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The Color Pink

I volunteer at the children’s service at my synagogue on Shabbat (the Sabbath). Every week, the kids walk around with kid-sized Torahs, some of which are stuffed toys. The Torahs are red, yellow, blue, and purple and were bought in the past few years, so they all look new and are in pretty good condition, but there’s one pink one, that is about twice my age. It's very faded, a little corroded looking, and has been sewed more times than I can remember to keep the stuffing from falling out. Despite the clear quality disparity, all hell breaks loose every Shabbat when the little girls come running to grab the pink Torah before anyone else can catch up. And yes, innumerable tears have been shed and many fights have ensued over this issue.

The obsession over the pink Torah has been going on for a while now, and it’s really been bothering me. I know it’s not the girls’ fault that they love pink, since they’re being flooded by pink pink pink on a daily basis by the media. For example, a while ago I was at a friend’s house and we were watching the Disney movie Princess Protection Program with her youngest sister. I happen to love the color pink, but the movie’s insistence that princesses have to have lots and lots of pink things was nauseating. I know that I probably love pink because society has conditioned me, a possessor of ovaries, to like the color. It’s nobody’s fault but the media and society for allowing it.

Is it really a big deal, though? If girls love pink, does it matter so much? While it may be just a color -- not exactly life or death -- I think it does matter, not so much because of the specifics of the matter, but because of the concept. When one gender is conditioned to prefer one thing to another, it becomes the property of that gender, not to be enjoyed by the other. Pink is liked by girls, which makes it girly; if it’s girly, boys who like it are considered effeminate. Boys like cars, which makes it "boyish" and therefore girls who like it are tomboys. Gendering things as basic as colors separates the men from women, forming a dichotomy.

I’d also like to point out that "girly" doesn’t have any real male equivalent. I used "boyish" in the above paragraph for lack of a better word, but it doesn’t have the right connotation -- probably because while "girly" is a condition, "boyish" is the cultural standard. So when the girls at my synagogue fight over the pink Torah, they're reinforcing the idea that they're the "other" group. This isn't just bad for girls -- if a boy naturally likes pink, they're looked down upon because it’s seen as "girly".

One Shabbat quite a while ago, a boy actually asked for the pink Torah. It had already been snapped up by one of the girls, but it made me really happy that neither his parents nor society at large had (yet) conditioned him not to like pink. He hasn’t asked for the pink Torah again, but I really hope he still wants it.



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