Why Are We Paying For Pink?

By Kitty

“It’s big, pink and you can use it alone or with me” was the cheeky clue my boyfriend had given me as to what my Christmas present was that year. So it was with great anticipation – and a little trepidation – that I tore open the wrapping paper of my gift on that festive morning. It was a pair of boxing gloves! The perfect present for me so I would never again have to use the smelly ones at the gym. The only issue? They were bright pink. Just what you need when you are trying to look tough rather than self-conscious as you beat the punching bag in the middle of the gym, surrounded by men.

Delighted as I was with the gloves’ functionality, I started to question why I had such a negative association with the colour pink. Pink undoubtedly has connotations of girly-ness. Even when men wear the colour, the look is described as metrosexual (or even gay) as though it indicates some sort of dalliance into feminine territory.

So why was pink the only colour option available in the women’s boxing section of the store that my boyfriend visited? And why do manufacturers make products pink for women and another colour for men, when the product is otherwise identical?

I wondered naively whether the free market was merely meeting an insatiable demand for pink on behalf of women. Alas, one study showed that both males and females prefer the colour blue (notwithstanding that females significantly prefer the redder hues of blue) so that would seem to be the safest colour option in terms of mass production at low cost. What appears to be happening instead is this: brands are marketing pink products as better meeting women’s needs, whilst retailers display them away from the male section so that women do not notice that they are paying a premium for pink products.  After all, according to this analysis by The Times, women are charged on average 37% more for clothes, beauty products and toys than men are for equivalent products.

Fortunately the tide appears to be turning. Just this month, Tesco reduced the price of its female twin razorblades to match that of the equivalent male razors following campaigns against ‘sexist pricing’. Prior to this, women were being charged twice as much for female twin razorblades as men were for the same product.

Historian Jo Paoletti – who has written a book exploring the meaning of children’s clothing over the last 30 years – says that the custom of pink for girl (and blue for boys) is a fad that can change if enough consumers defy it. “One thing I can say now is that I’m not real keen on the gender binary—the idea that you have very masculine and very feminine things,” she says. “The loss of neutral clothing is something that people should think more about. And there is a growing demand for neutral clothing for babies and toddlers now, too.”

Whilst I don’t side with Julia Hartley-Brewer who said that “if you’re dumb enough to think that a razor that’s pink will be better at shaving your underarms or legs than a blue one, then you deserve to pay more,” I will certainly be looking out for the so-called ‘pink premium’. By continuing to notice and question how a gendered society permeates even our most mundane or involved purchases, we can slowly encourage manufacturers and retailers to break the tradition of charging women more than men for the same products.

Why I Will March on 20th January 2017

By Noa Sasson-Brooks

The Women’s March is this Saturday, and we should all be going.
When I first heard about the Women’s March on Washington, I thought it sounded so important that I found myself trying to justify buying a flight to Washington…even though I am not American. I read the agenda and my heart wept, because it was the most inclusive political document I had ever read. 1200 buses have applied for parking on the day of the march, compared to just 200 for the inauguration. This is important.

The march organisers seemed to have faced pressure in recent days regarding a paragraph which states “we stand in solidarity with sex workers…” they briefly edited out that line, then edited it right back in. This is the real deal, folks. A feminism which includes everyone. People of colour, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, sex workers, EVERYONE. 

This is a movement which has spread across the globe. At the time of writing there are over 600 sister marches planned, 14 of which are in the UK. I don’t think there has been a grassroots political event of this scale in my lifetime. And yet, I don’t see it being given a lot of coverage. Certainly, it deserves a lot more. This is a march which represents the rights of literally half the population. The inclusive nature, the far reaching relevance, is demonstrated by the wide variety of organisations supporting the London march:

