Finding the power in pink

12. 831ARTS“IF women have so many choices today, why do they all come in pink?” asks photographer and academic Deedee Noon.

Her exhibition Pinkification: Rethinking Pink grew out of an entry a couple of years ago in FotoFreo.

The series of portraits looks at the impact, and conflicting messages, of “pink is for girls”.

The portrait sitters, aged eight to 88, chose a pseudonym parodying the feminised marketing of pink, Noon says.

Cockburn mum Pink Strawberry Shortcake and daughter Lovely Pink are bonded by a love of the colour.

“After a family breakup she associated pink with her mother’s love and safety,” Noon says.

Mum’s Gothic Lolita styled pink is inspired by a childhood memory of a country fair and a girl on a float in pink petticoats, ribbons and lace.

“[She] longed to be that girl.”

The commodification of pink and its impact on girls is an issue raising serious concerns internationally.

“It is a really important issue and it’s fundamentally important to our economy as well.”

UK consumer affairs minister Jenny Willott came out recently saying it’s damaging the economy as young women tend to go into lower paid jobs such as nursing, rather than engineering and physics because of gender stereotyping through colour as children.

“It is a really important issue and it’s fundamentally important to our economy as well, it’s not just a side issue,” she told the Telegraph in February.

Prior to the 1970s people only knew the gender of their baby after a birth, but ultrasound has allowed an unfettered increase in the marketing of “pinkness”, Noon says.

“What are you having wasn’t a question before. Why has that become so important?”

Some women, such as pop star Pink!, use it as a marker of womanpower but a recent proposal by Queensland premier Campbell Newman to dress law-breaking male bikies in punitive pink outfits endorses pink as a weak colour, Noon says.

“If pink is used as punishment for men what does that say about women?” she asks.

Noon’s fascination with pink grew after a visit to a toy shop.

“I was overwhelmed by the vast number of pink products for girls, and yet there appeared no blue-coloured correlation for boys.”

In the UK Ms Willott, and others, are calling for toys to be less gender-specific.

If the iconic orange ‘60s space hopper were invented today “there would be one that is pink and looks like a cupcake, and there would be one that is camouflaged khaki,” she says.

Toys targetting girls promote the twin peaks of a manufactured femininity, Noon says: “Caring and domestic pursuits, and prettiness and physical appearance.”

Do girls really like pink, she poses: “Little girls want pink because what they want comes in pink.”

Even big girls can’t escape with a plethora of pink products, including disposable razors.

“Even if you don’t want pink you’re forced into it because it only comes in pink,” Noon says.

Pinkification opens at Edith Cowan’s Spectrum Project Space, Mt Lawley May 21 to June 7.

Artist talks will be held Saturday, May 31, at 2pm and Thursday June 5, at 6.30pm.

by JENNY D’ANGER

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