Thursday, 14 January 2010

Pink Does Not Stink

Dear Editor,

I heard about the ‘Pink Stinks’ campaign whilst I was in London doing my second work experience placement at Cosmopolitan. I was outraged, as I owe my work experience, among other things in my life, to the colour pink. I have always loved pink, so much so that this year I wrote a book all about the colour, aptly named ‘Love Pink’. I want to be a fashion journalist, and when I sent the finished book to journalists I was offered work experience at the Evening Standard and Cosmopolitan. The colour pink has opened doors for me, and I will always think of it as (hopefully) the start to my career. 

Some of the most memorable events in my life have been painted pink. I wore a pink Union Jack dress when I met David Cameron, who wanted to congratulate me on having produced ‘Love Pink’ at the tender age of sixteen. I presented him with a pink Union Jack tie (“This is the tie to see of Gordon Brown,” he said) and shall remember the day for the rest of my life.
I love everything pink. When I wake up in the morning I am met by a pink flamingo standing at the foot of my bed and pretty pink things adorning every surface of my room. I resent the stereotypical ‘Barbie’ image of pink. Perhaps as a bubbly blonde who loves the colour pink the ‘Pink Stinks’ campaigners would pigeonhole me as an airhead. But I am not. I object to the idea that embracing your femininity is construed as a sign of weakness or ditsiness. I am head girl at my school, I gained 10A*s at GCSE and wrote ‘Love Pink’ whilst studying for my AS levels and organising a charity fashion show. Yet I am also a girly girl through and through. But what is wrong with that? Although it may not have always been the case (as I was intrigued to discover when interviewing a V&A curator for ‘Love Pink’) pink is now undeniably the colour of femininty, and I think we should embrace that, not shun it. Women tied themselves to railings and went on hunger strikes so that we could live in a society where women are equal, but still women.

The colour pink is symbolic of other things too - most notably for me as the fight against breast cancer. The colour pink and I have now raised over £1000 for Breast Cancer Care, as I am donating 70% of the profits from my book to the charity. I think pink has greatly helped the campaign against breast cancer, by giving it a symbol that is instantly recognisable. With perhaps the exception of the ‘RED’ campaign againgst Aids, I would argue that no other colour has the power to build such a strong connection with a cause and communicate a message so powerfully. 

Despite these connotations, pink is happy, carefree and romantic - a well needed antidote to the gloom and doom of today’s society. To me a fight against the colour is not only depressing (why ban the funnest of colours?) but outdated and irrelevant. You just have to look at this month’s Vogue to see that I am not alone in loving the colour pink. With fashion stories titled ‘Sorbet Shades’ and ‘Pretty in Pink’ it is clear that the fashion world is still very much in love with pink. But it doesn’t stop there. 

When I was writing ‘Love Pink’ I wrote to journalists and celebrities asking them questions about the colour pink, such as what was the favourite pink thing they owned, and what would the colour pink smell like. The responses I then included in the book. It wasn’t just fashion journalists that replied (although many of them did) but Dame Judi Dench, Joanna Lumley and Sarah Brown among others told me why they love the colour pink. But it didn’t even stop at women - Evening Standard editor Geordie Greig said an ice cream coloured pink tie was his favourite pink item. I was met by such enthusiasm when writing the book. For so many people the colour pink meant so much, whether it reminded them of their childhood or of their mothers - and I would argue that no other colour conjurs such emotion. 

The ‘Pink Stinks’ campaigners argue that young girls are forced into pink, and that the colour is swamping the toy market, for example. But do you see girls complaining? Of course there are many girls who don’t like pink - my sister was one of them - but for a huge number the story is: anything as long as it’s pink. And what on earth could be wrong with that? I photographed some fairies for my book - two little girls who spent the afternoon dressing up as pink fairies and playing in the garden - and as they pulled out pink dress after pink dress, they honestly couldn’t have been happier. Taking pink away from girls is like taking sparkle away from Christmas - you’d have to be a grumpy old Scrouge to want to do it. And back to the argument that little girls are ‘forced’ into pink - well how is dressing your children in lilac or blue any different? You are still choosing what your child wears, and ‘inflicting’ your decision on them - of course you are because children can’t take themselves down to the shops and buy their own outfits. However, if they did, I’m sure many of the girls would head straight towards the pink section.

The best day of my life was my book launch this year, and it was also the pinkest day of my life. My friends, family, teachers and everyone who had been involved in the book donned pink (men and women alike) as we drank pink champagne and ate pink cupcakes amongst pink balloons and buckets of pink gerbera. I think it is no coincedence that the happiest day of my life was so pink. Because pink is a happy colour, you just had to be in the room to feel the jolliness it was inspiring; it is comforting and lovely. I would defend the colour to the hills in front of anyone, however miserable and anti-girliness. I shall always love the colour pink, and as the ‘Pink Stinks’ campaigners might have underestimated, I am far from the only one.


  1. Hi Libby - it's Emma from the Pinkstinks campaign here. Our campaign isn't about the colour pink it's about questioning what we see around us and the rampant marketing towards children which limits what girls are offered. We have no problem with the colour pink per se, we just use it as a way of describing what's been done with the colour - it kind of encapsulates the marketing which girls are subject to. So please read more about what we are about and carry on enjoying pink! Best wishes


  2. Hi Emma,

    I went on the Pinkstinks website and read what it was about before I wrote the article. If you're questioning the marketing towards girls, why not question the marketing towards boys? You say girls are given more limited choices whilst boys enjoy a wide range from science, adventure etc, however I would argue that these are no less limited or stereotyped.

    Everyone is subjected to marketing on a daily basis, but that doesn't mean it always has a detrimental effect on people. I'm sure a huge number of female lawyers, doctors and so on played with pink toys when they were younger and that they wouldn't say this limited them in any way. And perhaps the reason there are so many pink toys on the market for girls is not because of rampant marketing but more due to toy manufacturers meeting demand - of course it is not true for every case, but a huge number of girls simply like pretty pink things and playing with dolls, however I don't see how this is a bad thing. Furthermore I would argue that if the question is about toys for children, surely dolls that encourage caring values and other toys such as pretty fairy dresses etc are much less harmless than many toys marketed for boys - guns, tanks and playstation games that trivialise war. That to me is a much bigger issue than the pretty pinkness that girls are 'subjected' to.

    All the best,


  3. Go Libby!
    If the campaign is all about other issues, why call it Pink Stinks??