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Mika McKinnon: Pink is my fieldwork uniform

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My boots for fieldwork are the essence of pragmatism, with tall shafts, sharp metal spikes for grip on slippery forest floors, and steel toes for safety, all in bland navy. They’re pure function, with no leeway to form. That is, until you get to the glittery pink laces.

I’m a field geophysicist. Basically, that means I go out into remote areas, ride around in helicopters to reach even more remote mountain peaks and glacial valleys, then spread out an array of delicate electronics and hope it doesn’t all short out in the rain or get chewed on by a bear. I hit a big red button to trigger anything from an electric shock to an explosion, listen carefully for how that signal gets warped by the Earth, then invert that data to pry into subsurface secrets. It’s a fascinating mix of James Bond villain and MacGyver, a blend of geek and jock, and the perfect job for someone who loves the beauty of math but can’t resist the call of the wilderness.

It’s also one of the many science fields where women are a rare sight.

I was always going to stand out among the burly, gruff men who make up most of the transient inhabitants of the mines and exploration camps I go to for gigs. But it didn’t take me long to embrace pink as my signature color during fieldwork, standing out even more prominently in a sea of drab olive greens, matte blacks, muddy browns, and sharp neon orange high-vis gear.


Mika wearing her bright uniform

The author in her signature color.
Courtesy of Mika McKinnon

My foray into pink field gear started in my toolbag as an anti-theft deterrent after one too many of my field knives never made it back from lending out to crew for stripping and splicing wire. I bought a pink knife as an experiment, and when it survived an entire gig, I loaded up on pink flagging, purple electrical and duct tape, and even dusky rose pink gloves. I grew even more excited when I realized how clearly pink stood out when I inevitably dropped a tool in the musty detritus of a forest floor.

The next phase of my evolution was a hardhat.

Hardhats on work sites follow a color code: white for supervisors, green for safety officers, yellow for construction, and so on. Pink falls nowhere on this scale, although some sites have a loaner pink hardhat to bestow as punishment for the forgetful, careless, or simply new. I don’t see wearing a feminine-coded color as punishment and I like being visible at long distances, so on went the pink hardhat.

Then one of my coworkers told me, “I’d never wear a pink hardhat because it would instantly undermine my credibility.” Yes, I was wearing a pink hardhat at the time. Yes, she, too, was one of the few women in this rough-and-tumble industry, although her coping method seemed to be blending in to the dominant culture while mine was aggressively pink confrontation. Yes, I wrote down the exact phrasing to never, ever forget it.

The next day, I laced pink glittery laces into my steel-toed rubber calk boots.

After chatting with helicopter pilots, my signature pink transitioned from ornery defiance into the smart safety choice. Pink is gorgeously, delightfully, perfectly visible from long distances (or when piled in a heap of muddy rubber work boots). It doesn’t matter if I’m working at a mine, in a forest, on a glacier, or any other landscape — unless I’m in a dense field of wildflowers, nothing in nature is going to camouflage me when I’m in bright pink.

Pink had one last unexpected benefit: My glittery laces and eye-searing hardhat became a filter on the types of people I encountered in the field. If the hint of whimsy brought an involuntary smile to their lips, we’d work well together. But if they couldn’t help but express their scorn, I learned up front who thought the mere touch of a feminine color inhibited competence. I waved a pink flag antagonizing those who resented having a woman in the field running a geophysics crew, and when they charged and snorted their displeasure, I could strategize coping techniques to get the job done instead of getting blindsided by their sexism later.


Boots with glittery laces

The author’s glittery boots.
Courtesy of Mika McKinnon

The very reasons pink is met with such hostility during fieldwork is the same reason it smothers even the science section of toy stores. Pink is a gender-coded color, one first relegated to boys as a paler red far too passionate for little ladies, then just a few decades later assigned to girls and declared hue non grata for those wishing to project the manliest of manly aesthetics.

While I’ve yet to understand how children’s toys can be “for” boys or “for” girls unless they’re being used in an adults-only manner, marketers have no such hardships. Science kits “for” girls are inevitably emblazoned with pink. At best, these cotton-candy kits contain the same experiments as the blue “boys” kits, possibly each plastic piece within pinkified to match the exterior case. At worst, the blue box of volcanoes and goop is mirrored by a hot pink case promising DIY cosmetics and soap. This pinkification extends beyond the toy store and into campaigns ostensibly to recruit girls into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) as though a bubbly pink font were the only obstacle to why women are so painfully underrepresented in senior levels of these fields.

