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Real Men Wear Pink: Breaking Gender Stereotypes for Bad Boys in Fiction

handsome, male race car drivers wearing pink and black

Why can’t hot, straight bad boys wear pink?

This was my indignant question to a few of my writing buddies as we talked about my latest character for my book. A hot pink-wearing street racer. No. It’s not a girl. I spent an evening laughing, being a little disenchanted, and stubbornly defending my ability to create someone manly, rough and tumble, but secure enough to wear all the colors. And I gotta tell you, it was exhausting.

I got bombarded with prejudice, ridicule, and one happy tirade about how ‘gender non-conforming characters’ were doing really well in literature. My character is NOT gender non-conforming! He’s a man! He might not be Vin Diesel from Fast and Furious, but he’s all male, with all the usual ingredients that make up a bad boy.

So, me being me, I went onto the internet and started looking for why ‘pink’ was too sissy for a bad boy. Gender stereotypes aside, I know there aren't a lot of athletes sporting the color, but lo and behold. Here’s what I found! I found these gorgeous male specimens in the world of Formula 1, Pippa Man and Barbie. True, most of them were wearing them for a cause and that’s fine. But I ask you ladies (because that’s my target audience), wouldn’t you like to take this bad boy home after a hard day of racing?

(Left) Fernando Alonso Díaz is a Spanish racing driver currently competing for Aston Martin in Formula One. (Center) Carlos Sainz Vázquez de Castro is a Spanish racing driver currently competing in Formula One for Scuderia Ferrari. (Right) Daniel Joseph Ricciardo an Australian and Italian racing driver currently competing in Formula One for Scuderia AlphaTauri under the Australian flag.

Here’s my ten cents on this. Pink is a vibe, a choice, and a mood like so many other colors. To me, it means I’m just shy of red but just as bold, confident, and fiery. Traditionally associated with femininity, pink has a rich history that weaves through art, fashion, and societal expectations. I found that out when I dug into Pink’s past.

The History of ‘Pink’

Back in the 18th century, if the paintings by masters were anything to go by, pastel colors, including pink, became fashionable in Europe. In fact, some historical accounts suggest that pink was often associated with young boys, as it was considered a lighter shade of the traditionally masculine red. The shift in the association of pink with femininity began in the early 20th century. In the 1920s, there was a noticeable shift in the marketing and fashion industries. An article from Earnshaw's Infants' Department in June 1918 states: "The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl."

So, about a century ago, Americans thought the complete opposite of Barbie’s world (she came out in 1959.) A historian from Maryland University, Jo B. Paoletti, has been studying this and has even published a book ‘Pink and Blue – Telling the Boys from the Girls in America’ on Amazon in the early 2010s. For centuries, children wore pretty little white dresses when they were around 6. “What was once a matter of practicality—you dress your baby in white dresses and diapers; white cotton can be bleached—became a matter of ‘Oh my God, if I dress my baby in the wrong thing, they’ll grow up perverted,” Paoletti says. So, it wasn’t until World War 1 and the 1940s that pink became too ‘girly’ for boys. With Barbie came a tsunami of pink. Everything Barbie touched turned pink—her car, dream house, and even bubblegum. Pink became the unofficial anthem of girlhood, and the color divide was etched in stone. But on a lighter note, even Barbie went race car crazy and surprisingly, she's not all pink.

race car Barbie

The psychology of ‘Pink’

Psychologists associate pink with qualities like compassion, love, and tranquility. That’s why it’s important to remember these associations are socially constructed and can vary across cultures and time. Research by Dr. Alexander Schauss, director of the American Institute for Biosocial Research in Washington, has suggested that exposure to the color pink can calm the nerves and soothe aggression and disorder.

Where ‘Pink’ stands now

The fashion industry has played a substantial role in breaking down color norms. Designers like Gucci, Ralph Lauren, YSL, Hermes, and Louis Vuitton are increasingly embracing gender-neutral clothing lines, and pink is being redefined as a shade for everyone, irrespective of gender. High-profile male figures like these gorgeous race car drivers above have been spotted rocking pink outfits, challenging the notion that certain colors are reserved for a specific gender.

Acknowledging that color preferences, like all personal preferences, should be free from societal constraints is a positive step toward dismantling outdated gender norms. And just so we’re clear, I’m not talking about gender fluidity; I’m talking about gender preferences to color.

man wearing pink clothes with pink cars, ralph lauren

In today's world, pink is shedding its one-dimensional reputation. Fashion is breaking free from the shackles of gender norms, and pink is in. Straight, completely hot men are rocking it. Check out this Ralph Lauren yumminess.

The revolution is real, folks. Pink is no longer about conforming; it’s about expressing yourself authentically. It’s not about being ‘girly’ or ‘feminine’ or ‘gay.’ In a world that's finally waking up to the beauty of diversity, pink is taking its place as a symbol of individuality and freedom. Pink, the OG rebel hue, has come a long way from its days as a one-dimensional stereotype. Today it joins bad boys like red, black, camo. It symbolizes being unafraid, expressing yourself authentically, and embracing the kaleidoscope of colors our world has to offer.

So, yeah. My bad boy race car driver will be sporting some pink and breaking hearts left and right.

fatima razi, bad boy, race car driver from new book

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