deserves. Either way, Roy G. Biv should include a “P.” Let pink into the rainbow.
Katie Millard is a junior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Katie by tweeting her at @katie_millard11.