Painting your son’s toenails may lead to the end of life as we know it

nail polishDid you know that if you paint your pink-loving son’s toenails, it may lead to the downfall of civilization? Those are the dots that Dr. Keith Ablow is trying desperately to connect on Yes, the same Dr. Keith Ablow who recently co-authored a book with Glenn Beck.

So here’s what happened: In the April 2011 online J. Crew catalogue there is a fun picture of J.Crew’s creative director, Jenna Lyons, with her son Beckett (shown here, left). In the picture she has clearly just painted the boy’s toenails pink. He seems pretty happy about it. But Dr. Ablow sees this as the beginning of the end.

Gender identity is a tricky thing. When I became a mom I tried very hard not to influence my kids with gender stereotypes. I didn’t assume that Jake wanted to play sports or that my daughter would want to wear pink all the time (both of which, actually, turned out to be true). But Jake is all boy. He loves Hot Wheels and baseball and hockey and playing drums and violent video games.

Then along came Fiona, and I swear there were pink sparkles mixed in with the amniotic fluid. She loves doing hair and make-up, pretty dresses, and jewelry. I ended up with kids who fell right into the usual gender stereotypes.

Did I occasionally try to push them the other way? Sort of but not really. When Jake was a toddler he kept stealing a little girl’s doll stroller at the playground. I ran right out and bought him his own. Upon hearing the news my husband sighed and said “It’s not pink, is it?” (It was blue.) When he asked Santa for an Easy Bake Oven, I made sure Santa delivered.

Or there was the time when I mistakenly signed Jake up for a ballet class (the semester before it had been hip hop). I made him stick with it, because I really thought he might like it. He’s tall and strong, and I tried to make him understand how tough and manly a male dancer has to be to lift the women into the air and fling them around. But he wasn’t buying it. He hated the class, and my husband was really annoyed with me. I wasn’t trying to change him, I just wanted him to know that there were lots of choices out there, and that I’d be OK with any of them. But he probably burped and scratched himself in response. Seriously. He’s a guy. He totally owns that part of the stereotype.

But what about the other kids? The girls who want the action figures, the boys who want the ponies? I know many of those kids. According to Dr. Keith Ablow, that kind of behavior may lead to promiscuousness and…something about black kids wanting to be white and vice versa? I don’t know, I was having trouble following his convoluted logic.

Or maybe it wasn’t the kids’ tendencies he was criticizing, but the parents’ encouragement? Is that what he was trying to say: that if my children like to do things that aren’t “normal” and I don’t make them feel like shit for it, I’m to blame for them…not wanting to go into the army? (Seriously, read the article, his points are completely crazy.)

I don’t doubt for a second that J.Crew knew exactly what it was doing when it produced that picture. Hell, they sell the nail polish! But I applaud them for celebrating a child’s uniqueness, even if it is just another way to get attention and sell something. I’d rather see more ads with boys in pink nail polish than another big-breasted blond in a bikini.

Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 0. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen, and Momtourage, and podcasts with The Blogging Angels.


  1. says

    Great post!! Kids should be aloud to be..well, kids. My son, now 16, always had baby dolls, kitchens as well as “boy” toys, he loved his baby dolls. He also took ballet for a couple of years and got to do really great performances!! He is 16 now, very well rounded and not a bit “girly”. I love the JCrew pic!..think I might need to shop today ;-)

    • says

      @Nicki: That’s the funniest thing about all about this: I haven’t looked at a J.Crew catalog in years, and I’m about to put in an order, because I had to search through the catalog for that pic. Dr. Ablow should get commission, he’s totally responsible for this sale.

    • says

      @Arnold F. Irwin: That’s the problem. Probably nobody reading my blog regularly, because we all tend to flock with our own. But I personally know people who eat it all up. And they have kids, and vote, and are allowed to go out in public and everything.

  2. Jessica says

    Just read the original article – That man is seriously insulting. He claims that we should all “become comfortable with the [identities] we got at birth” – but I am guessing that if you are born homosexual or transgendered, well he would blame the media and everyone else who is reasonable and tolerant.

    He is either a) someone who hates what they don’t understand or b) has deep seated gender identity issues of his own.

