Goodness, the gender-related news is flying so fast I can’t keep up! I haven’t finished my post about the “gay caveman,” and already a new item is on Fox News.
The clothing company J. Crew has a feature on its Web site called Jenna Lyon’s picks. In the current installment, you can spend “Saturday with Jenna. See how see and son Beckett go off duty in style.”
Beckett is wearing a navy-blue striped t-shirt and blue pants. In one picture, he has on funky black glasses; in another, he holds a finger painting. In one, he and his mom are laughing while painting his toes neon pink. “Lucky for me, I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink,” Lyon says.
Foxnews.com reported this as a news story yesterday, with the headline, “J. Crew Ad Showing Boy with Pink Nail Polish Sparks Debate on Gender Identity.” Ah, we could start so many places — like with the fact that Beckett’s gender identity doesn’t seem very much in question at all. He seems like a boy who thinks it’s fun to have special time with mom, being silly, creative, getting attention, and yes, painting his nails.
Or we could start with the strategy of foxnews.com, to “report” a story consisting of a health column on their own site written by Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and writer of thriller novels who has co-authored a book with Glenn Beck and whose other columns for foxnews.com include one questioning our president’s patriotism, and another on the topic of riots in response to a US Koran burning that says in part: “It is unclear what percentage of the Muslim population is insane in this particular way, but it would seem to be an important question for all Muslims to address.”
The article does acknowledge that most responders via Twitter said, basically, “who cares?” Pink being only for girls is a gender stereotype and not a reason to forbid your son from liking it. But it gives the last word to a respondent concerned that a boy would paint his toenails at all.
In the comments, a theme I see quite often emerged — the “what an abusive mother to force this on her child” theme. Pause here, and look back at the photo again. No matter what you think of boys painting their nails, can we at least agree that Beckett looks in no way forced to be doing so? Let’s imagine for a moment trying to get a child uninterested in having his or her toenails painted to sit still for it — nail polish on the mirror perhaps? Let’s deal with reality: we can rarely get our kids to eat their vegetables, let alone magically turn our sons into dress-wearing, purse toting drag queens at our parental whim.
Lots of girls AND boys like to play dress up, get fancy, feel special. Much girl gender play for white kids is connected to one-on-one parental attention and to a feeling of specialness –think brushing and braiding hair, picking out special clothes, painting nails. What do white boys get to do to feel special and to get that kind of intense focus and hands-on anointing from mom or dad?
So what exactly is the problem with Beckett being a boy who likes to put on pink toenail polish sometimes? I welcome conversation about people’s surprise, or discomfort, or concern over media images, but I would really love it if we could talk about what is actually occurring, rather than hyperbolic overblown generalizations. Name your fears, people — are you worried that letting pink touch his skin will make him gay? Are you concerned that spending too much time with his mom will make him womanly? (And what does that mean to you?)
And if you think the J. Crew ad is fun and, in the larger scheme of things, not a big deal; or if you have a son whose favorite color is pink; or if you have a son who likes to play with nail polish; or if you have a son who is a dress-wearing, purse-toting boy, email J. Crew and tell them you like their ad (email@example.com). And maybe buy something while you’re there.