Fear and clothing: Why you too should Think Pynk
A weekly column on the vagaries and charms of fashion
The colour pink is having a moment – again. Janelle Monae has just dedicated her new track to the colour Pynk. Spelt just like that. With intent. Very much like the colour blue, pink has the distinction along with its gendered appropriation of having being immortalised in musical terms.
In the 1950s, in the Audrey Hepburn classic Funny Face the original editrix (long predating the The Devil Wears Prada) declares that the missing magic in her magazine’s pages is the colour pink. “Now I wouldn’t presume to tell a woman what a woman outghtta think, But tell her if she’s gotta think: think pink!” she cries authoritatively, editorially and rather surprisingly by today’s feminist standards.Yes, women do think. Sometimes in pink. Or even pynk. Apparently that song directly resulted in the huge commercialisation of pink in women’s wardrobes. That and Jayne Mansfield living in a pink mansion, driving a pink convertible and wearing only pink.In ridiculous rhyming couplets Aerosmith immortalised their own paean to pink in full-blown 1980s style : “Pink is the bing on your cherry/ Pink cause you are so very/ Pink it’s the colour of passion/ ’Cause today it just goes with the fashion.” Um, thanks Steve Tyler. The implication is clear. He is talking about the pink nether regions of his lady love. Her cherry so to speak. This pink is a euphemism for the vagina in all its pink delights.
I suppose the word vagina is harder to rhyme with. But pink has comfortably stood in for the female sex since Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of Louis XV, demanded a special version of her own pink tint from the Sevres porcelain factory. While pink has always traveled between the poles of romanticism and seduction – a symbol of innocence worn by both male and female infants and children, and sometimes even the baby Jesus in Renaissance paintings – it has also always signaled female desire in the older, more nubile woman.In the 1930s Elsa Schiaparelli the Parisian couturier invented a deeper richer colour called shocking pink. Her friendships with the Surrealists may have worked on her sensibilities – her Shocking perfume in a bottle modelled on Mae West’s famous décolletage and torso made the pink point perfectly.
A darker, more tragic shade of pink – the colour of the identifying triangles worn by homosexuals in the Nazi concentration camps – resulted in the pink triangle becoming the chosen colour of the modern gay rights movement. A statement of intent born from oppression.
Which neatly brings us to Janelle Monae’s Pynk, and the giant flaring vagina pants she sports in the video. The implication is clear. She is the bing on her own cherry. At some stage her rumoured lover, the actor Tessa Thompson, pops her head through the giant flaring vagina pants and smiles impishly. It is a riot. Of the best kind – over the top, highly camp, and the next logical step to pink pussy hats: pynk pussy pants.
Written on some real old-school white cotton knickers she wears in another shot in the video is the rubric “I grab back”, an explicit message for a certain president. The knickers have the added charm of pubic hair making a guest appearance sprouting from the sides. No one has seen pubic hair since 1979 so that right there is pretty radical. Of course, being Janelle Monae (with a special guest appearance by Grimes), some of her friends in the shoot are not wearing the giant flaring vagina pants because not all women have a vagina. Duh. But that aside this Pynk song is an abundant, explicitly joyful rendition of female sexuality in all its unbound and inclusive glory, owned by women who think, think pynk. “Cause boy, it’s cool if you got blue. We got the pynk.”