J. Crew’s Toenail-Painting Ad Causes Pink Scare

The sweet J. Crew ad I celebrated last week has ignited a “pink scare,” with socially conservative commentators outrageously upset. The ad features a mother– J.Crew’s creative director, Jenna Lyons–and her son delighting in one another’s company on a Saturday afternoon by painting their toenails hot pink (and thereby selling J. Crew’s Essie nail polish). The ad doesn’t make much fanfare of the nail painting and is fairly inconspicuous. As Melissa Wardy, founder of Pigtail Pals- Redfine Girly, comments on Good Morning America‘s coverage of the gendered hoopla:

The camera has to zoom in SO much on the toes to make the news story, you completely lose sight of the delightful moment between loving, doting mother and happy, beautiful son.

In, what Nikita Blue calls, “ominous paranoid ramblings,” Dr. Keith Ablow goes off in a “conspiracy-theorist tangent,” claiming this ad contributes to “psychological sterilization,” erases gender differences and homogenizes males and females by propagandizing them to choose a gender identity that is not the “natural” one they were born with:

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?

Media Research Center’s Erin Brown claims the ad exploits Lyons’ son, Beckett, through the “blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children.” According to Brown, ads like these and irresponsible mothers such as Lyons will create more confused boys, much like the controversial “Princess boy.”

Sexist and homophobic concerns like the ones expressed by Ablow and Brown raise several important points worth exploring. First and foremost, the notion that there is a direct correlation between color, gender and sexual identity is ludicrous. Color codes are recent social inventions, constructs originally inverse. Phyllis Burke’s Gender Shock and Peggy Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter trace the sociohistorical origins of pink and blue segregation–gendered coding that wasn’t instilled until the early 20th century. Prior to that, glancing at a babies clothing didn’t reveal any trace of gendered identity: They all wore white gowns. Photographs of my great-grandparents, both born circa 1902, are identical and indistinguishable. Check out this photo of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1884!

Once color coding got underway in earnest, the colors were reversed. Pink, a color close to red, was equated with strength and masculinity. Light blue was a “natural” sign of femininity and, according to Orenstein’s reasearch, equated with “intimations of the Virgin Mary, constancy, and faithfulness.” Given that history, it becomes clear that color codes are arbitrary, socially constructed and have no bearing or impact on one’s “natural” gender or sexual identity. As Dr. Logan Levkoff explains:

Dear Fox, colors don’t have genders. Colors are just colors. Liking certain colors [doesn't] mean you like girls or boys, or want to be either of them, now or in the future.

Secondly,  there’s nothing “natural” about gender. Gender is a social construct reflecting cultural dictates within a specific historical context and those gendered prescriptions change as the culture changes. Just as culture is dynamic and fluid, so are gendered expectations. Obviously, Ablow and Brown aren’t familiar with the difference between the biological concept of sex, referring to maleness and femaleness and the continuum between the two, and gender, the socially constructed definitions and expectations of masculinity and femininity. Their critiques of J. Crew’s ad demonstrates rampant essentialism–the idea that one’s biological sex is destiny while ignoring historical and contemporary contradictions to that idea. If having a penis “naturally” led boys and men to embody “masculinity” and a vagina “naturally” equated with all things “feminine,” we’d see much more historical and cultural uniformity.

Third, not only is the idea that the J. Crew ad squelches “naturally” assigned gender identity ridiculous given the difference between biological sex and socially constructed gender, but Ablow’s quote doesn’t address the real culprit in stifling natural and healthy explorations: the color-coded assault by marketers on children’s play. It seems to me that the hyper-segmented pink world of the princess and the blue world of the boy warrior is much more responsible for shaping gender identity than an ad featuring hot-pink toenails on a boy. In that way, J. Crew is a small sign of opening up gendered possibilities–possibilities that represent authentic personal choice.

In Brown’s opinion piece, she goes on to say that mothers such as Lyons or Sarah Manley are setting up their sons for a hard time in the future. There she’s right, and this gets to the crux of the issue. The system of patriarchy values masculinity and devalues femininity. In fact, within patriarchy, masculinity is a fundamental mainstream cultural value. In the Good Morning America segment, Manley rightly points out that if the ad featured a girl playing with trucks in the mud there wouldn’t have been this type of outcry. While girls are awash in a sea of pink, they are more likely to be encouraged and celebrated for exploring and developing “masculine” characteristics, while boys are discouraged and shamed for developing “feminine” characteristics precisely because of masculinity’s cultural capital. What Ablow or Fox don’t acknowledge is that these are simply human characteristics, gendered one way or the other and thereby differently valued. As I wrote on my Feminist Fatale blog last week:

When a 17-month-old boy is beaten to death for being too “girly,” a five-year-old is accused of being gay for choosing to dress up like Daphne from Scooby-Doo for Halloween, a boy who likes pink dresses causes headline news and a high-school football player is kicked off the field for wearing pink cleats during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I think it’s more than obvious that social expectations regarding femininity and masculinity continue to be incredibly rigid, stifling and too often dangerous.

