Pink Is Just Light Red

“It clashes.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
“Pink and red clash.”
“Do blue and light blue clash? Green and light green?”
“That’s different.”
“Why?! Pink it just light red! We’ve been culturally brainwashed to see pink as a completely different color!”
“Mom…”

I argued this with my daughter. She agreed that it was strange that light red had its own name, but pointed out “grey” was also light black with its own name. I told her grey had its own cultural preconceptions as well and technically isn’t a color. It also depends if you’re talking about pigment or light.

She is an art student and we debated color and culture. She told me about a lecture she heard on how indigo was included in the rainbow. (There needed to be seven colors since that’s a super-duper-special number, and purple is only one color so it was made into two: indigo and violet.)

We touched on how we see color in the first place, but then how language shapes our perception of color. A study published in The Journal of Experimental Psychology looking at color and language from children in different cultures concluded: “Across cultures, the children acquired color terms the same way: They gradually and with some effort moved from an uncategorized organization of color, based on a continuum of perceptual similarity, to structured categories that varied across languages and cultures. Over time, language wielded increasing influence on how children categorized and remembered colors.”

For example, there was only one word for a color in the Himba language that English speakers would separate into three (red, orange, pink).

My son was brought into the debate and mentioned the hundreds of words for snow in the Inuit language. But we, in English, can understand the difference between the different types of snow, we just don’t have words for it. Yet,

Chinese people have more instances of perfect pitch (a physical change), believed to be because their language has pitches that train their children’s ears to tone more than other cultures. So does the fact that we, English speakers in America, have a distinct word for light red mean our eyes have actually changed physiologically or is it that we pay attention to the differences of color more for cultural reasons?

A few months ago I attended my sister-in-law’s baby shower. I showed up still working on her present—knitting a baby blanket and matching hat. The color was pink, and although we knew the baby was going to be a girl, that wasn’t why I chose that yarn. I had made a deal with myself awhile back that I was no longer allowed to buy any yarn until I used up all I had. By the time of the baby shower, I only had one kind of yarn with enough of it for the project—a pink one. The blanket and hat came out very nice; the yarn was also very soft for a baby. But oh! I hated falling into stereotypes with my niece already!

Pink as a color name comes from a flower of the same hue. The history of pink for girls is only post WW2. Blue was the popular choice previously because of its connection to Christian Mary. Then a pretty pink flowered dress by Dior, Disney princesses, and Breast-Cancer-Awareness-time-later, pink is the new blue.

I think my biggest problem is that I find pink a nice color. Just as calming as lighter versions of other colors. Pastels. But if I wear pink, I feel like I’m making a statement: I EMBRACE MY FEMININITY. I DO SELF-BREAST EXAMS! Pink has baggage. I wish it didn’t. I wish anyone could wear any color they fancy without making a cultural proclamation about a cause or gender. Why does adding pink to a geeky t-shirt make it for girls?

I want to make my niece a blanket without over-thinking the shade of red.

Image By Rebecca Angel

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Rebecca Angel was one of those kids that put the dragon book on top of her pile in the hopes that someone would say, "Hey, I'm into that stuff too!" Alas, she had to wait until she was an adult to find fellow geeks. Luckily, she married one and their kids are too. Rebecca is a lover of tea, science literacy, music, funky tights, RPGs, anime, manga, comics, fantasy books and movies.