You may have noticed by now – I’ve got a pair of pink boxing gloves. Also a few pairs of pink handwraps. And my beloved Everlast Michelin Hydrolast boxing boots are maybe the pinkest of all. (Yes, that’s my stuff on the header graphic.) This led my significant other to joke that they should call me “The Eraser.” Which my trainer loved, and it seems I am now stuck with it forever.
I’m not a girly girl. I swear I’m not. Out in the world, I don’t have any more pink clothing than I do green, or blue, or black. Even in the gym I’m more likely to be wearing a t-shirt from some 5K or another than a matching workout ensemble by whatever designer’s doing them these days. I generally don’t wear makeup or jewelry unless I’m going to a wedding, funeral, or job interview, and I only put on a skirt if it’s really hot outside. And yet, there’s my obnoxiously electric-pink boots, and my cotton-candy gloves, and my pepto-bismol handwraps.
I admit, I have some mixed feelings about my pink gear, and even a little pink guilt. I’m very much against the ghettoization of pink objects, or of pink things being somehow other or inferior to their non-pink (and therefore generally assumed to be male-targeted) counterparts. Especially in the sports world where women are already othered. And I’ll admit when I first bought gloves, that didn’t necessarily occur to me, and as my greater immersion in the boxing world has coincided with my greater immersion into feminist thinking, I’ve had to unpack the pink-gear conundrum a little. (Worth noting: it’s also coincided with a rise in all manner of everyday objects, from pro sports team logo gear to Kitchenaid Mixers, suddenly being available in bubblegum pink, and an increase in princess-themed crap for young girls…but that might be a different rant for a different time. There’s also the fact that pink may or may not be an arbitrary color choice to associate with femininity, historically and biologically speaking, but yeah, also slightly digressing.)
It is a little problematic that you can go onto boxing equipment websites like Ringside, Everlast, or Title Boxing, click on “women’s equipment,” and be taken to a wall of pink products. You can GET women’s gear that ISN’T pink, but from the looks of their landing pages, you might not know that right off the bat. Everlast is slightly better than the other two in this department, but even there, if you click on “women’s gloves,” you’re shown only training gloves, and not a one of them doesn’t come in pink. (Message: “let’s run along to our non-combat workout and leave the actual punching to the mens, okay girls?”) (Note that if you go to just “gloves,” you do find suitable-for-combat gloves in a veritable rainbow, including pink.)
And then there’s the association of pink goods with “breast cancer awareness,” which could mean anything from “a portion of the money you spend on this pink thing will go to a legitimate breast-cancer research organization” to “we hope that your desire to do good without really going out of your way and/or your titillation at the thought of breasts, any breasts, will cause you to thoughtlessly buy this pink thing just because it reminds you that breast cancer exists.” Again, mixed feelings. Again, probably another rant, and maybe one that doesn’t strictly belong here.
But even considering all that, it does make me happy that I can get any piece of equipment I need and the manufacturer has considered that a woman will be using it. Pink at least signals that if I’m not otherwise sure. So I have to say that’s not entirely a bad thing, especially considering that women’s boxing has only really started to see mainstream acceptance in the last 20 years or so. Everlast and the like now get it that women want their gear. It’s a step in the right direction. And it’s not exactly the same as, say, a pink hat emblazoned with the Yankees logo, because physiologically, sometimes there are differences between men and women. A hat functions as a hat no matter whose head it’s on. Same for gloves, actually, which I figure could obviate the need for there to be “men’s gloves” and “women’s gloves” on those aforementioned boxing gear sites. (Are you listening, boxing-gear sites?)
My pink boots, for example, were a matter of practicality. I tried on every men’s boot I could find in the greater metropolitan area and found that they just didn’t fit my feet the right way. My instep is too narrow and my metatarsals stick out at the wrong spot on the shoe. It was obvious I needed a women’s shoe. I liked the Everlast men’s boot the best, so I sought out the female counterpart – which I immediately identified as the female counterpart because it’s pink. I bought them online, guessed at my sizing compared to what I knew of their men’s boots, and they turned out to fit like a dream. Something I did appreciate about Everlast, even though it turned out not to be helpful to me during the try-on process: all of their shoes have both men’s sizes and women’s sizes on the box. Even the ones that are explicitly called out as being for women.
Then again, I can’t imagine pink gear not being an asset in the ring, the more I think about it. If my opponent sees my pink gear and assumes it indicates some kind of softness on my part, that can only work to my benefit. (Assuming it isn’t true, of course.) I don’t mind if my pink stuff marks me as a woman, because, duh. The part that pisses me off is that it then naturally follows to mark me as weak, other, or second-class. And how best to combat that than to show that I am none of these things, all while wearing the “girly” color?