J. Crew catalog has pic of boy wearing toenail polish and FOX News freaks the fuck out.

Scan of the J. Crews ad.

The offending advertisement. Click to embiggen.

You’d think it was one of the seven signs what with the way “Dr.” Keith Ablow reacts to a picture in a J. Crews catalog in which a mom talks about how fun it is to paint her son’s toenails:

A recent feature in J. Crew’s online catalogue portrays designer Jenna Lyons painting her son Beckett’s toe nails hot pink. The quote accompanying the image reads, “Lucky for me, I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon.”

Yeah, well, it may be fun and games now, Jenna, but at least put some money aside for psychotherapy for the kid—and maybe a little for others who’ll be affected by your “innocent” pleasure.

Got that? You’re not just setting your own kid up for mental illness by engaging in girly activities, but you’re putting everyone else at risk as well!

What could be so dangerous about putting a little hot pink on your son’s toenails?

This is a dramatic example of the way that our culture is being encouraged to abandon all trappings of gender identity—homogenizing males and females when the outcome of such “psychological sterilization” [my word choice] is not known.

A dramatic example? Really? I’m not sure how you see it as encouraging our culture to abandon all trappings of gender identity. So the boy likes a little nail polish. So did Eddie Izzard and he has been fairly successful in spite of it. Now he’s a dramatic example of abandoning of traditional gender roles.

I speak from experience. I’ve been known to have my toenails painted on occasion as well (though I tend to prefer a more macho blue metal flake color). Granted I did this as an adult, but I don’t think it would’ve been any more damaging had I done it as a kid. Last I checked I was still in a stable marriage, still heterosexual, and overall of sound mind and body. My wife started it. She wanted to paint some toenails and mine were within easy reach so she did. I had so much fun with the reactions I got while walking around in sandals that every summer I usually paint them at least once just because it bothers the fuck out of some people.

People like “Dr.” Keith Asshole Ablow:

In our technology-driven world—fueled by Facebook, split-second Prozac prescriptions and lots of other assaults on genuine emotion and genuine relationships and actual consequences for behavior—almost nothing is now honored as real and true.

The irony of someone at FOX News whining about nothing being honored as real and true is pretty hard to bear given their propensity to make shit up to fit their needs.

Increasingly, this includes the truth that it is unwise to dress little girls like miniature adults (in halter tops and shorts emblazoned with PINK across the bottoms) and that it is unwise to encourage little boys to playact like little girls.

OK, I’ll agree that the tendency of some people to dress their young daughters up like strippers is in bad taste (though I’m not sure halter tops and shorts are the worst offenses in that regard) but little boys playacting like little girls? Don’t see a problem with that. In addition to all the macho boy toys I grew up with, I also wanted an Easy Bake Oven. My sister eventually got one and I spent some time playing with it until my curiosity was satisfied. Later in my teenage years I had a period where I took a home correspondence course in cake decorating which may have been inspired by my time with the Easy Bake Oven. What a horrible outcome that ended up being! I learned how to bake and decorate cakes!

If you have no problem with the J. Crew ad, how about one in which a little boy models a sundress? What could possibly be the problem with that?

That’s a good question. I don’t see a problem with it. In point of fact at one time it wasn’t uncommon for little boys to wear dresses. Some of them you may have even heard of. Such as Franklin D. Roosevelt:

Pic of Franklin Roosevelt as a child in a dress.

Yeah, that's probably what gave him polio*.

That picture comes from an interesting article over at Smithsonian.com that talks about why boys wear blue and girls wear pink:

Little Franklin Delano Roosevelt sits primly on a stool, his white skirt spread smoothly over his lap, his hands clasping a hat trimmed with a marabou feather. Shoulder-length hair and patent leather party shoes complete the ensemble.

We find the look unsettling today, yet social convention of 1884, when FDR was photographed at age 2 1/2, dictated that boys wore dresses until age 6 or 7, also the time of their first haircut. Franklin’s outfit was considered gender-neutral.

[…] “It’s really a story of what happened to neutral clothing,” says Paoletti, who has explored the meaning of children’s clothing for 30 years. For centuries, she says, children wore dainty white dresses up to age 6. “What was once a matter of practicality—you dress your baby in white dresses and diapers; white cotton can be bleached—became a matter of ‘Oh my God, if I dress my baby in the wrong thing, they’ll grow up perverted,’ ” Paoletti says.

