Updated: Jan 4, 2019
French women go down the streets to defend their fundamental rights in mass, and they all wore purple.
On November 24th 2018, tens of thousands of people marched the streets of the largest cities of France. A feminist, peaceful event to denounce violence against women, entitled "Nous toutes” (‘All of us’).
If I am writing about that today, it is not so much for the cause - which I support, of course - but which is already similar to many others around the world. No, what I would like to highlight is a strong visual symbol, different from what we are used to seeing. I would like to talk about the mauve (or purple) color, which was absolutely everywhere on November 24th.
Posters, clothes, banners, hair ... unlike the Women's March where all wore pink, the "Nous Toutes" march proudly wore purple. The use of this visual code particularly picked my interest because that color is barely seen in France.
Indeed in politics, urbanism, design, fashion, advertising or even trade ... The purple is missing.
So why chose it for this movement?
After some little research, the verdict fell: if this color has so often been neglected, it is for both factual and symbolic reasons.
The purple pigment is - basically - very rare in nature, which made it a rare and complicated commodity to use for dyeing fabrics in the old times.
Purple is the mixture of pink (usually associated with the feminine) and blue (commonly associated with the masculine), and with this ultimately comes genderless properties.
Purple is a color that is neither hot nor cold. An ambiguous, unclassifiable hue that elites (bishops, kings) have appropriated, to signify mourning and penance.
In this context, it is not surprising that violet is rejected by most people, since it has been associated for a long time with sadness and melancholy.
Forgetful then, purple? Not exactly.
Over time, its connotations diversified and it was used in interesting ways.
Chemistry has made it the color of corrosive liquids; in railway signaling, it imposes an immediate halt.
Maybe that’s why, at the beginning of the 20th century, the suffragettes were already painted purple, followed in the 1970s by feminist movements. Two corrosive and insolent movements, spokesperson of a situation that must stop.
So, beyond the simple mixture of pink and blue, it seems that purple is subconsciously the sign of marginalized and ostracized populations. And it marks a situation that must stop at all costs.
For the little story, last year, Pantone elected the ultraviolet "color of the year 2018".
Let's hope we see this color last for years to come, developing again and again, until it becomes less rare, less corrosive, less ambiguous, but just as strong and perennial. Like the gender rights of tomorrow.