Rose Quartz and Serenity are the official colors of 2016, according to Pantone.
Normally, one color is selected each year, and it influences fashion, impacts what consumers will see in movies, television, media, and design, and invariably reflects our culture.
Normally I don’t pay attention, but the selections for this year are meant to help start a conversation about gender, and break down our preconceived notions about color assignments.
Most who are not close to fashion would call the colors light pink and light blue, colors historically connected with infants, as signifiers of boys (blue) and girls (pink). A quick archive dive will point out this color phenomenon is relatively recent, within a couple generations.
More recently, gender segregation of toys and clothes has come back to the spotlight, with items marketed toward girls taking on pink coloration, even when the product was perfectly fine in its original color.
Even brick giant LEGO got in on gender segregation with the launch of its LEGO Friends line, the culmination of many years of excluding girls and women from its toys that were supposedly nongendered. While there’s a busy contingent of people making LEGO’S Friends into awesome role models for girls and other spaces devoted to keeping toys, clothes, and fashion accessible to people of all gender identities, there’s still a lot of gender essentialist beliefs present in design and color choices for kids and teens.
Pantone’s decision to put one shade of pink and one of blue is supposed to spark a conversation about color choice, gender identity, and marketing decisions. Choosing those two shades might help people in roles stereotypically associated with a different gender find things that validate their choices and decisions, but it doesn’t take into account the full spectrum of identities that might be using your library and its services.
As you plan your programs and services for 2016, think about the colors you use in your marketing, library spaces, and displays. Take a look at book cover color choices and see if they follow gender stereotypes with their cover images. Consider adding more colors, or books that defy gender roles that are of the same color as those that don’t. Use the color choices as a springboard to talking about the idea of a gender binary and all the ways that that binary is both reflected and subverted in society. Talk about pronouns, hair styles, occupations, clothes, toys, expectations, and identities. If your goal is to provide a welcoming environment for anyone who steps foot in your door, the more explicit signs you can give, actively or passively, the better your chances are of achieving that goal.
~ Co-written with Alex Byrne, Pierce County Library System.