J. Crew’s ad doesn’t depict misguided and dangerous decisions made by J. Crew or parents like Jenna Lyons. The reactions and social outcry against it depict the dangerous world of gender policing within the system of patriarchy.

Close-up of ad via J. Crew

Comments

  1. I think children shouldn’t be worried about gender confusion. I don’t think we should be getting worked up over a little bit of nail polish on a boys feet regardless if it was pink polish. She can do whatever she feels. I think part of it has to do with the fact that our society groups activities into gender specific acitivies. Its pretty interesting how scared we are of difference in society. If something is different and no where close to societal norms, we automatically reject it. Gender is created by society and it should be normal to do as we feel. I hope when I am a parent I can teach them to be who they are and not feel scared to do things that may seem different.

  2. Britjette M. says:

    I can see how this ad would spark controversy; our society is so gender-specified that a boy with nail polish on his toenails is a problem for some people, including myself. I think the ad is adorable, however I do not agree with what is being shown. I do not have much of a complaint because I would not be viewing this ad or showing it to my children. Jenna Lyons has the freedom to do what she pleases with her son and on her own ad. I understand that the pink vs. blue issue is a major gender problem and, unfortunately, causes people to be cautious with the colors they chose to use when dressing up their children. Unfortunately, I am one of those individuals. I do not have children, but if I did, my son would not be wearing pink nail polish, maybe clear polish. This is the society that I have grown up in and I have been effected by the gender-specific ideas that present themselves.

  3. Mariela P says:

    What J.Crew director Jenna Lyons did with her child is something to be applauded. She is raising her son to not live up to the stereotypical norms this society has influenced on children. Pink toe nails should not be what determine your sexuality or your gender. If a color has that much influence on a person then it clearly is a different issue. Pink was once consider being a “masculine” color and was not identified as being feminine. The fact that society has changed these view are not the issue though but it does shut down arguments like those of Dr. Keith Ablow. He is honestly being ridiculously ignorant in his comment. Melanie said it best “colors don’t have a gender.” Yes, I agree pink toe nails in a propaganda are helping eliminate gender norms but I do not agree that they are contradicting gender norms that we are supposed to “natura[lly}” be raised to live by. There is not a gender norm anyone should be forced to live by. Children should not be pushed into a world that does not suit them or feel right. Transgender children and adults are the best example. They are who they want to be, even though it goes against society’s norms. I applaud them and support their struggle. Pushing people into being something they are not simply because that’s what society wants is the reason why suicide rates among gays and the entire LGBT community is so high. They are pushed to their breaking point. Instead of trying to stop them, we should be supporting diversity among gender and sexuality. No two people are alike. No person likes the same thing. We should value that instead of seeing it as a threat to our society.

  4. I absolutely loved this article-mostly the picture. I think it is so real. Real in the sense that I see love, happiness, and fun! Why does it matter that it is a mother and her son, or pink nailpolish instead of black!? I find it so sad that society has programmed so many people to look at this picture and immediately think about whether the child is a boy or a girl, and then further question, “wait! no way! is that really a boy!? it can’t be!” Sure it can! As a nanny to a little girl, I admire the parents’ choice to have gender neutral toys and clothes. Not every “girl” thing needs to be an explosion of pink, like most baby girl nurseries. The color pink comes along with so many stereotypes.

    Recently, an acquaintance and I were discussing what our significant others got us for Valentine’s Day. I told her that my boyfriend picked out some beautiful pink roses and a very sweet card. She responded, “ I hate the color pink, my fiance knows better than to get me anything pink…I’m not that kind of girl.” I immediately thought, “umm I’m sorry but what exactly is the “kind of girl” that likes pink!?” I consider myself pretty tomboyish-but I happen to love the color pink. As I step back from this situation I find myself wondering where it was that people got the impression that certain colors represent certain “kinds” of people.

