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This Is Not About the Pink Bus

16/02/2015 17:31 | Updated 18 April 2015

I don't know if you saw the news last week, but David Tennant actually managed to win Just A Minute on his first ever appearance. Yup, that made the news. I find it baffling that we can be so impressed - even allowing for the extra swooning we must collectively do whenever Tennant is involved - when as a nation we have spent the best part of a week discussing the colour of a van. With no deviation whatsoever.

The reaction to Labours Woman to Woman campaign has put me in a bit of a predicament. It infuriates me that, instead of all the discussion a feminist mainstream political campaign should have generated, the media has simply been saying 'barbie' for days. On the other hand, I also think there is a perspective on the whole #PinkBus issue that has yet to be discussed. My predicament being that I can hardly discuss a new perspective (or even my annoyance at the obsession with pink) without directly contributing to my original gripe.

So. Just to be perfectly clear, this is not a post about the Pink Bus. This is about being 'girly' - a wider, and far more important, concept.

One of Harriet Harman's defences for painting the Woman to Woman campaign bus in human blood pink was that it is one of Labours One Nation colours. A quick google image search backs her up on this - a thousand photographs of Ed Miliband standing in front of 'fuchsia' backdrops and 'Cerise' logos. Of course, you might not have known that before this week because, strangely, he has not faced a backlash for using a #PinkLogo or standing on a #PinkStage.

But how could the Sun openly attack Ed Miliband for being 'girly', without committing the societal faux pas of implying that was a bad thing? How could the BBC question whether it was a patronising attempt to appeal to women voters, without giving away that they associate women with pink?

...Why don't we think they've committed those errors now?

Pink, it seems, really is a women's issue. It doesn't matter whether you are a woman of colour, a woman of means, a single mother, a 16 year old girl, a lesbian - if you want to be taken seriously, you can't be pink. And I say 'be pink' for a reason. Because 'being pink' is about more than just wearing pink; it's about displaying any indicator of the particular brand of femininity that pink represents. And it's not only the patriarchy that are pressuring us out of it. We're pressuring each other out of it. We're controlling ourselves.

Feminism is necessary in part because half of the human race was assumed to be 'girly', and that was assumed to be a bad thing. Really, the response to this typecasting should have been: 'We aren't all like that because we aren't all alike, we are more than your general impression of us, and we can present ourselves however we like and still be right about the economy' What we seem to have gone with is 'none of us are like that, we also don't like that general sort of person, and we can talk about the economy because we aren't wearing pink'

There are many problems with this as a response. Firstly, because it puts social restrains on the things that women specifically can wear, or say, or do, and that's the antithesis of what we're trying to achieve here. Secondly, because it's based on a shallow view of women as characters or 'brands' that can be boiled down to a few key indicators. I can't just be wearing pink one day, or happen to enjoy getting my hair done, or put my hair in bunches, without it invalidating everything I've ever said and implying everything else you might need to know about me. It's a standard men don't have to meet, and we hinder women in all sectors if we concede that she can't be taken seriously if she falls into specific traps.

What I wish Harriet Harman had said when asked why the bus was pink: I like pink. Just to see whether anyone would have openly said that she wasn't allowed to, or that this meant she wasn't allowed in politics, or that she was therefore a poor role model to all women everywhere. Sadly, I suspect they would have. Worse, I suspect that would have been accepted as a response.

A good deal more readily than the pink bus was at any rate.