Gender stereotypes paint pink problems
A recent article in the New York Times, “In Praise of Pink Polish” by Lisa Belkin, opens up a new discussion on gender identity and what actions and behaviors are socially acceptable for a boy or girl. Belkin highlights a recent J. Crew ad in which the fashion company’s president and executive creative director Jenna Lyons poses with her 5-year old son who is shown rocking pink toenail polish.
The ad’s caption goes on to read, “Lucky for me, I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon.”
However, many psychiatrists and sociologists have condemned the ad and suggested that naturally toenail painting is way more fun with girls.
The ad, posted online as a promotional photo entitled “Saturday with Jenna J,” was originally supposed to be a picture depicting a case-free weekend of leisure and to feature what Forbeswoman.com writer Katie Phillips calls “off-duty” fashion staples.
However, soon after it was posted online many came out against it, especially those on the right wing of the political spectrum. Dr. Keith Ablow, a Fox News contributor, commented on the ad, saying, “our culture is being encouraged to abandon all trappings of gender identity.”
Erin Brown of the Media Research Center, who condemned the ad as “blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children”, joined Albow in chorus.
Yet in support of the ad, Change.Org created an on-line petition thanking J.Crew with over 10,000 electronic signatures in affirmation. Political commentator Jon Stewart ran a feature on his show in support as well, calling out the right wing on blowing up over the ad and what it means. The ad has received coverage on all major news networks and many national publications with varying perspectives, including all forms of criticism and praise.
The ad stirs controversy on the issue of what makes a boy masculine and a girl feminine, as if pink and blue preferences weren’t enough. And in this age, that determining factor is a little outdated in identifying a 21st-century boy or girl.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has a buzz-cut hair style that makes her identification troublesome at times, yet her show is a national success. Former Alaska governor and VP-hopeful Sarah Palin is superbly skilled with a rifle, a skill characteristic of men. House Majority Speaker John Boehner prefers his ties on the lighter shade of red and our proud governor, Rick Perry, is no stranger to intense pampering and cosmetics for his theatrics.
But there’s something to be said about a young boy who is tickled by wearing pink toenail polish, and there’s even more to be said about the parent. Clearly, this style of parenting is atypical and non-traditional, thus the results will equally be atypical and non-traditional — hypothetically, at least.
However, to say that a child will undoubtedly grow up seeking the assistance of psychiatrists and psychologists and/or become gay, lesbian or bisexual is an exaggeration.
It shouldn’t be considered a crisis of identity when one chooses not to adhere to the prescribed standards of gender, but such a rebellion should trigger an alert. That alert should tell parents that their child may be different from other children in regards to how they identify with their gender.
Nevertheless, the response from the right must be applauded and commended because at times people should be reminded of what originally and traditionally constitutes the behavior and actions of a boy or girl. When Lady Gaga is the new Britney Spears those traditions are hard-pressed for change.
Unfortunately, the young boy will become a national guinea pig, as critics watch on for signs of irregular habits and behavior to tie into their theories and notions that wearing pink toenail polish will almost certainly make the 5-year old boy unusual.
The rest of us can rest easy knowing that the great many of young American boys do not get their toenails painted in blue, and definitely not pink.
In fact, most American boys do not get their toenails painted at all and the argument can still be made that boys prefer blue and girls prefer pink — the way nature intended, some would say.