The pink divide : commodified femininity, gender performativity and identity

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Creative Industries (Honours)


School of Communications and Arts


Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Norm Leslie

Second Advisor

Dr George Karpathakis


Is a preference for pink a harmless colour choice? Pink has emerged as a social phenomenon in the West and a highly gendered colour choice that stereotypically signifies femininity. In light of Judith Butler’s concept of gender performativity and heteronormativity, this practice-led enquiry enlists photographic portraiture in tableau format to investigate how contemporary Western females use pink theatrically to perform and masquerade femininity. Pink’s historical trajectory from modernity to the present contextualizes how the colour has accumulated connotative complexity, and developed a multiplicity of social and cultural meanings that influence female gender performativity and identity construction. Pink has evolved into a polysemic signifier: long-held, shared reference points – dominant and residual cultural readings of pink – now conflict with emergent meanings resulting in contested interpretations. Pink has been feminised by the marketplace and image-makers to purposefully interpellate female consumption. Such marketing often employs pink in a classificatory manner (particularly for girl-related products) as a form of quasi social control. In recent times, pink has become so overextended as a commercial trope, it has arguably become a ‘saturated signifer’. With its potency all but exhausted, in many instances, pink has become almost a cliché of itself. Consequently, there is a degree of post-modern irony in its continued promulgation. Post-modern and feminist theoretical perspectives, in addition to contemporary visual art and photography concerns, inform this practice-led enquiry that uses photographic portraiture as a primary research method. A small sample of female participants aged four to eighty-eight years were photographed their pink-infused personal environments to investigate how different generations are adopting, adapting and reacting to pink as a signifier; and whether different strands of feminist thinking are influencing their pink usage. The conflicting value-based differences related to pink articulations that separate Second-wave and Third-wave feminist thinking underline what I term ‘the pink divide’.

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