  5. Matthew Smit says:

    I think that it is ridiculous for a boy not to be able to wear pink. Who cares? I feel that people are too occupied with other peoples lives. Instead of embracing it as a mother and son enjoying their day together, it is seen as setting them up for abnormality. Anytime someone is different in society, we want to put a label on them. If the kid likes having his nails painted pink, let him enjoy that. People need to stop parents other people and look at themselves.

  6. brittany Fisher says:

    It amazes me that this particular ad caused such an uproar, and yet it does not surprise me in the least. Although our culture may appear to be a bit more accepting to the notion of homosexuality and transgender, as a whole our society is not. It is our culture that makes a particular color also stand for a gender. This goes back to gender inequalities. The two genders recognized within our culture could not possibly have the same color for its representation. I believe that a child should not be subjected to the worries of what color to wear. When I look at this picture I want to see it for what it is; a cute picture of a mother and son enjoying each other’s company, but because I have been raised within this culture it is difficult to see only that.

  7. Albert Q says:

    I find interesting that something as simple as pink nail polish could draw such an enormous number of opinions. To create such controversy over this child’s decision to like a certain color should not be judged. I say this from personal experience as my step brother is partially color blind and he happens to love bright vibrant colors. Although he cannot differentiate like the rest of us who is to say he’s wrong for liking neon pink, green, blue etc… It should be really what makes him happy not what does society sees as socially acceptable. The idea that colors and masculine/ feminine traits go hand in hand is absurd.

  8. Debora G says:

    I’m not quite sure if the color of the nail polish made people upset or the overall concept of a boy having his nails painted did? I always wonder if the color would have been blue would people still have a problem with the AD. I have a nephew that loves to get his nails painted at first I thought it was a bit weird but after taking this class I learned that children are too young to know if it is out of the norm. The act doesn’t mean that he will be gay. It’s just something he enjoys and has fun doing.

  9. Berenice V says:

    Gender socialization begins as early as birth, it is though color distinctions that we are socialized with the notion of masculinity versus femininity. Pink conveys messages of sensitivity, tranquility, fragility, delicate while the color Blue conveys all traits associated with masculinity which are strong and assertive. When ever these colors gets mixed up especially in children such as the controversy as painting a boy’s nails pink it supposedly creates a gender confusion. Gender is socially constructed and learned behavior,m it is society who stigmatizes and regulates these gender expectations. There is a double standard in which children are either encouraged or stigmatized.The system of patriarchy devalues femininity while it values masculinity, as a result girls are able to explore masculinity in such ways, for example they are encourage sports with boys, yet at the same time little boys are taught that painting their nails, playing with barbies is wrong!!! and is only meant for girls.  Sadly parents reinforce these gender stereotypes in the way they decorated children’s rooms, the way talk to their children and lastly in the colors they dress them up with. Little girls can wear shorts or dark colors and still be seen as “normal”, where as if a little boy has painted nails, or even has a spot of pink he is automatically weird and on to the road of becoming gay. I think that it is ridiculous for a boy not to be able to wear pink. Honestly who cares it is simply a shade of color just like any other. Reinforcing color segregation serves as a means to reinforce stereotypical gender roles which will make those children grow into believing other stereotypes such as women being the homemaker and men the breadwinner. Nowadays men are becoming very metro sexual so why not let children enjoy all shades of colors if they choose too.

  10. This commercial is an interesting one. To me, it could be seen as helpful. It helped by bringing attention to the topic of the masculinity we place on colors. It’s great that the article mentions how the colors were seen to be opposite in the past. It shows us that the gender we attach to a color are just based on what society deems masculine and feminine. They hold no real gender bias. This commercial also shows us how harshly we view anything different because of the controversy it caused, when it was meant to show a mother and son having fun. It could’ve been just a simple random bonding moment, and not something that occurs everyday. Unfortunately, society judges harshly.

  11. Tania L says:

    A little boy with pink nails attracts so much negative attention,people tend to over see the the beautiful time captured between mother and son. As long as  we can keep feeding societies gender roles they will never be vanished. Pink is just a color, it shouldn’t determine anything or have any stigmas attached to it because it is just a color and girls and boys should be allowed to like the color regardless of their gender. If we keep attaching meaning to meaning less things we create meaningless stigmas that get reinforced by those who fall into this creation. We need to stop having this false impression of girls in pretty in pink scenarios and boys in masculine blue. Color should not create a significance in gender.