    • says

      @Jessica: Yeah, I love the very end, where he questions how Jenna Lyons would feel if her son wanted to do things that were more typically boyish. Because in his world, either you’re a cigar-chomping flag-waving tough guy, or you’re trying to turn the entire world gay. The kid’s own personality apparently doesn’t enter into the equation.

  3. says

    Just, don’t do it while he’s sleeping — my oldest girls did as a New Year’s Eve prank and, yes, I blogged about it — then again, that’s just plain common sense, which said article is severely lacking.

  4. KateNonymous says

    We do so many things as kids that have no bearing on what we do or who we are as adults. For example, my brother no longer runs around the back yard naked.

  5. Sarah says

    What’s insane to me about all of this is the assumption that a 5 year old boy wanting to have cool nail polish has anything necessary to do with gender. Little kids like shiny, sparkly, bright coloured things. When our kids(one boy one girl), neither of whom is at all girly, were 4, they loved putting on nail polish of all shades. Some little boys who are interested in nail polish might grow up to be gender nonconforming and/or gay, but most just love nail polish and shiny things and face painting because they’re 5 years old. That this is an issue at all just shows how obsessed cultural conservatives are with policing any kind of variance in an unbending vision of how people experience and express gender. Or, in short, blech.

    • says

      @Sarah: Excellent point. When Jake was little I think my mom painted his toenails a few times. It was just fun for him – before anyone told him that it was something girls do.

  6. says

    I could not agree with you more. I saw this on the news the other morning as I was leaving my house and all I could of was “Oh PLEASE!” Seriously this is an issue? C’mon its ridiculous. When I was little (2 or 3) my dad bought me a little mechanic outfit & I love it. I wanted to wear it all the time and my favorite pull string toy was a truck. Did that affect who I am today? Of course not! And someday if my son wants a doll he can very well have one!

  7. says

    The guy’s obviously a narrow-minded, insecure homophobe who has aligned himself with similar lunatics who are terrified of (gasp!) free thinkers who refuse to fit inside of any kind of box. Moron. It’s just that kind of repressive ideology that ultimately leads to people exploding later on because they’ve spent their lives being pressured to be something that they’re not or feeling inadequate to society’s expectations. My son tried on nail polish, sometimes put on my daughter’s old princess costumes, and even had a little stroller as well. We let him try all that stuff out and now he’s 6 1/2 and couldn’t be less interested in “girl” stuff. But he clearly didn’t suffer from checking it out when he was three. On a less happy note, our daughter was very much a mix of tomboy and girly girl — loved princess stuff, and makeup and playing dress-up, but also LOVED superheroes and action figures and playing with spy gear. The bummer is that her peers eventually mocked her for it, and no matter how I tried to encourage her to be herself, she eventually caved to the pressure and stopped reading comic books and collecting superhero paraphernalia. While the boys in her grade thought she was cool, the bitchy little girls told her she acted like a boy (including the day she was wearing a PINK supergirl t-shirt, of all things). I know I shouldn’t blame these little girls entirely; a lot comes from society and their parents. It’s just sad that putting our kids into these boxes starts so early. And the equally big drag is that this is about the time we start learning how much of an impact outside forces have on our kids, and that no matter what we do or say at home, sometimes these outside forces exert too big an influence for us to conquer. Rude awakening, for sure.

  8. says

    First, that ballet story is hilarious (you never told me that one). Second, I’m with you–yay! JCrew. We all need to just get over our gender stereotypes. The world can use more tough women and men that are in touch with beauty.

  9. says

    This is such a non-issue, I feel so sad for those “news” people who feel they have to make it one. Kids don’t understand society’s gender lines, and so they experiment. Totally normal, totally healthy. Anyone who believes your son could become gay, or even “confused”, by having his nails painted pink when he’s 5 doesn’t deserve to have children in the first place.

  10. says

    Great article. I agree that choices need to be presented to kids at an early age so they become well-rounded and figure out their likes and dislikes. We automatically associate makeup and dolls with girls, and trucks and sport with boys. Is this just because we’re afraid that our children will become a homosexual if they don’t follow the “rules”? I know many men (straight) who are nail technicians and hair stylists. Heck, I prefer to go to the men because they listen and will cut my hair how I want it, not how they may style their own (a problem I face with female hair stylists).
    I think people need to be more open in presenting different options to their kids. I would love to give my son an Easy Bake. He’ll be a great chef in the future and cook for me! :)

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