Smart Art: Pink and gender roles in the art world

Sara Torgerson
Arts Editor

For the past couple of months I have been thinking about gender roles. I think of my introductory

Expressive piece representing pink as the color of life (Photo: Google Images)

Expressive piece representing pink as the color of life (Photo: Google Images)

lessons from Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex” and her proclamation that women are more loyal to men of their same class or social circle than women who share their struggle as the “second sex.” Beauvoir recognized the ways in which women have played a part in their own oppression. I see myself and others do this too. Until recently, I always competed with other women in the arts rather than see how we could work together. Sometimes it seems as though there are only so many positions for women, therefore, one must stomp on the fingers of others.
I have thought long and hard about my own life and goals and the ultimatum between relationships, an unsteady career in the arts, and education. I have especially thought about the tremendous pressure and scrutiny directed towards women who chose themselves over everyone else in life.
Then I started thinking about how female roles pan out in the arts. How are women represented? How have we thought about female artists – are they selfish, lowly creatures for rejecting patriarchal conventions of womanhood because they focused their careers on something like art rather than more maternal helpful careers like teaching, childcare, or social work? And I’ve been wondering, when did pink become feminine?
In my women and art seminar taught by Professor Gail Husch, we discussed archaic notions stating that women’s art styles are inherently feminine. We debunked this idea and talked about how the color pink was not considered feminine until the 19th century. After further research, I discovered that pink was introduced in the 17th century as a color for aristocratic clothing. It was in the 19th century with the development of the suit that pink was considered a lady’s color. So what is it about pink that is so feminine?
In today’s art, artists have removed pink from its historical associations with femininity and soft, sweet domestic scenes and have appropriated the color as a bold statement of power. Robin Cembalest of ARTnews went as far to say that you have to be tough to use pink. Thus, pink is no longer a color of the playful lady in Fragonard’s “The Swing,” 1767. Pink is the color used to criticize war, the sexualization of women, and remind us of the stuff life is made of. Our blood, flesh, guts, and innards are all shades of rouge. They are all PINK.



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