Which is pretty much what our good “Dr.” is trying to claim. What’s really interesting, though, is that originally pink was for boys:

For example, a Ladies’ Home Journal article in June 1918 said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” Other sources said blue was flattering for blonds, pink for brunettes; or blue was for blue-eyed babies, pink for brown-eyed babies, according to Paoletti.

It seems like America survived for quite some time with boys wearing dresses for nearly a decade of their lives. And when gender specific colors started to come along the boys started out in pink. But this is a FOX News columnist we’re talking about. He’s not going to let reality get in the way of his argument:

Well, how about the fact that encouraging the choosing of gender identity, rather than suggesting our children become comfortable with the ones that they got at birth, can throw our species into real psychological turmoil—not to mention crowding operating rooms with procedures to grotesquely amputate body parts? Why not make race the next frontier? What would be so wrong with people deciding to tattoo themselves dark brown and claim African-American heritage? Why not bleach the skin of others so they can playact as Caucasians?

I don’t think anyone is suggesting that their children “choose” their gender identity. I think some folks just aren’t freaking out if their kid doesn’t conform to expected gender norms and there really isn’t a problem with that. As for operating rooms suddenly being jammed up with people seeking to change their gender to the opposite team, I seriously doubt that’s going to be a huge problem. At least nothing you’ve presented here suggests that it will be.

Also there’s quite a big difference between allowing your kid to wear hot pink nail polish or a dress and someone tattooing or bleaching themselves in order to become a different race. Though it’s not like some folks haven’t experimented with that concept as an adult with some rather enlightening experiences to show for it. As I recall there was also a show on FX called Black. White. back in 2006 that had a white family and black family switch roles through the use of makeup. It’s something that several people have undertaken without culture crashing down around us.

So we’re left to wonder what the harm is. Finally, the “Dr.” gets around to telling us:

The fallout is already being seen. Increasingly, girls show none of the reticence they once did to engage in early sexual relationships with boys. That may be a good thing from the standpoint of gender equality, but it could be a bad thing since there is no longer the same typically “feminine” brake on such behavior. Girls beat up other girls on YouTube. Young men primp and preen until their abdomens are washboards and their hair is perfect. And while that may seem like no big deal, it will be a very big deal if it turns out that neither gender is very comfortable anymore nurturing children above all else, and neither gender is motivated to rank creating a family above having great sex forever and neither gender is motivated to protect the nation by marching into combat against other men and risking their lives.

He says all of this as though this is something new. It isn’t. There have always been girls who were happy to engage in sex at an early age. There has always been fights between girls. There have always been young men who go out of their way to groom themselves. I can remember all of those things from my own childhood growing up. I’ve seen nothing to suggest it’s more prevalent now than it was back then. If anything, we’re just more aware of it due to the advance of technology.

The argument that this will all lead to the elimination of people who want families and to raise children and to go off to war is, frankly, silly. We’ve managed to conduct two wars for the better part of the last decade without a draft. The wedding and baby industries don’t show any signs of impending collapse. This is nothing but a bunch of hand-waving hysteria mongering from someone who’s supposedly a mental health professional.

But that’s just because I can’t see the conspiracy that’s right before my eyes:

Jenna Lyons and J. Crew seem to know exactly what they’re up to. That’s why the photograph of Jenna’s son so prominently displays his hot pink, neon toe nails. These folks are hostile to the gender distinctions that actually are part of the magnificent synergy that creates and sustains the human race. They respect their own creative notions a whole lot more than any creative Force in the universe.

Yes, they’re out to destroy gender distinctions because it’ll make them rich by being able to sell both men’s and women’s clothing to the same person doubling their profits! It’s BRILLIANT!

Here’s what I want to know: Why can’t we let kids grow up to be who and what they want to be? So your son wants to be a hair dresser. If it makes him happy then what’s the problem? Your daughter wants to be a NASCAR racer. You can make a decent living doing that. Your son wants to dress like a girl? It worked for the aforementioned Eddie Izzard and actor Tim Curry’s best known role involved him looking more feminine than masculine.

