What do you think when you see a woman in a pink ski jacket, or riding a pink bike? Or climbing in a pink shirt and chalkbag? Do you assume she’s not hardcore? The girlfriend tagging along? Or do you wonder if she’s a true crusher?
For a long time, I’ve not-so-secretly wished outdoor gear companies would branch out from pastels for their women’s lines. I don’t care for pink or purple—I’d rather wear red, blue or yellow. It’s just personal preference, I thought. But what if it’s actually a sign of something deeper? An article in The Guardian says marketing frilly, pink bike gear to women might actually discourage women from becoming more assertive riders.
Is that true? The Guardian article listed a slew of cycling industry marketing fails, and pointed at the industry for alienating women from cycling. Sure, many sectors of the outdoor industry have been guilty of the “shrink it and pink it” mentality at some point, and the bike industry is notoriously male-dominated. But I know lots of women—in real life and through social media—who love pink, and feel empowered wearing traditionally “girly” looks when they’re on the bike, or climbing or skiing or practicing yoga.
Maybe the point is simply that women feel empowered, whether it’s in black, blue or hot pink. I recently I had a wake-up call about exactly how first-world my why-must-this-jacket-be-pink whining is.
In Interlaken, Switzerland, on a rest day during a climbing trip, my boyfriend and I strolled into an Indian restaurant with a small patio. Sitting down with menus, I glanced over to notice the couple at the table next to us. He was in cargo shorts and a polo shirt. She was swathed in black fabric from her head to her feet, only her eyes visible.
We continued our discussion about gear and writing after ordering, and I told Brendan about The Guardian article. As we mused about the marketing to women dilemma, I noticed the lady at the next table finishing her meal. In order to dab her face with a napkin, she had to reach up underneath the long black scarf. I wondered how she could possibly raise a spoonful of Indian curry to her mouth underneath the scarf without plopping it in her lap. And there I was, whining about what color my ideal cycling gear would come in.
As the couple paid their bill and walked away down the narrow street, Brendan leaned over to me, whispering, “She was wearing pink running shoes.”