Commentary

Black And White And Pink (Toenails) All Over

Fashion has a long history of provocative advertising -- from United Colors of Benneton to Calvin Klein to Kenneth Cole -- that raises people's ire on the social, sexual or political front. J. Crew seems to have hit the trifecta this week with an ad in its online catalogue that was also emailed to its list. It portrays J. Crew president and creative director, Jenna Lyons, laughing with her 5-year-old son, Beckett, whose toenails have been painted.

"Lucky for me, I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink,' the copy reads. "Toenail paining is way more fun in neon."

Fox News' Keith Ablow is one of the commentators who touched off a brouhaha on Monday when he wrote: "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. 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."

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Other commentators who were upset by the image of a boy wearing pink toenail polish quickly weighed in on what they called "gender bending" and "blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children."

"Mommy bloggers quickly fought back, defending Lyons and J. Crew and expressing their ire over Albow's pointed comments," SF Gate's mommy blogger Amy Graff wrote on Tuesday, citing Jeanne Sager on Cafe Mom's The Stir and Meredith Carroll on Babble's Stroller Derby in particular.

I initially resisted culling the back and forth. What more could be said? Either you thought this was an indication of the end of civilization as we know it or you thought it nicely captured some mother-son quality time. Or you saw it as something that was trying to sell you something that had more to do with an $8 bottle of Essie for J. Crew nail polish and a $65 Coastline-stripe pullover than a deviant lifestyle.

Anyway, by today everyone -- which means Jon Stewart on Wednesday night -- has weighed in. Stewart quipped that everybody -- which means ABC, NBC, CNN and Fox -- had recognized the story for what it was: "Toemageddon 2011: This Little Piggy Went to Hell," as an over-the-top graphic has it. The reports, he said, made "it sound like it's a story about incest or cannibalism" instead of a mother gazing lovingly into her little boy's eyes. Plus, a parent will do anything to keep a kid happily occupied on a weekend.

A Huffington Post piece posted on Tuesday afternoon has 2,024 people "liking" the story on its Facebook page this morning. In addition, 458 shared it, 148 tweeted it, 73 emailed it and 822 commented on it.

In another particularly insightful Huffington piece, Truth Wins Out founder Wayne Besen writes about a high school basketball game in which he scored 25 points and had 15 rebounds in a losing effort.

""Everyone on this team played like faggots ... except for Wayne," the coach bellowed in the locker room. "Although I was not out of the closet yet," writes Beson, "I thought, 'Coach, if we would have played like fags, we would have won the game.'"

The New York Times' Motherlode blogger, Lisa Belkin, turned a blind eye to the story until yesterday afternoon when, she writes, "My inbox makes it clear that you want a chance to discuss boys and pink nail polish."

Belkin had accumulated 36 comments this morning, ranging from "This is ridiculous. Boys need the equivalent of 'tomboy' and that equivalent needs to be respected in the same way" to ... well, let's just say no one said that liking pink toenail polish was a character defect. "I can tell you one thing: Essie's gonna sell a lot of that polish. Which is one of the points. Money, people," pointed out one -- shall we say clued-in? -- commentator.

As for my own in-box, I got a release from the publicist for USA Toy Experts and Publisher of Global Toy News. Seems it recently did a survey of more than 1,500 adults asking if they felt that the toys their children played with had either indicated sexual orientation or could influence it. According to the survey:

  • 91% did not believe that the toys children play with will influence their sexual preference.
  • 93% don't believe that the toys children play with as a child indicate their sexual preferences when older.
  • 15% of respondents' sons play with dolls and 20% of respondents' sons play with dress up.

Says CEO and publisher Richard Gottlieb: "It is only when adults apply their own sets of values to child's play that what is innocent become perceived as dangerous."

Someday I think a more enlightened species will look back on us with the wonderment that we look at this late-19th century ad for Meyer Cycle Company that is either laughing for or at women for daring to don their bloomers and join the menfolk astride a bicycle. Shocking, I tell you. Shocking.

3 comments about "Black And White And Pink (Toenails) All Over".
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  1. Alice Wessendorf from SkyBlue-Pink.com, April 15, 2011 at 8:52 a.m.

    And I suppose the fact that I preferred my dune buggy toy car to dolls as a kid has doomed me to a "gender bending deviant lifestyle." Oh..wait...

    Sheesh people need to get a grip. I honestly thought we had left the pink is for girls blue is for boys thing behind years ago. Sadly I was mistaken. Reality sometimes sucks.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, April 15, 2011 at 9:34 a.m.

    Time for real men to don tights, heels and feathers in their hats. What....? They already did that ?

  3. Leslie Rasimas from MediaCom, April 15, 2011 at 1:39 p.m.

    J.Crew knows its clients, and that those clients wouldn't blink twice at the season's hottest pink! But now we must look at it as an example that ignorance does exist; both in close-mindedness, and the idea that when we stop paying attention, a non-issue goes away!

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