Social Conservatives Freak Out Over J. Crew Ad

Your silly media controversy of the day involves the public response to a J. Crew ad featuring a toddler boy with pink toenail polish:

A mother paints her son’s toenails hot pink because it’s his favorite color. Does that mean he’ll become gay or transgender? That is the controversy surrounding a J. Crew ad that is swirling around the Internet.

It began when a photo of J. Crew’s president and creative director Jenna Lyons painting the toenails of her son Beckett in an ad was sent to customers last week in a feature, “Saturday with Jenna.”

“Lucky for me I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink,” says the caption. “Toenail painting is way more fun in neon.”

Social conservatives reacted with outrage. Fox News’ Dr. Keith Ablow ran an opinion piece on the issue and Erin Brown of the right-leaning Media Research Center called the ad “blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children.”

“Not only is Beckett likely to change his favorite color as early as tomorrow, Jenna’s indulgence (or encouragement) could make life hard for the boy in the future,” Brown wrote. J. Crew, known for its tasteful and modest clothing, apparently does not mind exploiting Beckett behind the facade of liberal, transgendered identity politics.”

Some of the reaction by members of the public to Brown’s comments in particular have been fairly inappropriate and I won’t reproduce them here, but I really have to wonder what the big deal here is. What does the color pink have to do with “celebrating transgendered children,” even assuming that would be a bad thing? To me it just seems like a way that Lyons has fun with her son. So he likes the color pink, so what?

Moreover, its worth noting that the association of pink and blue with gender is a very recent cultural development:

The march toward gender-specific clothes was neither linear nor rapid. Pink and blue arrived, along with other pastels, as colors for babies in the mid-19th century, yet the two colors were not promoted as gender signifiers until just before World War I—and even then, it took time for popular culture to sort things out.

For example, a Ladies’ Home Journal article in June 1918 said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” Other sources said blue was flattering for blonds, pink for brunettes; or blue was for blue-eyed babies, pink for brown-eyed babies, according to Paoletti.

In 1927, Time magazine printed a chart showing sex-appropriate colors for girls and boys according to leading U.S. stores. In Boston, Filene’s told parents to dress boys in pink. So did Best & Co. in New York City, Halle’s in Cleveland and Marshall Field in Chicago.

Today’s color dictate wasn’t established until the 1940s, as a result of Americans’ preferences as interpreted by manufacturers and retailers. “It could have gone the other way,” Paoletti says

So, there’s nothing feminine about the color pink, and nothing masculine about the color blue, it’s all a result of a habit that’s developed over time.

I honestly can’t see what Lyons, or J. Crew, is doing wrong here, or why how Lyons raises her child is anyone’s business but her own.

Here’s a piece from the Today show about this:

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FILED UNDER: Media, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. mantis says:

    The right wing in this country is dominated by psychotic bigots. They will even invent objects for their bigotry where none exist, as they have done here.

  2. John Burgess says:

    It’s not about pink, it’s about boys and nail polish. That is seen as crossing a traditional gender-ID line. It’s no big deal, but it does bother some, clearly. The outrage would be there if the polish were purple, blue, or red.

    Another group would be equally outraged when Dad buys his six-year-old daughter a gutting hook or a handgun and teaches her how to use it.

    People with too few serious things about which to worry.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    Thanks God when my mother applied my fingernail polish it was tweed color. Pretty sure that’s why I’m straight.

  4. Alex Knapp says:

    It’s not about pink, it’s about boys and nail polish. That is seen as crossing a traditional gender-ID line.

    I mean, what’s next? Powdered wigs and tights?

  5. sam says:

    “Moreover, its worth noting that the association of pink and blue with gender is a very recent cultural development:”

    Old joke:

    Baby One in hospital nursery: “I’m a boy, you’re a girl.”

    Baby Two: “How do you know that?”

    Baby One: “Pull up your nighty. [Baby Two pulls up its nighty] See, pink booties. Now, look. [Pulls up nighty] Mine are blue.”

  6. Janis Gore says:

    I can’t remember a prouder day than when my carpenter father — Joseph was his name, went by Lee — gave me a set of tools. ::sniff::

  7. legion says:

    Erin Brown of the right-leaning Media Research Center called the ad “blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children.”

    I double-dog dare anyone in the “liberal” media to ask Ms. Brown to describe what exactly is wrong with “celebrating transgendered children”. Make the bigots own up to their bigotry.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    Tonight as every wednesday I’ll go watch my daughter spar at her Tae Kwon Do, where she will kick the sh*t out of boys and burnish her reputation for being as tough and fearless as she is feminine and beautiful.

