As a little girl, I shied away from the shade, resenting it for its softness. Pink this, pink that — I’d much rather wear blue and black and embrace the pain of existence. 

Growing up with domestic violence didn’t help. Pink reminded me of what I didn’t experience at home: tenderness. I painted my walls a somber hue of blue and surrounded myself with Nietzsche, Nagel and Frankl. Self denial became a way for me to intellectualize my own trauma. No cotton candy, bubblegum, cherry blossom. Whimsy isn’t for me. 

It was when I was a graduate student at Yale when I discovered I actually loved pink. I googled “gentleness” and the image of rose quartz popped up. I drove to the nearest woo-woo shop and asked the very witchy looking lady at the counter if she sold rose quartz bracelets. 

My magic pebble, a philosopher’s stone — even though I was making it all up in my head, this little piece of rose quartz was a magic healing spell. I waited until the full moon and placed the quartz in the soft moonlight. Suddenly, it began to glow, and I was surrounded by a cloud of light. Fairies appeared out of thin air, and … just kidding, nothing actually happened, but I felt something stir inside of me. 

Was there any magic happening that night? Nope. It was a silly pink pebble in a little bowl of tap water, putzing around in the city’s light pollution. But there was magic happening inside of me. This pink stone gave me permission to take my healing into my own hands, with fervor and gentleness. 

I found pink sweaters on the clearance rack at Target and purchased a pair of pink Converse sneakers. I noticed the more I wore pink, the calmer people around me started to act. The more I surrounded myself with this soft shade, the gentler I allowed myself to be — both to myself and to others. It sounds silly, but softness is contagious. I let the tenderness seep deep into my marrow. 

In 1985, Dr. Alexander Schauss became fascinated with the shade. He noticed that when his subjects stared at a certain shade of pink —  Baker-Miller pink, to be exact —  their heart rate decreased and breathing relaxed. Schauss even took pink into jails and correctional centers to see if its power could assuage violence. 

It did. 

The power of pink trickled down from Schauss’s research lab and into popular culture. Kendall Jenner even painted her walls pink to suppress her appetite and make her feel more calm.

But the more I Googled, the deeper I went into the darker side of pink.

In the 1990s a County Sheriff opened the outdoor Tent City Jail. Cited as “the toughest sheriff in America,” Joe Arpaio forced male inmates to live outdoors in scalding Arizona summers. Prisoners were forced to wear pink underwear, use pink towels and sleep on pink sheets. Less like cotton candy, more like pink Carbofuran, pink was Arpaio’s tool for torture. Dominique Grisard writes that “the pink prison walls regardless of whether they pacify — [were] ultimately designed to humiliate male prisoners.” 

In 2017, Arpaio’s jail closed for good, thanks to pressure from activists. But in the same way that laws do not make people good, legal convictions do not make a contrite heart — Arpaio was later convicted then pardoned.

Pink cannot make us tender, but it is like a magic mirror. It might reveal that deep down we long for gentleness. Conversely, if we loathe pink, it might mean that we resent its softness. Or, like Arpaio, use it as a weapon. 

The whole world could really use a lot more pink. And by this, I mean, the world could use a great deal more gentleness. As an Iranian woman I see the gentleness of my people crying out for an end to the horrific Islamic Regime and a return to tenderness. With the recent slaughter of Mahsa Amini by the so-called “Morality Police,” let us all be reminded that our fight for gentleness is a matter of life and death. It is not just the abominable Islamic Regime that is killing innocent people; we see this too often throughout the world. Remember — whatever you resent, you secretly crave. Do you seek out the softness in others only to trample on it to make yourself feel powerful? 

How do you use pink?

MIA TABIB DIV ’20 is a recent Yale graduate and now works as a social worker and therapist in the New Haven area. Contact her at