Foxnews.com the other day posted what may be the most ignorant article I’ve ever read, an article written by “psychologist” Keith Ablow. The article was lambasting J. Crew’s decision to run an advertisement with J. Crew’s president painting her son’s toenails pink. The reaction was an ensuing debate on our kids’ so-called ‘gender identity’.
Gender identity and stereotypes, first and foremost, are social and cultural constructs. Girls aren’t born with the innate sense to want to paint their toenails, toenail painting is largely reserved for females because society deems toenail painting a female trait. Simple as that.
Throughout history, men and women have had a certain set of roles to play. What many of the critics of the J. Crew ad fail to realize is that gender roles change with history. Men and women of ancient China and Egypt painted their nails, as doing so was a sign of social status. Little boys up into the mid 19th century regularly wore dresses, and before the World Wars, the color pink was considered the domain of boys, not girls.
A recent debate ensued on Facebook about if painting toenails (and an ad showing a boy getting his toenails painted) is part of a rise in effeminacy amongst males in our society. For some, it would seem that crossing gender lines leads to effeminacy leads to homosexuality (I know, right? The horror that your son might “become” gay! /end sarcasm).
But again, the fact is that effeminacy is only dictated by the society in which it exists. Some may use a Biblical argument, that the Bible has laws against effeminacy. Look no further than Deuteronomy 22:5:
A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.
But what is “men’s clothing”? Women didn’t wear trousers until the mid 19th century and even then, it didn’t become common in the United States until after World War II. See where I’m going? Even a Biblical argument is flawed. Of course, it makes more sense when you eventually come to realize–even if you’re a Christian–that the Bible is constrained by the social, historical, and literary contexts of its time, but that’s another discussion.
The fact is, effeminacy 1) is shaped by the society in which it exists and 2) isn’t that big of a deal anyway.
If Parker wants to paint his toenails, I have no problem with that. His painting his toenails is not against the law, or dangerous, or detrimental to his well-being. I would rather my son be happy with painted toenails, than discouraged because his parents told him he couldn’t paint his toenails because it would lead him down the path to destruction.
I’ve said it before, but my son’s sexuality and gender identity is pretty low on the “things I ultimately care about” list. First and foremost, I want my son to lead a happy, healthy, and productive life. Secondly, I want him to have parents that always support him. And three, I don’t believe that painting your toenails leads to effeminacy, and even if it does, I don’t believe effeminacy prevents one from leading a healthy, emotionally well life. I’ll wear nail polish with sandals if you want me to, I don’t care.
Parker loves Abby from Sesame Street. He sleeps with an Abby doll at bedtime. I’m not going to discourage him from liking what he likes, or redirect his attention to more “male” characters because that’s what a little boy “should” like.
Love your kids and love them for being them.