    The days of boys do this, and girls do that, is so over.

  9. tom p says:

    It takes a real man to wear pink. It takes a real real man to wear pink fingernail polish. So this young child is more of a man than any of those critical of his mother ever dreamed of being.

  10. Janis Gore says:

    I’ve actually dealt with older boys, heterosexual, who would polish nails in a “kiss my ass” attitude. Pink beats dark purple.

  11. Southern Hoosier says:

    Johnny Cash

    “A Boy Named Sue”

    My daddy left home when I was three
    And he didn’t leave much to ma and me
    Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze.
    Now, I don’t blame him cause he run and hid
    But the meanest thing that he ever did
    Was before he left, he went and named me “Sue.”

    http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/johnnycash/aboynamedsue.html
    It takes a real man to be named Sue

  12. george says:

    Southern Hoosier: that’s the first thing I thought of too.

    I don’t think there’s any genetic link between gender and color; its a marketing decision that blue is for boys, pink for girls. If that’s all they have to worry about, things must be going very well indeed.

  13. Steven Donegal says:

    My three year old boy liked pink nail polish, fairy wings and to wear tutus to school. Now that he’s four, he likes superheros and says skirts are for girls. Can’t wait to see what five holds. Adults should let their kids have fun. Everyone would be much better off.

  14. Southern Hoosier says:

    I think our sexually is hardwired into our genes.

  15. Southern Hoosier says:

    Remember the other old stereotype that has gone by the wayside? Long hair for women, short hair for men. But I’m still not too keen on women growing beards.

  16. Southern Hoosier says:

    Lola
    Girls will be boys and boys will be girls
    It’s a mixed up muddled up, shook up world

    http://www.elyrics.net/read/k/kinks-lyrics/lola-lyrics.html

  17. george says:

    I think our sexually is hardwired into our genes.

    Yup. But not the colors associated with them by society (ie pink for girls, blue for boys).

  18. tom p says:

    Can’t wait to see what five holds.

    SD: it is an adventure, enjoy every minute of it and know that as soon as you try to fit your son’s into a box….

    They will not go there. It is all good.

  19. Southern Hoosier says:

    At one time red was the color associated with virginity and purity. The old masters often painted the Virgin Mary wearing red.

  20. tom p says:

    I should have added… “or daughters”….

  21. tom p says:

    one more thing; back when I still smoked, I carried a pink lighter. Why? Because NOBODY would ever steal a pink lighter (not even a woman) and what is more my woman smoked “pink” cigarettes. (“Misty’s”).. they were not bad so I started smoking them as well…

    BONUS….

    Somebody on a job site would ask me for a cig, and I would pull out this pink fairy FAG pack of cigs…. and say “Sure, here you go….”

    And they would say…..

    “Ahhhh….. never mind, joe over there has Marlboro Lights.”

    God, I love pink.

  22. anjin-san says:

    When I was four, I liked to put my mother’s jewelry on. When I was 14, the only things I was interested in were playing football and chasing cheerleaders. I think it’s a pretty normal progression.

    And if it turns out the kid still likes nail polish at 14, or 24, that is ok too. I would be more interested in how happy he is or is he a decent person than how he fits into a right wing stereotype about manhood.

    “social conservatives” are small minded idiots. This is news?

  23. matt says:

    tom P : Indeed the only lighter color I’ve never had stolen was a bright purple or pink. Those loaner lighters always came back..

  24. G.A. Phillips says:

    I am mostly a “social conservative” who used to be a “social liberal” something fierce, and in both instances I would say if you put nail polish of any color on a small child for any reason especially for some stupid ad your a social retard!!!

  25. Franklin says:

    Remember the other old stereotype that has gone by the wayside? Long hair for women, short hair for men. But I’m still not too keen on women growing beards.

    snort!

  26. Franklin says:

    I would say if you put nail polish of any color on a small child for any reason especially for some stupid ad your a social retard!!!

    I almost agree with G.A. here. I guess I’m just not really a big fan of using kids for marketing, particularly something that’s not for kids. That does fit at least one of the definitions of the word exploitation.

  27. Ernieyeball says:

    Tom P sez: “Somebody on a job site would ask me for a cig, and I would pull out this pink fairy FAG pack of cigs…. and say “Sure, here you go….””

    I was in Jr. High School in the Midwest in the early 1960’s.
    Fag was a slang term for a cigarette.
    Gay was a girls name.
    Early on in the semester our (male) choir director told us he had married his (female) cousin and that “…a young man lives with us for personal reasons.”
    I had no clue.