Today I picked up my pull at the comic store and immediately noticed that every one of the covers on my comics had the color pink on it. In the past, this is something that would have really bothered me. I grew up with three older brothers and a mom who didn’t have many ‘girly’ habits and I’d come to associate pink with being weak and unintelligent. Looking at the books I picked up this week, Spider-Gwen, Ms. Marvel, Saga, and Silk, it struck me that none of the girls fronting these titles fit the pink stereotype I’ve harbored all of these years at all. The associations that people have with the color pink are slowly changing in a very important way and I think the comic industry is reflecting this shift.
I can think of so many things in my childhood that shaped my current relationship with the color pink. I had two sets of Legos, the regular ones and the pink ones for girls. The pink ones were bigger and had less intricate set designs, implying that girls who liked to play with these Legos were not as capable of following directions or of creatively designing with small, delicate pieces. When I went to the store to buy superhero themed clothes, all of the choices in the girls’ section had sparkly pink Superman logos or the pink outline of a Batman symbol. My brothers, who had been dragged along on the shopping trip, scoffed at these shirts, saying that they weren’t real superhero clothes (not that a t-shirt with a red Superman logo would be ‘real’ superhero wear either, but the nuances of this were lost on me as a child). So I stopped wearing pink. I started shopping for themed shirts in the boys section. I still played with my girl Legos and my Polly Pockets, but only in my room. To school or family gatherings I started bringing my Star Wars action figures and dinosaurs, because those were the cool toys. I wanted to separate myself from ‘girly’ merchandise as much as possible. I fed right into the idea of not being like ‘those other girls’.
While my aversion to pink has been hard to shake, I believe it’s important to keep trying as I have seen a change in the way this color and other ‘girly’ things have been portrayed lately. I think there has been the idea that girls who wear pink, enjoy dating, and like to wear dresses cannot also be strong and powerful. Girly girls have long been portrayed in popular media as ditzy and incompetent, while strong, powerful girls are emotionless and dressed in black. I’m happy to say that superheroes like Ms. Marvel and Silk are changing this perception. These girls are tough. They fight criminals better than most heroes in their city and they deal with a lot of interpersonal and family problems as well. They are the epitome of strong female. More than that though, they’re girls. Ms. Marvel, Silk, and several other females in comics right now have embraced their girlier sides. Actually, no, that’s not how I want to say it. Embracing their feminine sides would mean that they had tried to hide these parts of themselves before. That being a woman was something to be ashamed of. The women in many recent comics are girls. As simple as that sounds, it’s revolutionary that they are able to just be girls and be heroes and be whatever else they want to be without having to fight against the stereotypes of femininity. Silk can go on a date in one panel and take down a Galactus simulation in another panel and nothing about it feels forced or out of place.
With the release of the recent Supergirl trailer, the disconnect between strong female and girly female has really become apparent to me. I’ve heard several people argue that Supergirl should not be worrying about relationships or clothes and that the trailer felt more like a romantic comedy that a superhero show. I’m here to tell you that I am absolutely thrilled that it is able to be both. Thinking about clothes and boys is a reality in many women’s lives. This doesn’t mean that they can’t also be doing really powerful, influential things at the same time. The idea that you can either have strength or femininity needs to stop. Women can choose to wear dresses and go on dates or not wear dresses and not go on dates or a little bit of both, but none of this should have any effect on how their accomplishments are perceived. I’m learning to stop associating the color pink and the concept of girliness with weakness and incompetence. I’m learning that bringing a pink toy to a party doesn’t mean that people can take me any less seriously. I’m learning that worrying about a relationship does not invalidate the work I’ve done in school or in my job. I’m learning to be happy that all of my comic book covers where pink this week and I’m hoping that the world is learning this with me.