In Thailand, Hello Kitty Means Humiliation

Bangkok, Thailand has taken a pretty non-traditional approach to curbing police corruption. Of late, they’ve been punishing officers who act out of line by requiring that they wear pink Hello Kitty armbands on their uniforms. “This new twist is expected to make them feel guilt and shame and prevent them from repeating the offense, no matter how minor,” said Pongpat Chayaphan, acting chief of the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok. “Kitty is a cute icon for young girls. It’s not something macho police officers want covering their biceps.”

Hmm, okay, so we get it. Pink Hello Kitty armbands are juvenile and girly. But God, there are so many things wrong with this idea. First off, does anybody remember the last time “violators” were identified using armbands? I’ll give you a hint: It stars with H and ends with OLOCAUST. Secondly, punishing with pink and girly imagery sends implicit messaging that traditionally feminine iconography and colors are shameful.

And this is hardly the only time pink has been used as a weapon…

There are dozens more examples of pink being used as a punishment, but in each case the message is clear: if you want to humiliate and embarrass men, forcing them to interact with a girly, feminine color will do the trick. It implies that being feminine is bad — a punishment, a transgression. And it reinforces the messaging that to be like a woman is to be somehow bad.

But for the Bangkok police force, it seems to be doing the trick. According to one officer, “After this policy came out, the police are scared. It will be very embarrassing to walk around with Hello Kitty on your arm.” [NY Times]