A single woman dyes her hair a cabaret red and gestures her hands over an IPA explaining the origins of ‘the red light district.’ Usually this woman is quite shy, but she blooms in the small company at the bar, her smile softening her dark eyes that dart from one woman to the next. She reminds me of a mink, simultaneously fierce and coy: a single rose. Despite herself, she is the very symbol of love in its greatest form of potential. The red has lifted her up, given her the power of inspired desire by softening her natural dark brown color, and complicating it with the sensual: Red.
“The men who worked on the railroad would carry a red lantern with them when they went to the brothels and hang the lanterns up on the porch so that everyone could know where they were. As time went on, brothels began to set up red lantern marquees, or red curtains in their windows to signify what they were. So the origin of ‘the red light district’ is a story about American industry, really.”
One of the three colors in the American flag is the red bars. These bars lie in the very soul of Americans, who bar their secrets and desires into their hearts. Our Puritanical roots left us here, pushing down deviancies and desires. Red must be contained, separated, made smaller. Americans have a difficult relationship, and frankly, a fear, of the color red. It signifies great and overarching power. Red is not a community color, as much as we need it.
Native American culture sees red as a symbol of the Southern direction signifying the heat and creative energy of the South, when the sun is hottest in the sky it is situated in the South. When the sun goes down, the first color to fade from the color spectrum we experience is red. If a sun symbolizes man and the moon the woman the red light strips the women of their femininity, and takes the night with a masculine ferocity. Red’s aggressive inspiration has been associated with masculinity and brute strength.
Margaret Atwood’s "A Handmaid’s Tale" is being remade into a mini series on Hulu. The female figures famously wear cloaks of red, marking them as women, in a sense, exposing to the point of fetishizing one aspect of themselves to render them no more than objects. May that which oppresses you give you power.
Red is the color of a uterine lining falling into toilet water: the monthly death that represents a woman’s fertility. Ironically, many women would prefer to not have this at all, the look of it, the smell of it, take pills or hormones to consume it. The Republican Party itself: a source of embarrassment and fear. In the United States it’s pretty routine to hide or disassemble and ignore the red.
Red wears you. Red will lead you forward. It will speak for you. Of the shades of red, I have noticed a mix of reds symbolizes contentions in our current system. Our current President ran on the very saturated red that now marks the lips of women in the subway. They are not wrong to wear it so mat and bright like they are. Red is coming up over the city like a burnished sun. It was only a couple of months ago we regaled pink in the streets of New York City or DC and all over the world in the biggest march in history. But we need more than that. Red is the color of the base chakra, a color that symbolizes stability, security, and trust. As opposed to last summer, the summer of softness, I see the hardness approach already. We need red to feel stable. To wear saturated shades of red is not a sublimation, but a medicine. We are wearing red to find the courage to be expressive, undivided, and safe again.
In East Asian cultures, red is a prominent color in various ways. Besides the very symbol of communism (which might be interesting as we dissect red in these terms in relation to general nationalistic rhetoric). But red symbolizes luck. Luck: a gloriously forgiving phenomenon that does not judge a person’s characteristics, but her environment. Savvy gamblers will know to wear red to win.
She who wears red has divided herself from the rest, named herself, inspired the bull. So, women, wear red. Red is dangerous. Red is human. Red is out of control but never too much.