The Pink Post: Instrumental and subversive uses of the traditionally feminine

Yes, pink, florals, and pearls look good on me!

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I hadn’t though much about the significance that might me ascribed to the aesthetics of my style until I came across (via the amazing illustrator Ezra W. Smith!) this post (in Russian!) that apparently shook Russian internets to their core.

Long story short: the article is called “My armour: How I learnt to love pink (and myself with it)” and filed under “Experiment” label. There journalist and pundit Dasha Evans-Radova describes how she realized that pink was a color she had been (unconsciously) ignoring in her life due to the derogatory significance assigned to it (infantile, too sweet, too feminine, stupid), and set up to analyze this lack and integrate pink in her life. The results can be seen here, and I got thinking…

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Trying to be true to third wave feminist notion of individualism and cross-sectionality that could be sloganized as “you do you”, I haven’t wrote much about my aesthetic preferences. The focus of this blog is ethics of fashion and not looks – while my #wiw posts do show a set of clear preferences in case you are interested – and so it will stay. However, #grownuppinkroutine in combination with Kate Fletcher book I’m reading made me wonder about the signals my wardrobe is sending to passers-by (and my acquaintances and co-workers who have unfollowed me on social media since I started this blog). One of many points that Fletcher makes is how sustainable fashion, having been traumatized by unbleached and shapeless eco-chic of the 90s, now often looks exactly the same as conventional one, hence being invisible as social phenomenon. And this is even more so with second-hand and hand-me-down items. If you are saving fast fashion from the landfill by wearing it, nobody will know that you are not earnestly embracing it. And your conscious investment pieces might look exactly like the newest HnM collection. Yes, shit happens!

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With aesthetics it is easier to signal that your choices are ironic and intended to be transgressions. Mixing and misplacing – think of the now classical combination of floral dresses and work boots (that’s a fashion advice that Caitilin Moran gives in her How to Be a Woman as looking nice on everybody) or how people dress up funny for marathons – is an easy way to signal lightheartedness about the attire. Yet, if you are all in on classical “flattering” cuts, New Look, Mad Men wardrobes, minis, maxis, florals, bodycons, and pearls… Ooops! You might be part of a play you never rehearsed for.

Obviously, this has nothing to do with the hue, cut, or pattern as such. Fashion is a symbols’ game and too much get hoisted upon innocent colors and textiles… but as the basic maxim of sociology would have “if [people] define situations as real, they are real in their consequence“. And, as far as these common notions are internalized, shapes and cuts affect behavior and body language. You are not supposed to feel and act the same way in boyfriend jeans and in a non-elastic super-mini. In this way fashion is a form of social ingeneering that we have consented to (not always, of course, and there have been fashion liberation movements such as Rational dress movement when harem pants were revolutionary).

Donna Mae Mims in action, via classicdriver.com.

The practice that is the most interesting to me – and the one I’ve been semi-consciously practicing more and more – is that of traditionally feminine as camouflage. A good example of this (that I learnt about via Dasha’s original post) is Donna Mae Mims, the first woman to win a Sports Car Club of America national championship. While known as the Pink Lady for her pink cars, helmets, overalls, and described in press as “a delightful blonde with an intriguing smile, well-shaped figure and a laughing sense of humor […] and much like most other members of her sex, she delights in leading men a merry chase”, there’s another side of the story. Mims has described her racing as follows:

“I psych myself. I remove all my makeup. I think stern. I bristle. I don’t talk to anybody. You cannot think nice. Chivalry is dead on the racetrack. You’re out there only for one thing. To win. Nobody remembers second place. […] A lot of the male drivers think I’m out there to prove that I can beat them because they’re men. That isn’t so. They claim that I sometimes charge into the corners, cutting them off. I don’t mean to. I’m just trying to win.”

Boom! You see it, right? Embracing her love for pink and knowing that the feminine appearance will help her navigate the ultra-macho world of racing. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but makes sense to me: if you know that your words or actions go against the grain of patriarchy, it might be useful to ease into it via instrumental use of traditional femininity. That’s working behind enemy lines: everybody let their guard down and then you kill them! Yes, it is unfair for those who have never been interested in pretty dresses and might be attracted to aesthetics with negative social dividends. And I have no honest advice for that, apart from suggesting to bring down capitalism and patriarchy.

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I don’t really care about pink, it’s here, it’s queer, and I like it. The only colors I treat with suspicion are neon (because of class prejudice) and crisp whites (for practical reasons and class prejudice). Beige and grays are not my favorites either, but somehow they always find their way into my wardrobe. Here are some of the other pinks happening in my life:



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What are your relationships with the traditionally feminine and pink? Do you feel the social pressures attached to colors and cuts, or are you oblivious to them? And how do you deal with them?

Luīze

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