“Is wearing pink — and I mean, really wearing it — a radial defiance of the stereotypes set out for AFAB people?”

BY MARY HITCHMAN, IMAGE VIA INSTAGRAM @LAZYOAF

Common to the experience of many lesbian and bisexual women is the rejection of mainstream femininity. I was about 11 when I decided I hated — hated — pink. Growing up in a Catholic household, without the words to describe how I was different to my friends, I made the difference visual. I shunned talk of princesses and fairies and all things “girly”. I listened to My Chemical Romance, wore leather cuffs on my wrists, and let my dark hair fall loosely to my waist. I begged my parents to let me paint my bedroom black (thankfully, they never relented) and replaced my floral sandals with combat boots. If I looked different, I reasoned, then perhaps someone would let me know why I felt different, too.

Pink is pushed on AFAB people before they know what to do with it. Combined with the mounting pressure on young girls to look pretty, pink represents a certain type of femininity that feels exclusionary and limiting, feeding into cis-het stereotypes of what it means to be a woman. Until now.

Pink is already associated with the LGBTQI+ community as a result of ACTUP’s iconic triangle, but it seems that pink is now more regularly employed as a signifier of feminine queerness. The recently-published collected works of Audre Lorde, who described herself as ‘Black, lesbian, feminist, warrior, poet’, is a bright and deliberate shade of bubblegum. Clothing brands like Shrimps and Lazy Oaf have seized the dainty stereotype of the heterosexual pink-clad woman and replaced her outfits with kitsch, exaggerated looks.

Clothing by Lazy Oaf
Clothing by Shrimps

An oversized hot-pink cardigan emblazoned with red hearts, candyfloss-coloured coats paired with impossibly ladylike beaded bags, layering and colour-clashing, pastel pink hair pinned back with diamanté clips reading “GIRLS” and “SEX”. The result is impossible to ignore — the wearers are not princesses, but queens.

The relationship between clothing and queerness is encapsulated by Queer Looks, an exhibition of outfits worn by LGBTQI+ people, in Brighton Museum (it is on until December 2019, and I thoroughly recommend a visit). An ensemble given to the museum by Ellie, a lesbian in her twenties, stood out to me: towering pink heels emerged from a floral fuchsia dress, and the pastel pink cropped jacket was anything but prim. A closer look at her picture, displayed next to her outfit, confirmed that her hair was pink too. The result was a riotous celebration of femininity, of visible queerness. I was in awe of her confidence.

Is wearing pink — and I mean, really wearing it — a radial defiance of the stereotypes set out for AFAB people? An opportunity for lesbians and bisexual women to embrace and honour femininity? A new signifier of queerness now that pixie cuts and flannel shirts have infiltrated the mainstream? I’m not sure. All I know is that we have been offered an antidote to innocent girlishness, and by reclaiming pink we can subvert a narrative that once sought to stop us living our truth. 

After all, this was never just about clothes.

Opinions expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors of DIVA magazine or its publishers.

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