The horror of pink toenails

I’ll warn you up front, this is a rant. My last one was about the deification of Ron Moore. This one is a lot more personal, and also thankfully much briefer.

Apparently this J. Crew ad has been pissing people off because it shows a woman painting her five-year-old boy’s toenails. The ad quotes the mom as saying, “Lucky for me, I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink.”

Some of the outrage from experts:

“Propaganda pushing the celebration of gender-confused boys wanting to dress and act like girls is a growing trend, seeping into mainstream culture. –Erin Brown, the Culture and Media Institute.

“This is a dramatic example of the way that our culture is being encouraged to abandon all trappings of gender identity,” –psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow for Fox News.

And a couple of representative comments from the public, courtesy of TODAYMoms:

“Ah yes… another unhappy mother who wanted a little girl but instead got a boy. Now she is trying to change him into what she always desired. Either that or she is a closet lesbian and she is trying to ruin her kids child hoods.”

“Shame on that mother and how dare she want her SON to wear anything feminine. He is a boy and should be treated and reared as such..PERIOD!!”

Thankfully, lots of moms and other experts have stepped up to challenge this nonsense; but now, because you’re here, you get to hear from a dad.

My oldest son is six years old. He loves swordfighting, playing soccer, Godzilla movies and the Green Bay Packers. He also loves Stevie Nicks and, as part of his fannish excitement, for a brief period he liked dressing up in billowing skirts and scarves while lip-synching to “Edge of Seventeen.” He also occasionally wants his mom to paint his nails.

Now, do the last two things cancel out the first four?

I understand that this “controversy” is basically the result of trolls looking for something to be offended by, rather than any real substantial issue. But it still irks me, because it’s one more example of adults co-opting aspects of childhood for their own ends. In my experience a five year old boy is incapable of gender confusion unless his family forces the confusion on him. He’s simply unconcerned with accepted gender roles, and has the wide-open ability to enjoy things whether they’re traditionally “masculine” or “feminine.” We lose that when we become aware of things like social embarrassment, shame and peer pressure, three joys of adulthood waiting in my son’s near future. And we lose some of childhood’s magic every time these trolls do something like this.

In the meantime, though, he’s free to enjoy whatever aspects of gender he wants, up to and including nail polish and billowing skirts. He gets the magic as long as he can.

8 Comments on “The horror of pink toenails”

  1. I completely agree with you. As a psychologist, I see too many children afraid of picking up the "wrong toy" or liking something that sets off the parents bigotry.

    Prejudice is learned and Dr. Ablow, and others, are trying to force it on their viewers/readers. One of the comments you quoted said the kids were losing their childhood. They are, they are being shoved into stereotypes by fearful adults.

    Thanks for a great post,
    Graylin Fox

  2. I have a *huge* issue with people thinking that blurring the edges of gender identity is a bad thing. But that's a long-winded topic, and I'm not in a long-winded mood.

    FFS! How old is this boy! Do you think he associates pink toenail polish with wanting to be a woman?! No! He associates "Color! Colored toenails! Score!"

    People read way too much into things.

  3. Nicely said! I'd rather my kids just enjoyed whatever they want to enjoy, regardless of it being "wrong"-gendered or not.

  4. Pink is a strong color, according to Bekah's youngest.

    You know, the boy.

    When I was a wee one, other kids were very concerned about "girl colors" vs. "boy colors" and I remember thinking "How ridiculous! There are just colors."



  5. These kinds of things always make me mad. If the ad featured a girl dressed in "boy" clothes and playing with a science kit, it would have been considered gender equality. There is an undercurrent of sexism here that is often unacknowledged; a boy doing "girl things" is bad because the feminine is inferior. Parents who don't follow this line of thinking suffer a lot of judgmental attitudes

    Children could care less about all of this and will play with whatever catches their interest until an adult tells them it is bad. I used to work in day care, and boys would wear princess dresses and hard hats equally (and sometimes simultaneously). I think we could learn a lot about openmindedness from our children.

  6. So I have to say, when I read this, "Propaganda pushing the celebration of gender-confused boys wanting to dress and act like girls is a growing trend, seeping into mainstream culture."

    My first thought was…


    Let the kid decide who he or she wants to be.

  7. Alex – I couldn't agree with you more, and I am glad to see parents like you that are aware of just how idiotic those lines of thinking are. You are a good dad.

    Jess – But we do have cats and dogs living together…

    Stephanie – That was exactly my thought as well!

  8. You sound like you run a fun and exciting household. Kudos to you! I laighed out loud!

    Thanks to the parents whp responded. I am currently without children and appreciate knowing that my opinion isn't just that of a single women, but of a practical human being.

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