  12. Soraya L. says:

    Gender roles seem to play a predominant and significant part in our childhood to build a foundation for personality and character. Any deviations from the norm are criticized or ridiculed, which therefore confines an individual to fully be able to express themselves as they wish. Toys, clothing, media, and our peers are just a few of many sources that help reinforce and teach these specific gender stereotypes. For example, toys probably have the largest influence in the division between girls and boys. In most toy commercials, the toys girls play with are associated with cleaning, cooking, interior decorating, and being the primary caregivers of children. Boys, on the other hand, are associated with building, heroism, aggression, and extreme competition. Kids are exposed to these messages as early as four or five-years old, and they have a huge impact on their socialization. Clothing, the media, and toys for boys and girls are largely color coded, so it is safe to say that colors have a rather large role in molding specific gender stereotypes. However, boys are scrutinized to a more severe extent than girls are. That is why this J. Crew ad created so much controversy. Some critics suggested and implied that humans are born with a gender identity. The only “natural” thing about a human is their sex, because gender is socially constructed. Males are not born associating themselves with the color, just as girls are not born associating themselves with the color pink. Though it may be true that it may set up the child to have a more difficult time in the future, we must be aware that confining our kids to particular gender roles constrains them from being able to fully express themselves which can then in turn lead to an abundant amount of psychological problems in the future.

  13. Amber S. says:

    Wow, this article is great.I think this is an amazing picture. Its so sad that there was such an upset just because this little boy was wearing pink nail polish. It was showing such a beautiful time between mother and son. It so disappointing that society is like this. When will there ever be a time with out prejudice?

  14. Honest when I first saw this advertisement, it was little bit weird at first. I do not have anything against homosexuality, but I can see how this particular advertisement can cause controversy in the society.However , I do agree with the argument about choosing colors. I do not see anything wrong with a man wearing pink, or a female wearing blue. Though I do believe that there are certain things that are made specifically for women and men. Nail polish, in my opinion is a better fit for girls.There is nothing wrong with being feminine or masculine, because that is how the we were created.
    When I look at the picture above, I look at it as a cute picture. However I do believe that this advertisement can cause a little confusion to the kids and our society.

  15. Vincent McGhee says:

    Honestly, I dont like this advertisement. I dont think it is acceptbale for a mom to spend time with her son painting his toenails. I believe that this is something a mom should only do with her daughter. I feel like the son has no choice but to be happy because his mother has taught him to believe that painting your toenails is acceptable behavior for boys and girls. I think it would be better for the mom to spend time with her son by going outside and playing catch. I dont agree with the article at all.

  16. Anna Kleyman says:

    This AD was scrutinized for inappropriate behavior because of society’s take on gender socialization. The outcome of this AD really showed how our society is under major gender socialization by showing how pink and blue play a part in our minds of what is automatically acceptable and what is not. In my eyes, I don’t see anything wrong with the AD because it is picturing a little boy, who most likely has no idea what is going on or what colors really mean in depth. To me, it just seems like a bonding moment of a mother and son playing. Yes to some extent, it may be a bit weird, because perhaps it would have been more of a norm to show a mom coloring with the boy, or drawing, but I still don’t see anything majorly wrong with it. I feel it was way too much of an over- reaction type of thing, rather than just seeing the best in it, as a bonding experience. Maybe the mother was painting her own nails, and in a joking way, to make her son laugh, began coloring his….just an idea. The problem doesn’t lie within the AD, the problem is in the crowd. The crowd is always under the supervision of mass media. Mass media tells us what to believe and what to see, even in shades of black and white, they will point out to us the bright red, and we will all believe it like fools. I believe it’s made a big deal of because it’s a boy, and since boys are pumped up to be macho men in our society, it’s being frowned upon. But if this were to be a girl playing with legos, I don’t believe a big controversy would be the outcome.

  17. JaeYoon Chung says:

    I love this article. This young boy will think of pink toenails, and be reminded of the love and affection his mother showed to him. The argument against painting a young boy’s toenails pink is one I do not understand. I would imagine there wouldn’t be much more tolerance were his mother to have painted his toenails blue(light blue at that?). I’ve know a lot of men that wear pink, and I’ve never thought of it as being demasculating or an effeminate color. You can look good in pink if you are male, and let others worry about the expectations. I see that picture as a loving mother with child. It’s very hard for me too see or worry about his toenail color.

  18. Sarah Vincent says:

    I love that this mother did this. She’s teaching her son that colors don’t matter even though society will try to pin you to being a certain color based on your sex/gender. It makes me so mad that people care more about the stinking color on the toes then seeing that awesome picture of the amazing love, fun, happy times being shared between a mother and a child. Who says that pink is a girl color? Or that boys can’t and shouldn’t paint their toe nails? Everyone is freaking out because “boys can’t be sensitive and loving.” I want people to worry more about matters that actually matter!

