They’ve been saying 2017 was the year of women. I think it was the year of pink.
Growing up, I was always a “girly girl.” My mother and grandmother would weave my hair into braids it always fell out of, vainly trying to secure the strands with big, bright clips—some shaped like butterflies, some with flowers dangling, some covered in pink glitter. I was obsessed with nail polish. I had a treasure trove of half-completed necklace making kits and shoeboxes full of elaborate bracelets.
My favorite color was pink, until fifth grade. Then, I moved to a new school, and the first thing I learned from the girls in my class was that pink was not an acceptable favorite color. (Okay, actually the first thing I learned was that Nick was the best Jonas brother. But after that it was the pink thing.) Blue was my new friends’ color of choice. Pink, it seemed, was too girly, too childish, too obvious.
It sounds so dumb to admit it, and I never have before, but I was nine years old, trying to fit in any way I could. A favorite color seemed a small compromise to make for new friendships. I traded in my pink bookbag for a blue one, and that was that.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about one of the stickers on my laptop. It’s small, in the bottom corner, and by all accounts should be relatively innocuous. But it gets a lot of attention. In bubbly pink letters, it says “Feminist.”
The letters are in Beyoncé font, in “Flawless” font, a reference to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's famous monologue in the song, which beautifully ends with “Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”
(For the record—I just quoted that by heart.)
I don’t remember when I first heard the word “feminist,” or when I first started identifying as one. I do know it’s been a long journey. In the beginning, I was the “crazy feminist” of the family. My feminism wasn’t something to be celebrated. It was marked by hours and days and months-long debates, by volumes of reading, by constant reworking of my ideals and my arguments. And it marked me too—as someone who was too loud, too bold, too insistent.
It’s not easy, my feminism. Feminism isn’t easy at all.
And in the beginning, I was adamant that there was nothing controversial about the word “feminist.” But now I see white feminism, where women like me are in desperate need of liberation. Performative feminism, where Wonder Woman empowers little girls everywhere (except for the ones born in Palestine). Social media feminism, where the movement begins and ends with a tweet.
It’s worn me down. Sometimes, the word begins to feel empty, loaded with weight that has no substance, as blank as the color it’s written in on my laptop.
Let’s look back.
Last year started with the Women’s March—a sea of pink hats, pink signs, pink frozen faces, a sea that swept from coast to coast, that hit D.C., L.A., Boston and swept millions of women along with it.
This mass celebration of feminism didn’t come out of nowhere. It was preceded by Sheryl Sandberg’s sold out cries to "lean in" in 2013, by calls to #bringbackourgirls in 2014, by the viral HeForShe campaign in 2015, by a woman just missing the presidency in 2016. The day of the march, it seemed the journey had finally come to fruition. Pink wasn’t uncool anymore, feminism wasn’t insanity. We had reached the promised land, one in which every woman wore a pink hat and a shirt proclaiming: “A woman’s place is in the House and the Senate.”
After the voices of women were unleashed, the year was explosive. In the fall, Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual assault. Then it was a wave, a flood, almost like something had been seriously wrong this whole time. A movement was born (#metoo), and suddenly senators, journalists, and celebrities were challenged and removed, naturally, as if this had always been meant to be.
In December, Merriam-Webster named “feminism” the word of the year, and the transition was complete. Pink was back in.
I wear a pink coat now. Bubblegum pink, lovely, pale pink. It’s my favorite article of clothing—I wear it everyday, and it’s how friends recognize me. But, the thing is, my coat is just a coat. A pink hat is just a pink hat. Neither are a feminist statement.
Because feminism isn’t about pink, really. Yes, it can start with marches or hashtags. But it is about so much more. Feminism is about action—action that goes beyond wearing a specific-colored dress to a red-carpet event. Feminism is about showing up for one another. It is about challenging rape culture. It is about respecting the autonomous decisions of all women. It is about upholding marginalized voices. It is about taking a step back to understand and amend your own flaws. It is about constantly trying to do better.
We need the sea of pink hats to sweep through our everyday lives. We need pink to color our conversations, our interactions every single day. We need to ensure that our feminism is more than an annual post on Instagram.
Because now that pink is back in, it’s time to get to the hard stuff.
Shireen Younus ’20, a Crimson Editorial Comp Director, is a Government concentrator in Pforzheimer House. Her column appears on alternate Thursdays.
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