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Feb 23 2013

Gun control, pinkification, and splash damage

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.

18 comments

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  1. 1
    Aliasalpha

    It’d only create a gun respray industry unless it was made illegal to own non pink guns and people would be arrested for having metallic firearms

  2. 2
    Marcus Ranum

    I wrote a piece in that vein a long time ago; it may still be up on Oleg Volk’s blog. And it was wrong.

  3. 3
    Marcus Ranum

    Ah, yes, it’s still there:
    http://www.a-human-right.com/looks.html

  4. 4
    Jason Thibeault

    So it’s not an entirely fresh meme? I’m not completely surprised. Very happy that you see the wrong-ness too.

    I’m not entirely against the idea of mandating that they be a very bright visible color though — the lime-green guns look pretty good, though hunter orange might work better.

  5. 5
    Aliasalpha

    Don’t things like airsoft guns have orange bits to show theyre not real weapons though?

  6. 6
    rturpin

    I sometimes joke about sticking rainbow stickers on the bumpers of the trucks at the gun range. Here, someone went and turned it into a White House petition!

  7. 7
    TerranRich, Yet Another Atheist

    I sometimes joke about sticking rainbow stickers on the bumpers of the trucks at the gun range.

    You do see how that’s wrong… right?

  8. 8
    bad Jim

    There was a case in which carrying a pink gun was literally emasculating.

  9. 9
    timberwraith

    Wait, women are supposed to like pink because babies are pink? What about the huge swaths of the human populace whose babies aren’t pink? You know: all those babies born of parents who aren’t European? Does this mean that only white women like pink? Do women of color prefer white babies to their own babies because their babies are the wrong “evolutionary color”?

    Not only is this bit of evo psych an example of the usual sexist bullshit that gets pumped out, but it’s also stupidly racist. This is like saying that peach colored band-aids are “flesh tone”. I thought this kind of shit went out with the 80s, big hair and New Coke. I guess not.

    Simply extraordinary.

  10. 10
    laurie

    So annoying, and so wrong. So if we make macho types think that guns are “feminine” they won’t buy guns anymore? I understand your increasing irritation whenever you came back to the petition.

    And just for fun, a little history on the pink is for girls meme.

    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/When-Did-Girls-Start-Wearing-Pink.html

  11. 11
    timgueguen

    US gun companies are marketing pink coloured weapons for women.

  12. 12
    Marcus Ranum

    Oleg posted that version in 2007 when he upgraded his site but I originally wrote it around 1996. I was being somewhat facetious at the time. :/

    I’ve actually always favored various controls on guns. But since there aren’t any, I’m going to have fun with them. That was my attitude for a long time, until I realized that the way US gun control laws are set up, it works out that only people with money can own good quality stuff. Coincidence? I think not; it’s like the mediaeval weapons-carrying customs all over again. A ci-devant like me can afford to deal with the paperwork and whatnot and get suppressed or even full automatic weapons – it’s a matter of the paperwork and position. The simplest route if you have no criminal record and can afford to own a separate place of business, is to get a Class III destructive devices dealer license and then you can buy pretty much whatever you want (at the cost of doing paperwork) When I realized how the system is rigged I stopped buying guns but didn’t get rid of what I already have. They’ll go out of circulation when I die since some of them would be hard to legally transfer.

  13. 13
    Marcus Ranum

    Don’t things like airsoft guns have orange bits to show theyre not real weapons though?

    Toy guns are required to be obviously toys. And it’s a crime to repaint them to make them look real. This is to stop cops from shooting so many kids that have toy guns.

    I have to say that some airsofts look so much like the real thing that I have trouble telling them apart side by side unless I’m looking at the barrel (6mm does not look like .45)

  14. 14
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    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.)

    Or worse yet maybe vampirefied zombies?

    Good analogy and thoughts here. Agreed.

  15. 15
    bad Jim

    The association of pink with gays has a long history: remember the Pink Panthers and the pink triangles gays had to wear in Nazi Germany. We can’t complain when gays themselves use pink to make a statement.

    Pink is periodically used to market breast cancer awareness. I sincerely hope no gun manufacturer ties its pink guns to that campaign.

    The first prototype of the Confederate battle flag was made with pink silk because no respectable woman then would wear a red dress. Some took vehement exception to the color, and Beauregard advised them to dye it red with their blood.

  16. 16
    Olivia James

    I 100% agree that the association of pink with femininity is stupid, but my question to you would be how does that affect the efficacy of this bill? Wouldn’t mixing traditional symbols of femininity and masculinity do something to break down the traditional associations on either side?

    Yes, homophobes and bigots would find it emasculating, but isn’t the whole POINT of the bill to ask them to rethink their stereotypes, and to get them to decide whether they’re more interested in the gun or more interested in the symbol of masculinity, and then to get them to question how meaningful that symbol really is? I don’t entirely get how using pink on guns will reinforce pink as a feminine color. Won’t it do just the opposite because certain segments of society view guns as masculine?

    And beyond all that, even if homophobes and bigots DO find pink emasculating, how are we perpetuating or affirming their stupid beliefs by asking them to use something that’s pink? Aren’t we essentially saying that if you’re bigoted enough to view pink as feminine, you don’t get to buy a gun (which might be illegal in a different way)? I’m not 100% sure if I’m expressing myself the way I want to here, but I feel like you’re holding the creators of this petition responsible for the idiotic beliefs of the people they’re trying to scare away.

  17. 17
    alanstorm

    “There’s no denying that guns and gun culture are toxically macho.”

    Your argument fails right at the beginning. Maybe you should ask my wife, sister and niece, all of whom can outshoot me, how guns are macho.

    Maybe you should try actually thinking about the subject, rather than listening to your echo chamber. “Gun culture should be stopped.” – that’s the primal echo right there, the assertion that all the hoplophobes make. You can’t even describe the so called “gun culture” except in terms of cartoonish stereotypes (I thought all you brilliant independent thinkers abhorred stereotypes…), much less argue that it should be stopped.

    Stick to whatever it is that you know, and leave other subjects to those better informed.

  18. 18
    Jason Thibeault

    Yes, and I know plenty of excellent shots, including my grandmother who hunts, kills and skins deer anually, and my co-blogger Stephanie Zvan who goes to gun ranges semi-regularly, who are in favor of gun control. In all my dealings with the topic of guns — and this MIGHT be selection bias, of course — only men crawl out of the woodwork to savage my arguments without actually considering them.

    Why is it men tie so much of their masculinity into their guns? Why is it the primal echo *I* hear is the wailing and gnashing of teeth of men who refuse to give up their absolute right to own the biggest, baddest, killingest guns around? Why is it gun manufacturers knowingly advertise guns as a way to reaffirm your masculinity completely unironically?

    I know what YOU know is guns, and you’re just sticking to what you know. That’s fine. Congratulations. Good for you. I’m glad you have a hobby. Now what do you have against sensible gun control? What do you have against the merest suggestion that culturally, a nation full of “gun nuts” is an unstable one, and that cultures are perfectly able to have sensible gun control and not tie so much personal identity into guns, and still allow guns as a hobby or as a sport? Countries like Canada?

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