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'Pynk' vagina pants: Janelle Monae's satorial salute to female sexuality

There are no hidden messages in the music video for Janelle Monae's empowering track, 'Pynk'

22 April 2018 - 00:00
Actress Tessa Thompson emerges from Janelle Monáe's pink pants in the music video for her track 'Pynk'.
Actress Tessa Thompson emerges from Janelle Monáe's pink pants in the music video for her track 'Pynk'.
Image: Janelle Monáe/YouTube

The colour pink is having a moment - again. Janelle Monáe has just dedicated her new track to the colour pynk. Spelt just like that. With intent.

Very much like the colour blue, pink has the distinction, along with its gendered appropriation, of having been immortalised in musical terms.

In the '50s in the Audrey Hepburn classic Funny Face, the original editrix (long predating The Devil Wears Prada) declares that the missing magic in her magazine's pages is the colour pink.

"Now I wouldn't presume to tell a woman what a woman oughta think/But tell her if she's gotta think: think pink!" she cries authoritatively, editorially and rather surprisingly by today's feminist standards.

Yes, women do think. Sometimes in pink. Or even pynk. Apparently that song directly resulted in the huge commercialisation of pink in women's wardrobes. That and Jayne Mansfield living in a pink mansion, driving a pink convertible and wearing only pink.

In ridiculous rhyming couplets, Aerosmith immortalised their own paean to pink in full-blown '80s style. "Pink is the bing on your cherry/Pink cause you are so very/Pink it's the colour of passion/ 'Cause today it just goes with the fashion."

Um thanks, Steve Tyler. The implication is clear. He is talking about the pink nether regions of his lady love. Her cherry, so to speak. This pink is a euphemism for the vagina in all its pink delights.

I suppose the word "vagina" is harder to rhyme with. But pink has comfortably stood in for the female sex since Madame de Pompadour, mistress of King Louis XV, demanded a special version of her own pink tint from Sèvres, the porcelain factory.

While pink has always travelled between the poles of romanticism and seduction - a symbol of innocence worn by both male and female infants and children and sometimes even the Baby Jesus in Renaissance paintings - it has also always signalled female desire in the older, more nubile, woman.

In the '30s, Elsa Schiaparelli, the Parisian couturier, invented a deeper, richer colour called Shocking Pink. Her friendships with the Surrealists may have worked on her sensibilities, and her perfume in a bottle modelled on Mae West's torso, called Shocking, made the pink point perfectly.

WATCH | The music video for Janelle Monáe's track Pynk

A darker, more tragic shade of pink, the colour of the identifying triangles worn by homosexuals in the Nazi concentration camps, resulted in the pink triangle becoming the chosen colour of the modern gay rights movement. A statement of intent born from oppression.

Which brings us neatly to Monáe's Pynk, and the giant flaring vagina pants she sports in the video. The implication is clear. She is the bing on her own cherry. At some stage her rumoured lover, the actor Tessa Thompson, pops her head through the giant flaring vagina pants and smiles impishly. It is a riot. Of the best kind, over the top, highly camp, and the next logical step to pink pussy hats - pynk pussy pants.

On some real old-school white cotton knickers she wears in another shot in the video, the rubric "I grab back" is an explicit message for a certain president. The knickers have the added charm of pubic hair sprouting from the sides. No one has seen pubic hair since 1979, so that right there is pretty radical.

Of course being a Janelle Monáe video (with a special guest appearance by Grimes), some of her friends in the shoot are not wearing the giant flaring vagina pants because not all women have a vagina. Duh.

But that aside, this Pynk song is an abundant, explicitly joyful rendition of female sexuality in all its unbound and inclusive glory - owned by women who think pynk. "Cause boy, it's cool if you got blue. We got the pynk."

Read Aspasia Karras's 'Fear and Clothing' column every Thursday on Times Select.

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