Everywhere, pink. Everywhere, princesses. Disney princesses. Pink princesses. Barbie. The Barbie movie. Daddy’s little girl. Pretty little girl. Good girl. Be a good girl. Everywhere on Instagram, girls’ faces. Girls’ pretty faces. Girls in bikinis. Girls posing. Girls flashing. Am I pretty now, Daddy? Am I pretty now? Everywhere in porn, girls’ pretty faces plastered in man gunk, pretty girls with their mouths full. Good girls. Be a good girl. You know you want it.
Rewind to the moment your mother laid ankles apart, hips taut, sweating ready to push you out into the world. Your small eyes crack open for the first time to a room filled with pink balloons and your mother's face smiling back at you. She dreams of a world that will be better to you than it was to her. She works hard to give you all the things a little girl needs, how she sees you, her perfect princess.
In this moment, identity is formed. Identification with objects and people, classification of good and bad. Oh thanks, a Barbie doll, a plastic embodiment of the impossible standards of beauty you’ll be measured against your whole life. Oh thanks, a Disney movie, “Sell your voice for a pair of legs and you will land your dream guy”. He’ll be a handsome prince and own his own car – an Audi, a BMW, a Mercedes. Only the best for my little girl. So, be meek, be agreeable, be apologetic, be submissive. Change yourself and a man will love you. A man loving you is the most rewarding thing you can attain in life.
Women are taught from birth what it means to be feminine. Our boundaries are established with frilly pink dresses and plastic dolls with stick-thin waistlines. Pucker up and be adorable for the world sweetheart and maybe you'll survive. And this stuff gets heavier as we pass double figures. Bodies change. Breasts bloom, hips widen, curves deepen. The kids at school mock any difference, sniff out shame. Conform or rebel, it’s the same thing. Even your Facebook-endorsed attributes are derided, draw attention. A friend at 14, full mouth, school uniform: a middle-aged guy calls out “blowjob lips”. And your own urges used against you. Shave those legs, paint those nails, paint those lips. Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all? It’s not only men who encourage this: it’s what we do to one another. But don’t be too popular with the boys, too available. The she-wolf pack sees all, bitch-faced, glossy nails to shiny talons. “Why you talking to my bae?”
Were the Spice Girls a phenomenon because five women pulling together for girl power had the exoticism of an Andean Cock-of-the-Rock? Did feminism really die the day women started pole dancing for exercise? Once pink has taken root, it’s a lifetime of education and therapy to get it to shift. We have a female prime minister but no-one seems to notice – presumably because she looks more like Richard the Third than Khloe Kardashian. We can place no value on her femininity. There’s no sense that as women we’re going to ride in the slipstream behind her. Theresa May is a man in drag: operationally, she’s on the job like one of the boys, plugging the same old Tory agenda. Is she an outlier or an anomaly?
To empower women is to recognise that pink isn't pink after all. Pink is dark. Dark like when your boyfriend held you down and told you to be a good girl. “I know you want it.” Pink is being a good consumer – of products and of men. It’s the pinnacle of the ascent of woman, before (sometimes) motherhood turns us into swollen slaves to a new batch of princesses and little pricks. Your life as a woman only begins when you’ve married Prince Charming. Your life only begins when you become a wife, a mother, a nurturer, a piece of Adam’s rib, a Real Woman.
Wedding days are simply big consumer blowouts, the fine cars and the fancy frocks, presents and speeches, laughter and tears. And tears. Make a list, check it twice: all the crap you ever wanted, shiny pans and a novelty toaster. All that frustration and budgeting and this is your reward. Hey this has been a long time coming, from early steps toying with dollies and pushing little prams, fighting to play Mary in the Nativity. (Choose me, O Lord.) But a wedding day oughtn’t be the best day of a woman’s life, the day we get to be the princess and everyone looks at us and the weight we’ve lost and does what we say because it’s My Big Day. Surely that can’t be it? The great prize can’t be standing outside a random church in a ridiculous white puffy dress with some bloke in a rented suit. And surely there’s an alternative that isn’t chardonnay-sodden, cake-cramming singletonia.
Sisters, let’s try to find the strength to carry on in a world that fundamentally hates us. We are not objects. We are not pin-up girls. We are not baby machines. We are not princesses. We can be whomever we goddamn want. Grow out your armpit hair. Wear trousers. Curse. Fight back. Take control and a better dream will come true.