When I was little, my love affair with the color pink started. From shoes to clothes and toys, everything I owned was coated in it. My favorite book was even entitled “Pinkalicious.” Maybe this love simply stemmed from being a little girl in the early 2000s but regardless of the reason, I was obsessed.
However, as I got older, I turned on pink. I started to think it was “too girly” and “too bright.” Things that aren’t inherently bad, but that had been demonized by the media I was consuming throughout my childhood.
For instance, as I got older, I started to notice that the girls in my favorite TV shows and movies weren’t taken seriously until they developed more masculine traits. Typically, this meant that they sacrificed the pink, glitter and frills that they once had. In fear of being recognized as one of these characters in my own day-to-day life, I toned down my wardrobe, gave up the glitter and forgot the frills. I also started noticing another pattern. The female antagonists in said media all had one characteristic in common: femininity.
The movie “Mean Girls” is a perfect example of this trend. The movie’s main character, Cady Heron arrives at her new high school sporting a tomboy look and is loved by the characters of the movie. It’s not until she begins engaging with more traditionally feminine stereotypes that she is seen as, you guessed it, … a “mean girl.” Then, towards the end of the movie when Cady returns to her original state, she is once again adored by the people around her.
Another example is the Sharpay Evans character from the Disney Channel movie series “High School Musical.” She was often hated by the movie’s characters for her femininity, which in turn encouraged the audience growing up watching the movies to dislike her as well.
While watching these films and many others, it felt like the more modest, shy and bookish female character was always rooted on in an effort to encourage “self-acceptance,” while the girly girl was painted as the villain, time and time again. The consumption of this media made me feel like I had to do the same in order to be successful and liked. I felt like I needed to turn in a tutu for a pair of cleats in order to be taken seriously.
It wasn’t until I turned 15 in 2020 and watched “Legally Blonde” for the first time that I discovered the magic femininity of Elle Woods. Often categorized as a “teen girl film,” which in turn can lead to its overlooking, the story follows Elle as she successfully navigates the world of law. From orientation to graduation, the viewer watches as she conquers cases in pink suits.
For the first time, I got to see an on-screen woman fully embracing femininity while still striving for and achieving success, not to mention the fact that she also found this success in a male-dominated field. Even though “Legally Blonde” was nearly 20 years old before I saw it, Seeing this inspired me. It felt like I was finally shown something that I previously thought was impossible.
After watching this, I was inspired to follow in the footsteps of Elle Woods. Though I don’t currently plan on entering the field of law, I have worked to find ways in my day-to-day life to incorporate her style and work ethic. I now wear skirts to present at journalism conferences, I rock glitter on my eyelids during interviews with sources for stories and best of all, I can proudly say that my favorite color is pink.
Telling young girls that they require masculinity in order to have success damages the way that femininity is viewed. There are over 800 million young women and girls in the world. As the next generation is raised, it is important that they are taught that success can be achieved, even while wearing a skirt. By showcasing more accomplished women in film and television who sport traditionally feminine looks, the world can become a safe space for other young girls like me.