Friday, October 23, 2009

What is it about the colour pink that scares men so much? I was watching the Heineken Cup Rugby Union the other day and Stade Francais were playing. They wear a pink strip, and I played a little game. That was : see how long it took the commentators, for no particular Rugby related or sporting reason, to begin making childish remarks about the pink strip, snickering whilst offering innuendoes about the sexuality of the players wearing it.

It took about 10 minutes. One of the commentators made a vaguely homophobic comment. Another one made a point of saying that these particular 'dressed-in-pink' men were, remember, burly rugby players.

A similar thing happened not so long ago when Nicolas Bendtner, the Arsenal striker, wore a pair of pink boots in a game. The Sky commentators spent an unreasonable length of time discussing them, rather than the football itself. And reading between the lines of their comments it was pretty clear that all of their focus was based on the connection between the colour pink and homosexuality. (it doesn't help but Bendtner's name lends itself to puns about people being 'bent' and Arsenal contains the word 'Arse'. I actually heard one or two people make these puns in conversations, and I imagine the pub I was in was not the only place these 'jokes' were made amongst men).

I've experienced it myself even. A couple of times I've worn stuff like a pink tie to social events and it inspires a kind of adolescent nervousness amongst a certain type of men (i.e. the kind of men who, like Sky commentators, make jokes about people with foreign sounding names.) They make 'banterish' comments that are just too much for something as small and insignificant as a tie. They over-comment on it. They slightly obsess about it. It grows in size and significance. They start to make slight homophobic innuendoes about it, whilst backpeddling from them just in case you actually are gay and the pink tie and the man-bag aren't just metrosexual fashion statements. I personally quite enjoy the idea that I can unsettle people so much with the colour of my tie. I would have not worn sequins, make-up and strange hair colours when younger and playing around with the the ideas of stereotyping and campness. A pink garment of any kind would have had the same effect. It simply doesn't culturally compute. In the eyes of many still, straight men somehow aren't allowed to like showtunes, Marc Almond records, electric cars, wine, pastel colours of any kind or cultural stuff like books and art. It's suspicious. Wearing pink and having a man-bag automatically puts you beyond the pale.

You can play another little game to see how unpopular and distressing pink is to many men. Go to one of those shops that stocks last years leftover designer clothes (TJ or TK Maxx, Marshalls and the like). There you will find a splendid selection of pink mens' clothing, leftover from last season because most men just will not buy it.

This person reckons that the association started with the Nazis making gay people wear a pink triangle whilst imprisoned. A quick zip through the internet provides no better theory. although I did find out that pink used to be the colour for a boy until WW2.

I can only conclude that the massive power the colour exerts on people is symbolic. It's not colour itself, but a reminder about the profound discomfort that society feels about homosexuality. How strange that it should reside in something so seemingly harmless as a colour?

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