My favorite color is black. But then, I am not a very masculine guy.
As everyone knows, the manliest color of all is pink. It is a fact so obvious there is hardly any need to discuss it.
We didn’t always think this, of course. There was a brief time in which masculinity was associated with darker, bolder hues on the color spectrum—your blues, your reds, your greens. Black and brown and silver went without saying.
Pink never seemed to make the cut. When Steve Buscemi is assigned the alias “Mr. Pink” in Reservoir Dogs, his howls of protest bring the proceedings to a screeching halt.
No more. The zeitgeist has shifted. The tide has turned.
On my recent trip to Israel, during which our gang discussed the most profound and vexing questions on matters of faith, war and peace, by far the most contentious debate was over what color the group t-shirts should be.
In the final round of voting, the choice was between pink and turquoise. Following an argument that lasted the entire bus ride from Afiq to Tzfat, pink emerged victorious by a score of 21-20. The men on Team Turquoise did a fair amount of griping after that, but when the t-shirts arrived, all anyone could talk about was how good everyone looked in them—the guys in particular.
At this point, since masculinity is our present concern, we should probably expound on what we mean by “masculine” in the first place.
It is not at all an enviable or straightforward task. Merriam-Webster defines it simply as “having qualities appropriate to or usually associated with a man,” leaving the reader to divine what these “qualities” might be.
For now, let us keep things simple and use the National Football League as a case study.
If any one American organization can be said to embody what we think we mean by “masculinity,” the NFL is possibly it. It is, after all, an all-male collective that engages in an activity involving pushing, tackling, taunting, concussing and so forth—all nominally male-dominated pastimes.
In short: If the NFL does it, it is axiomatically masculine.
Well, then. Every year during the month of October, NFL players don pink helmets, pink gloves, pink spikes and the like, in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, for which the NFL has established a campaign called “A Crucial Catch.” While I greatly doubt NFL players had any say in the matter, they comply nonetheless.
The reason I bring this up? Smash cut to a typical American high school in the previous decade where, were an average student to turn up to class in some pink article of clothing, he could expect—or at least not be terribly surprised—to be called “faggot” or “pussy” or simply be sniggered at by certain classmates. To wear more neutral colors wasn’t a matter of fashion—it was a matter of safety.
Upon seeing their ’roided-up heroes decked out in the dreaded spring-like tone right there on the gridiron, might such bullies have a second thought? If a schoolboy is dumb enough to believe pink signifies a worthy target for torment, is he not also dumb enough to have his outlook reversed by a football team’s uniforms?
Manliness ultimately only means whatever our culture says it means, which is to say that such definitions are malleable and subject to change.
Allow me to run the risk of suggesting that “being a man” ought more commonly to be associated with the kind of courage and confidence that leads one to wear pink precisely because it will generate scorn by one’s less-evolved peers.
Masculinity is to not concern oneself with what others think. To be not afraid. To set the trends rather than dutifully adhering to them. To dare to wear pink.