But pink is just a color.

Pinkificiation of science isn’t some panacea that will fix systemic sexism that convinces little girls they aren’t good at math, nor will it remove the institutionalized harassment that drives women out of science as the years of injustice grind them down. Pops of pink may soothe my raging soul as a quiet rebellion, but it won’t erase the cultural attitudes driving me to muffle my screams of frustration into a rictus smile that passes for polite.

Pink doesn’t inhibit critical thinking skills. It doesn’t destroy analytical ability. As long as you’re using your personal protective equipment properly, it doesn’t impact data collection. I can wear pink and still be a scientist, even one doing fieldwork.

I don’t dream of a future where every scientist and engineer wears pink when doing their work, irrespective of gender identity. Instead, I dream of a future where we finally realize aesthetics and competency are independent factors in who we are, where personal fashion choices — glam, punk, haute couture, rockabilly, bohemian, preppy, princess, or anything else — are independent of perceptions of scientific competency. The pinkification to lure girls into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is deeply sexist, but so are attitudes that declare feminine choices are incompatible with being smart or doing science.

And if someone thinks pink undermines my credibility?

That’s their baggage, not mine.

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Read Cashing In Online With Viral iPod Video’s: Explode Your Viral Marketing With These Secret

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26 Photos Proving That Happiness Is Not About iPhones

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Some people are chasing their future so fast that they stop noticing how great their lives today actually are. And truly happy people don’t need to chase anything: they are happy to have a comfortable bed, a loyal friend who is always there for them, a present from their grandmother, and for every small achievement on their life path.

These people are more effective than any coach at teaching us to be happy right here and right now and we at Bright Side were inspired by their ability to be happy no matter what.

1. His person just got home after a few months of work. That’s the look of pure happiness.

2. Soap bubbles are absolutely necessary for a happy childhood.

3. These 4 guys agree.

4. “My son has struggled with autism, Tourette’s, agoraphobia, severe anxiety, and OCD. He found solace in writing and just published his book on Amazon! Here he is giving a copy to one of his teachers that helped him along the way.”

5. “The photo my sister sent me of her dog and the new puppy they just got”

6. “My mom made my girls one Pom-Pom rug each. They took 80 hours, 320 Pom-Poms, and she let them choose their favorite colors. Just missed Christmas, but they are ecstatic nevertheless.”

7. “After years of sleeping on the floor and then on an air mattress, I finally own a bed!!! ”

8. I call this one “Pure Happiness.”

9. “My niece has always loved pumpkins. Today, we took her to a pumpkin farm for the first time…”

10. “10 months ago I decided to start learning to love myself. I moved states, got a new job, and have surrounded myself with amazing friends (some new & old). This photo has captured exactly how I feel… Pure happiness! I am so proud”

11. “My wife captured a moment between my daughter and I on the train while she was ‘booping’ my nose with hers. Pure happiness.”

12. “Makes me weak in the knees to see the happiness in my 8-year-old yellow Lab’s eyes, as well as the happiness in the eyes of my 81-year-old Mom.”

13. He is genuinely happy.

14. When your friend is with you and you’re happy:

15. Weee… that was fun.

16. With age, people are more likely to find harmony with themselves and with the world.

17. “My boyfriend got me a lemur experience for my birthday!”

18. Snow. This is all these guys need to be happy.

19. There is no such thing as pure happiness… Or is there?

20. “My mother had wanted a miniature poodle for over 30 years. This is the day Zoe came home.”

21. “My dad got married this past weekend after being single for 13 years and raising 3 girls alone. This is what happiness looks like.”

22. “Here’s another shot of my 101-year-old grandfather with our new puppy! This is pure joy if I’ve ever seen it!”

23. “Me and my girlfriend were in a car accident in which her arm had to be amputated. A week later we adopted Lola, I don’t know who’s happier… I’m going with Lola.”

24. “After an 8 month apprenticeship, and numerous clean downs and set ups, this is me doing my first tattoo on some fake skin. It is what it is but I couldn’t be happier. I earned this.”

25. “My parents split up when I was a baby. Even though they didn’t get along, they maintained a healthy relationship so they could equally raise me. This is our first picture together in a decade. I’m thankful to be proof that parents who are separated can still work together.”

26. Happiness is a state of mind.

Which of these photos seems the most uplifting to you?

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Read Viral Immunity: A 10-Step Plan to Enhance Your Immunity Against Viral Disease Using Natural

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