  19. Amanda A. says:

    After reading this blog it surprised me that this color gender identity is a recent invention. It makes me wonder how all of this got started to keep this patriarchy intact and enforced. I feel from the J.Crew ad that it caused such a fess. People are so quick to critizes others for the way they raised their children. It is also interesting that the color pink represent strength and light blue represents feminity. If more people knew that interesting fact maybe that would cause a fess in our society.

  20. I think that’s a great thing as long as a boy likes it.Hot pink is not only for girls. I remember my childhood, My mom always gave me pink clothes. I was like princess and I hated it. Society makes our gender differences but I also scared that if boys and girls have no differences between us, what’s ganna happen. Do we need each other? We are very different that is why we attract each other and try to get to know each other. I also believe it is not only the society make gender differences.

  21. Yanira S says:

    The ad is showing what fun a mom and son can have with a nail polish of Essie which that is a good nail polish really popular it dries quick i have some Essie nail polishes to. Anyway they ‘re sharing moments together with a nail polish but the mom seems she making of fun of the pink color with her son so it seems she making fun of being a girl with her son. So the son might get a wrong idea of polishing your nails pink of being a girl so it does throw the gender there of being female. But i always say its the parents fault of how the kids are guided by their parents. So the ad is making fun of being a girl in gender female, with a boy it shows how being female is not valued to much.

  22. youram F says:

    I believe polishing a little boy’s nail pink could be problematic in the future and it may even confuse him. unfortunately we leave in a society that has many restrictions which says that blue is for men while pink is for female. If we break the restrictions it may cause problems for our children, they may be made fun at and it could cause psychological issues when they grow up feeling that they are different from everyone else.

  23. Jemal H says:

    First of all i believe we should not have gender separating ads that teach children what a boy and girl should be like. By having ads like this we not only teach children that its okay to be have feminine(which is not a bad thing), but we also teach them to choose there path instead of them choosing there on. And we should definitively not have color codes anymore, like Melanie Klein mentions that color is just color nothing more.

  24. Richard L says:

    I always thought it was interesting how in school, we are encouraged to be different and unique, but when someone actually is different, they are rejected and seen as abnormal. I remember when i was in preschool, my cousins decided to paint my nails a pink color, and when i went to school with my nails painted, i was scolded. I believe that all traits in people are normal, and nothing should be considered weird just because not someone is not like everyone else.

  25. Richard L says:

    I don’t think that painting nails forces children “choose a gender identity that is not the “natural” one they were born with”. Although I agree with Youram’s comment above that it may become problematic to the child, I don’t think it’s fair that the mother is labeled as irresponsible. I don’t think that painting nails should be seen as a woman’s thing to do either.

  26. Ashley-Marie M. says:

    i dont believe that paintitng a young boys toenails pink will affect him in anyway. colors dont have gender yes pink is primiarly for girls but back in the day boys wore pink not blue and blue was worn by girls. boys also had long hair and looked like adorable little girls. did that affect them uhhhhh no! society is so so quick to jump to hes turning rather then appericiating the precious moment between mother and son.

  27. Chulhyun A says:

    Before I say something, YES! I HAVE A PINK SWEATER!
    I saw so many people who has their own color. not only for their ‘color’, but characters too.
    some of them became the others, some of them became trend leader, and some of them chose back to “Normal”
    Its meaningless to give credit to each colors because it’s not a unchangeable value.
    Its just one of gender socialization that what color is for men or women. and those just came out from companies’ marketing for their benefits.
    If journalist are awaken, they do not shout for companies’ profits. That’s advertisement, not a journal.
    We have a quote, “do not judge a person as what he/her looks like”
    and how some people who has the power to run on their message to media judge some people with the color what they are wearing?

    I do not scare the pink. I do scare the media.

  28. Jason A says:

    I am a male and I would never in my life paint my nails or cross-dress, or wear pink (most of the time). I always think to myself why this is and as I ask my self if its because I actually don’t find the color appealing to me, or don’t like to paint my nails in general etc. Society has brainwashed us to believe that these things do not go with the male gender. Our society doesn’t think this is normal whatsoever and it is a bit scary how they got every single person in the world to believe this and go by these rules. Most parents in American would never allow this, and even thought its just nail polish it still will never be allowed. Lyons is a great and loving parent and I hope that I can be like this one day.

