It’s the color of girlhood, the flag of female babies, the shade of aspiring princesses and ballerinas, and for years I was prejudiced against it for the girly, ruffly, dismissability it carried with it. When the call came to knit pink pussyhats for the Women’s March, I wondered at my own pink-misogyny, and decided to reassess.
Being a writer, I looked into the derivation of the word. Words have back-stories as well as living, flexible presents, and the connections can be strange. Here I was merrily on my way to a dissertation on garden flowers, the pinks I know best, when I was brought up short: the word “pink” originally meant a small coastal fishing vessel. Even the most stalwart scholars have had trouble figuring out how we got here from there – “derivation unclear,” they say – but in broad outlines it is, or might be, something like this: the boat was small; the word began to stand in for any of the smallest things in a group, for instance your pinkie finger, or the smallest flowers in the garden; then to one specific small flower; then the color of that flower (and the shape of that flower’s ragged edge, “pinked”). It became the canonical female color when a little girl whose grandmother called her Pinky – smallest member of the family – commissioned a portrait of the girl wearing the color.
Several friends questioned the wearing of pink pussyhats for the Women’s March, since we don’t want to be cute and non-threatening. But why not reclaim the color for its assertiveness, its kinship to the powerful red, and the way it matches the inside of my cat’s mouth when she shows her fangs. She kills things with those fangs. Let’s reclaim the fighting side of pink for womanhood. Warning: do not mistake pointy ears and pinkness for submissiveness. I have never met a submissive cat.
While on the subject of the meanings of things, I paged past Imposture, Impertinence, and Implosive, to Inaugurate, with its root in Augury. Inauguration means: to take omens from the flights of birds, then install on the results of their omens; to invest a thing with sacred character. The next word I came to after that was Inauspicious. Like a flight of birds coming too close to a cat.