A few weeks ago, before things got super-busy in my life, I was trolling about the White House petitions website and I found a petition that sorta bugged me. I left it in a tab for me to revisit as soon as I had time. As I was distracted with other things, I’d flip past the tab, get just that little bit more irritated, but still without enough time to do anything about it, and would move on with whatever I was doing that was more pressing. Now that I have a bit more breathing space between other duties, I should finally get this off my plate.
This petition asks for all civillian firearms to be mandated, by law, to be pink.
Regulation of specific types of guns may be well- intentioned, but until we confront the underlying psychological and social issues that feed the violence, these laws will have little effect. The fact is that in America, guns have become potent cultural symbols of machismo, masculinity and power.
Therefore, we propose that every civilian firearm in America be painted a shade of bright pink over no less than 90% of their exposed surface areas.
We believe this simple act will fundamentally change the dynamic of American gun culture while still passing Constitutional scrutiny. All will be free to legally buy guns-just so long as they are Fabulous.
I don’t imagine the petition will make its requisite 100,000 signatures by February 28th, but it’s worth discussing anyway.
There’s no denying that guns and gun culture are toxically macho. They are tied into masculinity to such an absurd degree that some of the most iconic figures in popular culture that men are expected to identify with are gun-toting maniacs: Tony Montana, for instance, or Rambo, or any of a thousand other power fantasy men with a “license to kill” and a womanizing bent. Hell, real-life examples abound, even intersecting with entertainment: Ted Nugent comes to mind immediately.
So I get the idea of doing something to “sour the milk”, so to speak, for the hyper-macho gun culture advocates. I really do think that changing gun culture would go a long way toward fixing a society that tries to blame VIDEO GAMES for rampant murder sprees, going so far as to blame games like Mass Effect for the massacre at Sandy Hook. But this is another example of “pinkification” — preying on the well-propagated societal construct that women like pink, and that men cannot, lest they be seen as unmanly. Homosexual, even.
I’ve talked about the societal construct of pinkification in the past. So have others, more eloquent than me. (Yes, that’s the same three-year-old girl that Ben Radford so bravely savaged some time ago with his ever-so-skeptical “they like pink because babies are pink” rationale. Remember that?) I’ve variously commented on the just-so stories that people go to great lengths to make up to justify the “pink is for girls” narrative. Right now, the pinkification movement is almost entirely about enforcing rigid gender roles, playing into tropes that are patently incorrect, and engaging in marketing that is blatantly transparent and, frankly, insulting.
Gun culture should be stopped. However, so should rigid gender roles that suggest that males like guns and females like pink, and the corollary that there’s anything wrong with a man who likes pink.
There’s nothing innate about either preference — they’re entirely societally driven, evo-psych just-so explanations like “picking berries” notwithstanding. There are no real selection pressures TOWARD liking guns, though there might be pressures AGAINST, if gun owners keep shooting themselves accidentally. There are no selection pressures applied to humans for or against wanting pink dolls, given that as recently as the turn of the century, pink was still a boy’s color because it was a more “decided” color, more similar to the red of blood and soldiers’ uniforms. Any explanation of pink preference that is handed to children by the society they live in and only looks at the last hundred years, and calls itself “evolutionary psychology”, is blatantly misunderstanding both words in its title.
Any attempt at this to curtail the toxic masculinity that is gun culture would invariably result in further gender-policing — of the same sort that forcing guns to be painted pink might be described — and would probably incur more violent backlash from an already definitionally violent segment of society. This segment of society that loves guns so much, overlaps very heavily with isolationist, homophobic conservatives. Making guns pink would almost certainly trigger homophobic sentiments, because being associated with a girls color would be “gay”, and these macho men would never stand for such “insults”.
To see pinkification turned against gun culture is, to me, like trying to turn the horde of zombies at the gate against your downstairs neighbors, who are secretly a coterie of vampires. You’re fighting one problem with another problem, and you’re just going to end up with a bigger mess to clean up later. (Maybe even zombified vampires, which might be ten times scarier.) There’s lots of splash damage that can be done here, and I’m sure there are far better ways to control gun culture than by attempting to tie it so closely to homophobia and ridiculous gender-policing over colors.
Never mind the “fabulous” line at the end, which really set my teeth on edge. It makes the homophobia at play all the more blatant.