  29. Brandon Monette says:

    Of course this ad would be scrutinized. Our society is totally invested in gender roles and when it comes to children who are viewed as innocent and helpless, the masses can be pretty sensitive. I don’t think that an ad where a father forces his son to play football would have gotten as much criticism. Social construction of gender have placed children in boxes that do not allow them to experiment because of homophobic fear. Colors do not determine sexual orientation but our society is constantly using stereotypes to create facts. The fact is that this ad depicts a moment of bonding between a mother and son, not the corruption of a young boy.

  30. A little boy with pink toenails is alaraming, but a little girl with blue nails isnt. I understand how it could be alarming to see a boy with pink nails, but i dont think these kind of things force children to choose a gender because of this kind of incident. I think Dr. Keith Ablow was overexaggerating when he said it forces kids to choose gender when in reality i dont believe it does. I think the point of this image of Jenna Lyons and her son was to show them enjoying one anothers company by doing an activity together, and should have not been focused on the boys painted nails. I can understand where Dr. Ablow was coming from but i feel like him and other people like him just want to find any flaw they can on a perfectly appropriate image.

  31. Rashidah I says:

    The painting of the little boy’s toe nails pink should not have caused such a “scare”. Pink is merely a color. It is attractive, bright, and fun. The little boy clearly is not bothered by it at all. If anything, he looks happier than his mother. The fact that a male sporting the color pink is such a problem in today’s society says a lot about gender socialization. After all, many, many, many years ago, new born babies wore pink and girls wore blue. A boy painting his nails pink should not be a problem and should be embraced, He’s expressing himself rightfully. Why should everyone else be concerned?

  32. Its not surprising to see why this ad caused a scare. We are so used to associating pink with girls and blue with boys. After reading this ad i realized just how much gender roles are enforced in our society. I personally dont find anything wrong with this ad because the boy seems to be enjoying the time spent with his mother. I also disagree with erin browns claim that ads and mothers like these will confuse a young boy. Pink is just a color and anybody can use it.

  33. It is funny how people get scared over an ad about a color. When I was a little boy one of my favorite crayon colors was hot pink, I do not know why people think in this society that we have to live in world where girls can only wear pink and guys cannot, I mean it is just a color. The picture just shows that a mother and a son are having good fun time together. The People that have a problem with it have been gendered socialized and cannot accept it people they have learned girls wear pink and boys wear blue at a young age.

  34. Derynn W. says:

    Women are effected by patriarchy, but let’s not forget our men and boys. It is intensely hostile for boys growing up in our culture of patriarchy. The standards to achieve hegemonic masculinity seem stacked up directly against our ideas of freedom of speech, equality, and expression. I find it sad that a young boy wearing a polish that is gendered female would generate such negative stigma. The only color polish allegedly acceptable for men is black, but even that generates negative responses. Even a man who takes good care of his nails at all receives chastising from his peer group and his elders (and also many other women). I have a younger brother who is nine years old and my sister and I thought it would be fun to play dress up with him. We styled all of our hair and put dresses on. When we went to show my parents, my father’s response was fervent and savage. “Get that crap off of him!” he barked, the instant we walked in the door. We all thought we were having fun-including my brother. Clearly not for my father. My father is very homophobic, so this type of behavior is not surprising. In patriarchy, the hegemonic male is to be dominant over all subordinate males-including those who have a socially deviant sexuality. My dad, a supporter of patriarchy, does not want my brother to be a part of subordinate male group. I have found that this, too, is the reason so many fathers (and mothers) urge their son not to cry or show passionate emotions, even in very extreme situations.

  35. Alexander A says:

    This article was also very interesting to read. When reading this article may things came to mind. First off in my life my mother had put nail polish on me when I was a kid I think my dad would have been furious and removed it immediately. Knowing my dad he would say nail polish is for girls and if I would wear it then and I would start acting like a girl. But I feel that if a little boy wears nail polish there is no need to be concerned about gender confusion. The little boy will eventually get the idea that nail polish in are world is gender specific. Society has made it known that nail polish is for girls and as I a male I would not wear nail polish. This ad to me is not as big of a deal as it is being made out to be.