Amnesty International, Greenpeace, ActionAid UK, Oxfam GB, Women’s Equality Party, The Green Party, Pride London, Democrats Abroad UK, Syria Solidarity Campaign, Unite the Union, Black Pride, Solidarity with Refugees, WOW, NUS, British Scientists for the EU, She Speaks We Hear, Women 4 Refugee Women, 50:50 Parliament, Women in Leadership, The Equality Trust, Verve UK, Daughters of Eve, Womankind Worldwide, The English Collective of Prostitutes, ActionForRefugeesInLewisham, Latin American Women’s Aid, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Soroptimist International, Women in Prison, Stop The War Coalition, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Left Unity, UK SAYS NO MORE, Inquest, Black Women’s Rape Action Project, Women Against Rape, WinVisible, QueerStrike, Women of Colour Global Women’s Strike, Women’s Aid, Morning Gloryville, Payday Men’s Network.

The Women’s March in London has considerations for people with disabilities and marchers with children, to make the day more accessible. I will be bringing my 2 year old and 4 year old daughters, for their first march. The London march Facebook group has 25k people listed as going and a further 31k interested.

I am excited about this, and I will tell you why. After the  US Presidential election I felt devastated, like much of the world, and powerless, like women everywhere. Like how…

I feel powerless when the creepy guy stares at me and I don’t know how to make him stop.

I felt powerless both times I was felt up on public transport and was too young to know what to say.

I even felt powerless when I was felt up on public transport and was old enough to know what to say.

I feel powerless when I’m spoken to sarcastically, with a laugh and a slow nod, and not able to demonstrate that I’m not stupid or emotional, but right.

I feel powerless when I try to stream Disney films for my children but get inundated with porn popups.

I feel powerless when people direct questions to my husband instead of me.

I feel powerless when interviewers ask me about my childcare arrangements.

I feel powerless when I’ve got literally nothing to watch on Amazon Prime or Netflix because I’ve watched everything with a female non-sexualised protagonist, which passes the Bechdel test.

I feel powerless when I look at this world and think of my daughters, who will soon be navigating this patriarchy as self-conscious and confused teenagers, and knowing the damages they will simply have to endure before they can grow, and then fight.

I feel powerless as I watch the complex web of discrimination faced by women with disabilties, women of colour, LGBT women, Muslim women…and as an able-bodied white feminist I want to be an ally but the scope of my power is so very limited…

I feel powerless that society wonders why women stay in abusive relationships, but not why men are abusing them.

I feel powerless when women with post-natal depression are dismissed as being ‘just’ hormonal.

I feel powerless that schools teach girls how to stay safe and not get raped, but boys are not taught not to rape, and neither is taught about consent.

I felt powerless when the UK voted to leave the EU amid a xenophobic rhetoric.

I feel powerless as the government brutally assassinates the NHS, tortures the school system, shreds our environment, steals from the poor and gives to the rich….

I felt powerless when I had to watch a knowledgeable, experienced, educated woman be rudely challenged by a stupid man who had no idea what he was talking about; watched her resist the urge to scream “shut up” while pretending his ignorance was worthy of her time and response; enduring his emotional outbursts, the likes of which would instantly end her own political career if she displayed them, and responding calmly and intelligently and respectfully; and watching her lose to an opponent who was simply not worthy of her, because a man’s ignorance will always be given more weight than a woman’s experience simply because it is spoken in a deeper voice.

So that is why I will march. To give myself the illusion of feeling, just for a moment, that I am not completely powerless.

Girl from the North Country

Girl from the North Country

By Natalie Lever

By Natalie Lever

If I smile at you with cherry red lipstick, I do it out of courtesy and not curiosity.’ — Vinatoli Yeptho

Vinatoli Yeptho is from Dimapur, Nagaland. She wrote and performed a poemshared many times online, counteracting stereotypes that emerge from the Northeast of India and expressed defiance against the labels given to her as a girl from this unique part of the country.

