The Politics of T-Ball
Strollerderby's Kelly Mills expresses excitement about Target's new line of pink sporting goods, which includes soccer balls, golf clubs, tennis rackets, and baseball gloves. Mills hopes that increased availability of these items will help to encourage young girls to participate in sports. She also sees in this trend aesthetic implications for the adult world, writing, "My long range hope is that with more and more girls participating in athletic endeavors, we'll see some serious improvements in the current palette of black-red-orange-forest green-white-gold that dominates most sports."
One assumes Mills is being at least partly facetious, since she points out that some boys would rather go barehanded than borrow her daughter's pink mitt (not exactly surprising). Any future changes in the color palette of American professional sports are likely to be subtle and gradual rather than "serious." But her proposal does provoke consideration of some serious ironies that come into play when design starts to reflect a changing social landscape.
Pink is, after all, still the color of conventional girlhood. When a color with specific cultural associations is put where it doesn't seem to belong, what is the overall effect? When a girl takes the field with a pink baseball glove, do people see a glove first and foremost, or do they see something pink (i.e. non-threatening)? Or is it possible, as Mills half-jokingly suggests, to change the popular perception of two elements at once by joining them?
I can't claim to know how to change popular perceptions, but it's a fact that they do change. A comment on Mills's blog entry asserts that girls are drawn to pink out of "nature not nurture." The truth, however, appears to be a great deal more complicated. The COLOURlovers blog recently published an interesting list of "color legends" examining the origins of some seemingly arbitrary associations placed on colors. The authors use excerpts from early-20th-century newspaper articles to make a convincing case that pink was actually a boy's color before the 1950s.