  36. I believe that Jenna Lyons is very smart as to what she has done with her child. She wants her child to grow up and not be accustomed to what is believed to be the difference of activities that are portrayed between men and women. Something as silly as pink nail polish should not determine ones life. That is the problem with the world these days. When people see the color pink, first thing that comes to mind is a girl. When people see a boy with pink it instantly causes controversy. I believe people should make their own decisions and wear whatever they like to wear and not have to worry about what society thinks of them or how they will be judged. This picture could have easily meant to just portray a mother and her child having fun and bonding together instead it society decided to judge it and criticize it. Its disappointing to realize that we live in this kind of world where someone cant be who they want to be because of the fear of being judged. I think there is a huge double standard being played here. For example if we see a girl playing with Hot Wheel cars there would not be such a huge controversy as there is here.

  37. Alexander K (Wom Stud. 10 Scholars) says:

    Before reading this article, I looked at the picture and quickly got an idea of what it is about. Although many people look down on the idea of boys not being able to wear “girly” colors, I do support the fact that people and children have the right to choose what they want to wear. Unfortunately, we live in a society where boys are called “Princess Boys,” simply because of the colors they choose. In my opinion the J. Crew Toe Painting Ad is the beginning for people who want want to express their feminine side. Hopefully their will be more ads like this in the future and more people who aren’t afraid to be called “Princess Boy.”

  38. Jasmin B. says:

    I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal that the boy in the ad is wearing pink polish. I think that color coding is ridiculous and that a mere color should not have the power to mark someone as masculine or feminine. People should be able to sport any color they want without fearing society and without their being something like a “pink scare”. Rather than focusing on the color of his toes, people who look at this ad should focus on the fact that there is a mother and son who are having a good time together.

  39. I find it simply moronic that there is such a big deal over painting the toe nails of a boy pink. Color coding as stated, has not be consistent throughout history and should not be associated with any gender. Both genders should be allowed to choose what colors they want to wear and don’t wear. Jenna Lyons symbolizes what a good mother should be, taking care and having fun with her child without any gender socialization. This system of patriarchy has gone too far to make such a big deal over the color of toenails. There wasn’t even any proof to show that painting one’s toenails pink causes a boy to turn into a “Princess Boy.” It is also disturbing how a guy can’t portray feminine qualities because they are looked upon as “inferior” while if a woman were to portray masculine qualities she would be seen as “superior.” Until we are able to destroy gender socialization, these useless criticism shall continue to plague our society.

  40. Before reading the article or even the title of the article, I looked at the picture and thought, “How cute they are having a mother-son moment”. Little did I know that I was incorrect. After reading the article I did not realize it was a big deal that Jenna Lyons painted her sons toe nails hot pink. In fact, I thought it was very cute. It is extremely pathetic that society makes such an over-exaggerated deal over paining a boy’s toes hot pink. Even though color codes exist; we do not have to follow them. Sixty-four years ago pick was considered to masculine and blue was feminine. Over time thing change and I do not understand why society completely abides by these color codes. People should be allowed to wear whatever color they please. In this picture Jenna Lyons is just trying to spend some quality time with her son. How does painting ones toe nails make them into a “Princess Boy?” In our society masculine characteristics are valued for both males and females, so why can’t feminine characteristics also be valued. Our society has too many rules and frankly a lot of them are just plain stupid.

  41. I never realized how much of an impact color codes have over us, particularly over boys. When I was younger my little brother would always be scrutinized for dressing up in girls clothes or wearing pink polo shirts, but when I dressed up in things characterized to be masculine I never got any negative comments and people were never worried that there was something “wrong” with me. People would always call him gay or feminine(as if its a bad thing) and tell my parents and sisters to make sure he doesn’t do that or else he might turn out “wrong.” Patriarchy doesn’t just affect woman/minorities but also men, and its crazy to think that a bonding moment with mother and son is taken away because people think that his welfare is in danger because he’s wearing pink nail polish. They need to realize that its not the color pink that is putting this boy in danger, it is them for thinking a color defines wether or not your “manly.”

  42. Natasha N says:

    After reading this article, I have come to understand why there is much controversy regarding this ad due to the norms that boys and girls must live up to in modern day society according to their gender. However, I believe that society has created a huge misconception on gender-specific ideas. The correlation of colors according to gender is solely a social construction and learned behavior, and a child should not be penalized for going “against” these social constructions. One should have the freedom to wear whatever colors he or she wants, whether it be pink or blue. I think the ad is adorable, portraying the relationship between Jenna Lyons (mom) and her son. I think it’s absurd for a boy to not be able to wear pink, and for any deviation from the norm to be criticized. It just isn’t fair to those who choose not to follow the norms.

