Have you heard all the recent hullabaloo surrounding this picture?
Not sure what the problem is?
It’s a BOY. Whose toenails are painted PINK.
In case you haven’t had any children lately, and have forgotten – the only way our society has to determine which gender is which is by whether they are wearing blue or pink. Boys = blue, girls = pink. No real reason why, but when the stork started dropping off babies in cabbage patches, that’s how he chose to mark them.
This story of J. Crew’s decision to run an ad featuring a boy whose toenails are pink has garnered national attention. There has been much speculation about how this is traumatizing for the child, how we have crossed a line in society, and in general, how offensive this is. The conclusion? The near presence of the color pink is bad news for boys. It’s emasculating; it’s dangerous. We must save our boys.
But what about our girls?
We should take a moment to consider why the reason for all this outrage. There have been no news stories about a girl playing with Toys-R-Us construction tools, no outrage surrounding a photo of a girl playing with Tonka Trucks. It’s okay for girls to play with boys’ toys, but it is NOT OKAY for boys to play with girls’ toys.
Because girls are inferior. At least, that’s what we are telling our boys when we say “pink is bad. Nail polish is bad. Dolls are bad.” These things are “bad” because they are associated with femininity, and the feminine is inherently worth less than the masculine.
The day care I worked at a few years ago had web cameras in each room, so that parents could log online and check on their child during the day. If the parent saw something he or she didn’t like, they could call the room and ask the teacher to fix it. What was one of the biggest reasons parents (mainly dads) called in?
“Why is little Sammy dressed in a tutu?!? Please get him out of that right now. No playing dress up in dresses for my boy!”
So then the teacher would have to tell the two year old boy that he couldn’t play dress up anymore if he was going to wear dresses. Because remember, boy toys = good; girl toys = bad.
We’ve come a long way letting little girls play with trucks and dig in the dirt all the want. But this is not a complete success. We haven’t “empowered women” if we are still teaching children that the masculine, and all things associated with the masculine, are better than the feminine.
When kids are playing, they are just playing. To a two year old, a tutu is just as fun to dress up in as a lion costume. To them, the only point is to run around wearing something that their parents didn’t dress them in that morning. When we step into reinforce stereotypes of masculinity and femininity, children are no longer just playing, they are learning that the genders aren’t equal. That it is better to be masculine than feminine. By getting into an uproar of why it is bad for a little boy to have his toenails painted pink, we aren’t saving our boys, we are hurting our girls.