A common perception is that ‘Northeasterners’ are spoiling traditional Indian culture by being more Westernised. Women and girls specifically, are sometimes reprimanded for their choice of attire; Western, tight-fitting clothes paired with fairer and oriental-looking face (‘once, when I was in Ahmedabad, a girl who was very friendly towards me asked me which part of China I come from) invites second-glances and staring when they travel out of their states and into the ‘mainland’. There’s no denying that it’s cold up there, so what’s the use in a loose, cotton kurti over warm, denim jeans?

Before the British colonised India, except for some parts of the Brahmaputra valley, most of the Northeast existed as a separate land, isolated, with their own religions. It was only with the British that the introduction of the Evangelical church converted almost all the tribes to Christianity. The church exposed them to new standards of the modern world including scripts for their languages, education, and new clothing and custom; the people I meet dress in Western clothing, have Christian names and seem slightly more free to display a relationship in public with those of the opposite sex (in Meghalaya’s capital, Shillong, we felt the sense of companionship amongst mixed-gender groups walking in the streets being much more at ease, and this was much more frequent than in Mumbai). This hybrid culture, mixed with remainders of Hinduism, the introduction of Buddhism, traditional Indian cuisine, new languages, ancient tribes (throwing in the astounding physical geography) makes it a place unlike any other I have ever seen; a kaleidoscope of India.

In Meghalaya, Matriliny gives women from the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo tribe-culture rights of inheritance and succession. The youngest daughter of the family inherits the family property and is considered the custodian and preserver of her clan, family, and lineage. Under the matrilineal system, the family lineage (and name) is passed on through the mother’s clan line and when a child is married, they move in to live with the family of the daughter rather than, traditionally, with the son. Karolin Kluppel is a German photographer who has captured powerful and beautiful images in the beautiful backdrops of the state. But, I think that these visuals seen out of context can obscure the fact that although women have more control in some ways, they are still living under the guise of patriarchy in more traditional structures (such as in formal institutions like the legislative assembly). While the women are the head of the family, when it comes to ascertaining their political rights, they are in a disadvantageous position. In the political system, women are entrusted with administrative functions and not with leading or protective roles.  It is encouraging though, to know that women in Meghalaya can have the freedom, independence, and choice in family matters and, to an extent, it appears ironic and a little disorientating to hear of campaigns from men who live there who are fighting for more equal rights.

Kingdom of Girls
Photo by Karolin Kluppel

In the capital Shillong however, we meet a twenty-year-old student named Livi and we have a positive conversation about her experience as a young woman living there. She tells me that in Shillong, it is ‘known as one of the best places for education in the whole of Northeast.’

‘I feel that a woman could be seen to be more respected in the Northeast than in other parts, and I think that in general, they feel safer due to the way people around them are helpful, kind and generous at all times. I personally find Nagaland to be one of the safest places in India; our people are very hospitable, well-cultured and very much founded in traditions. I am not only proud of my home, but I know that it is unique and different. You notice the freedom as soon as you arrive here.’

On the long train home to Mumbai from Darjeeling, we found ourselves without a confirmed ticket and only on the waiting list for beds. We chose to board the train anyway, hoping to upgrade, when a man named Binoy offered us his bed for the most part of a day whilst he shared with other passengers until we could upgrade our own tickets. Packed like sardines, we talked and shared food (even tasting hot chillies from the plains of the Northeast). Binoy later told us that he didn’t think twice about helping us because he respected us; we had told him our story and he admired that although we knew about how difficult it can be for women in India, we had still chosen to come and work here. He explained that he was proud of being from the Northeast and always thought of it as a more equal and just place for women; he wanted to do anything he could to solidify this.

‘Are you not scared?’ we are often asked as solo women in India. Never scared, we think, only curious, grateful, and happy to learn from the people we continue to meet.

‘Remember that my forefathers were head hunters. I was born out of a clan of warriors / Remember the world’s hottest chilli is growing in my grandmother’s garden.’

[Vinatoli is a student at the National University of Juridical Sciences. Her poem has opened avenues for discussions around the racism that people from Northeast India must face every day from the rest of the country.]