  43. Michelle G. says:

    I find the picture of Jenna Lyons and her son simply adorable. However, I am not surprised that an outcry resulted because of it. Her son is a CHILD who should not have to be embarrassed for wearing pink or any other color for that matter. In any event, this picture is actually a good thing–it may slowly result in promoting the anti effect of gender socialization. Associating colors with gender is merely another way to classify gender and sex in neat little categories rather than acknowledging that everyone is different and therefore would like to express their gender in different ways.

  44. Personaly I delight in the playful subversion of the ad. All in all, it is fairly benign. Despite the over-reactions,painting ones toe nails pink have only the most superficialy salient connection to gender idenitity. Although part of gender identity in our culture associates pink and nail coloring generaly with the feminine, this is hardly at the core of gender politics and idenitity.

  45. I think before decades in circa 1902, the pink color was for boys, and light blue was for girls such as the photos of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 18884. This idea named color codes. Color codes are recent social interventions, constructs originally inverse. Gender is a social construct reflecting cultural dictates within a specific historical context and those gendered prescriptions change as the culture changes. Once color coding got underway in earnest, the colors were reversed. Pink, a color close to red, was equated with strength and masculinity. Light blue was a “natural” sign of femininity and, according to Orenstein’s reasearch, equated with “intimations of the Virgin Mary, constancy, and faithfulness.” Given that history, it becomes clear that color codes are arbitrary, socially constructed and have no bearing or impact on one’s “natural” gender or sexual identity. J. Crew’s ad doesn’t depict misguided and dangerous decisions made by J. Crew or parents like Jenna Lyons. The reactions and social outcry against it depict the dangerous world of gender policing within the system of patriarchy.

  46. I find this article to be quite interesting. Especially because people against such ads don’t consider the child’s point of view on the matter. How he feels about nail polish. I recently saw an episode of Toddlers & Tiaras and was amazed to see a boy who participated in pageants. The young boy wasn’t forced into it, he simply admired the attention and the crowd. A little taste of what fame probably feels like. In the episode his mother takes him to the nail salon for a hand massage and manicure. The young boy is asked to select a nail polish color. The young boy picked green. During an interview they asked the boy about his nails. He excitedly explained that he had chosen green because it just looked so cool as he waved his fingers for the camera. The boy didn’t see the the difference lines we create between genders. How manicures and painted nails are seen as a ‘female thing’ to do He was just thrilled his nails were green!

  47. BrittanyP says:

    I can see how this add may have initiated debates about gender regulations, but something as little as applying nail polish shouldn’t be so overly exaggerated. I believe that if a mother wants to put pink nail polish on her son just to play around and have some fun, nothing should be stopping her and people should not make such a big deal out of it. I agree with some previous commenters that gender roles and regulations are typically enforced on girls and boys as they grow. This little boy was certainly unaware that pink nail polish is for girls and boys shouldn’t be wearing it. He doesn’t know any better and it definitely will have no impact to his life as well as other boys’ lives.

  48. I think that the negative reactions towards Jenna Lyon’s harmless and, in fact, very heart-warming display of mother-son time shows that stereotypical gender expectations in our society are still prevalent, despite arguments that they are not. These stifling expectations still have their hooks in us and they are so deep that we still attack anyone who crosses those boundaries, even if they are in the most harmless and insignificant of ways. And these limitations have no real biological or factual basis, and we as a society also forget that. I am uncomfortable with a boy wearing nail-polish, regardless of color, but I know that my discomfort has no real basis, that it is just a result of how I was raised. I know that there isn’t a real reason it makes me uncomfortable. I would certainly never attack a mother for engaging in such a bonding activity and I would certainly never judge her son. I think it’s lovely that she’s spending time with him using such a fun and bonding activity.

  49. J. Crew’s ad was awesome! My boyfriend often wears pink shirts to his corporate job and I seriously doubt that anyone has found him to be effeminate because of that. In fact, I think it’s really sexy. It shows me that he is really comfortable with himself and is free of the many judgments that other men have about what it means to be masculine. In my experience, mothers who have brought up their sons without many of gender rules such as color codes and hair length, raise happier and emotionally healthier men. If mothers did what Lyons did, I think the world would be a better place.

  50. It’s really sad that a little boy who is spending time with his mother and panting nails is such a big deal to write a whole article about how society is getting so worked up about it. What a lot of people have a hard time understanding is that our sexual orientation is something we are born with. We are born to like either men, or women; what makes us so different when there’s only two genders to choose from? No matter how much parents think they can change their child’s gender doing, it never follows through. If the little boy is straight, he will still be straight whether or not he has pink toenails.

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