The real harm comes from trying to force your kids to be something that they aren’t. If your son ends up being gay it’s because he was born that way, not because he liked playing with Barbies as a child. If your daughter ends up a lesbian it’s because she was born that way, not because she liked playing Cowboys and Indians as a kid. I didn’t care much for watching sports as a kid and I still don’t as an adult. I put my energy into video games and, eventually, computers and it’s served me fairly well. You should encourage your kids to be who they are and not what everyone else expects them to be and it’s going to take them awhile to figure that out. They may bend or break a few cultural norms along the way, but not everyone who paints his toenails is going to end up a childless misanthrope who wouldn’t lift a finger to save his country. If anything they may gain a greater insight into how others are perceived.

*While it’s “common knowledge” that Roosevelt had polio, the truth is it may have been a different disease.

19 thoughts on “J. Crew catalog has pic of boy wearing toenail polish and FOX News freaks the fuck out.

  1. I saw this yesterday. Cwazy.

    I saw this story somewhere a while back…but I can’t remember where but here it is anyway:

    There once was a famous retired bullfighter who was spied washing dishes one day by a younger man. The rumor mill churned and soon the whole village was questioning the manhood of the bullfighter.

    “How could such a courageous man be doing women’s work?”, they asked. Finally several young men decided to approach the bullfighter and asked him why he was doing such work.

    “Its not manly, its women’s work, its…its…its not masculine!” they complained.

    The retired bullfighter smiled peacefully and said: “I am a bullfighter. Everything I do is masculine.”


  2. If Ablow ever found out about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, his head would explode.

  3. I’ve never fit Gender norms, and I had a very hetero-normative upbringing. I was told boys are boys and do boy things, and girls are girls and do girl things. all the attempts to make me conform didn’t change a single thing. and I doubt it works the other way either.

    Painting a boys nails is NOT going to scar a child. Frankly, I’d consider it about like dressing up for Halloween. What will scar a child is berating them for doing something, or shaming them for being different. and the excuse that they’re just protecting them from ridicule, is bullshit. it IS ridicule, and coming from the worst place possible. This Keith ablow makes me sick. I’d not allow him within 500 feet of a child, Lest he try to turn the child into a little clone of himself. Small minded. Bigoted, and credulous.

  4. Never read this blog before but stumbled across it on a google search and had to say what a terrific piece! Nicely written, with some interesting facts I certainly didn’t know. All I can say is, it must be awfully easy to get a doctorate in some places.

  5. @ Jennifer: I have no reason to doubt his credentials, but having a doctorate isn’t a guarantee that he actually thinks.

    @ Brooks: That holiday card is awesome! Wish I lived closer so I could get you to photograph me some time. I’d even put on a dress if you wanted.

  6. Ablow co-wrote a book with Glenn Beck. Given some of Beck’s behaviour you’ll forgive me if I think Ablow has a credibility problem.

  7. *snicker* hoo boy, some one has got their tie on a wee bit too tight there!

    Anyway, as a kid, I can safely say that the only reason I didn’t paint my nails, and still don’t, is because nail polish stinks! I admit I wouldn’t have chosen neon pink though, prolly red or black. I was a morbid kid *shrug*.

    I wonder what he’d think of the fact that I prefer to go the salon to get my hair done instead of down to the barber for a buzzcut?

  8. @Brooks – classic holiday card! Love it!
    I found this blog because someone directed me to the story after I posted a photo on Facebook of my 3 year old son. He was doing what he loves to do: copy his older sister. He had on a headband and necklaces and said to me, “Look Mommy, I a princess!”

    Am I worried about this? No. He also answers the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with: “Polar bear!”

    However, I sure am glad that I don’t have Dr. Keith Ablow as a Facebook friend!

  9. Pingback: What Pop Culture is Teaching Young Boys about Masculinity « Progressive Parenting

  10. Growing up in the 50s I loved food that was real. Not the strange stuff most people were eating. I was intensly curious about cooking and so my mother bought me a Betty Crocker Cook Set. When she found out how much the mini refills cost I got to cook full sized cakes. I only have a reasonable BMI because I have a damaged L3 L4 disc. Bananna Bread!!!!!!!! Crepes filled with fresh fruit and vanilla pudding!!! Scotch!!??? Oh I forgot to mention, I also had a father. They both loved me. NO matter how you teach a child to love life it will help them to be better persons.

  11. Pingback: What Pop Culture is Teaching Young Boys about Masculinity | Progressive Parenting

  12. Pingback: On five-year-olds and gender roles. | Stupid Evil Bastard

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