Seeing Pink: How Pink Toe Nail Polish Destroys Lives (but only if you’re a boy)

OK, I admit it.  When I was growing up I apparently did something horrible to my brother.  I encouraged him to dress like a girl when we were playing games.  I may have even painted his toe nails once or twice.  Little did I know that by engaging in this behavior we were running a terrifying risk, or at least that would be what some would have you believe based on the recent national media attention given to a J. Crew advertisement.

A small picture in the summer catalog sparked outcry and national news coverage because it featured J. Crew president Jenna Lyons painting her young son Beckett’s toe nails neon pink.

Pink Toe Nails! The horror!

Apparently, neon pink toe nail polish can be very dangerous in the wrong hands (or at least on the “wrong” toes).

The horror!  Psychiatrist and Fox News contributor Dr. Keith Ablow stated this “homogenizing males and females” was tantamount to “psychological sterilization,” which contributes to no one wanting to nurture young children, create families, or become soldiers. Seriously.Apparently, neon pink toe nail polish can be very dangerous in the wrong hands (or at least on the “wrong” toes).

The “wrong” toes are the crux of the whole controversy.  Of course, if Lyons had painted her daughter’s toe nails pink, no one ever would have noticed.  Furthermore, if Lyons had been engaged in a more “masculine” activity with a daughter like affectionately placing eyeblack on her daughter’s cheeks while her daughter donned her softball cap, no one would have claimed that it was “blatant propaganda celebrating transgender children” such as the widely reported conclusion conservative think tank Culture and Media Institute reached about this picture.  Some parents expressed concerns if this type of “gender bending” would “turn” children transgendered.

Gender Or Sex?

A number of issues have been lost in the kerfuffle over little Beckett’s pink toe nails.  Communication Studies and gender scholar Dr. Julia T. Wood reports that the terms “gender” and “sex” are very different.  Sex is determined by biological characteristics such as our physical bodies, hormones, and chromosomes.  However, as the uproar over Beckett’s pink toes illustrates, gender is another concept altogether.  Gender is the meanings that a society places on the sexes – our understandings for how the sexes “should” act.  Unlike the bodies we are born with, our culture creates these meanings through communicating what we think is appropriate and desirable for girls, boys, men, and women.

We often act as if these gendered norms – these socially constructed meanings – are completely natural, unvarying, and unquestionable. This is why people like Ablow state that parents should ensure their children “become comfortable” with the gendered identity they “got at birth,” as if gendered identity was the same thing as being born with an XY or XX chromosome.  According to Wood, since gender is created through interaction rather than innate with our bodies, ideas of how the sexes should behave and appear changes over time and cultures.  This is why in the United States, we no longer believe that the best option for women is to be homemakers or expect men to wear heels and powdered wigs like our country’s founders.

In fact, it’s not just pink toe nail polish that is the issue.  These gendered norms extend from minute requirements about appearance (“appropriate” colors, hair styles, and clothing for the sexes) to how we are “supposed” to act and what we are capable of achieving.  Over time, we have radically changed our ideas of careers, family care taking options, and civic work that are possible for the sexes.  Do we really want to move back to the days when narrowly defined gendered identities people were thought to be “born with” included women being only suited for domestic tasks and men as the stern breadwinner?

As our culture moves forward, boys and girls are earning more freedoms to express themselves in different and creative ways.  As parents, educators, friends, and family members, we need to allow children and ourselves the freedom to develop identities regardless of sex.  If we do that, it won’t only be our toes that are rosy pink – it will be all of our futures!

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  1. I really enjoyed reading this article because it was unique to see how you interacted with your brother and it made me think of the way I interacted with mine when we were younger. My brother and I are 5 years apart and have completely different personalities. The activities I was interested in were polar opposite to him. I would play school with my friends and would ask if he wanted to play, and his response was always “this game is for girls. Girls play pretend.” This is where are largest divide was as brother and sister since we could never agree on a game. Even today, he still takes gender norms extremely seriously and puts a divide between males and females. For example, whenever I ask him if he simply wants to run errands with me to help with the grocery shopping for my family, he jumps the gun assuming that grocery shopping is a women’s job. This is what makes this class so interesting because we all have the opportunity to reflect on our personal experiences with how gender is looked at and what is and isn’t “socially accepted” in our society.

    Looking at the J. Crew ad, I think it is crazy that they are putting a label on this boy for his actions with the hot pink nail polish. Now, if I saw a mom painting a little boys nails would I be little confused? Yes, because It is not something I have typically seen growing up. After looking at this ad did I automatically assume this boy is gay? Absolutely not. Children experience many different things as they grow and I do believe that they are looking to find themselves. The term, heternormativity, which is introduced in the book, Gender Lives, written by Julia T. Wood’s (2015) discusses how anything but heterosexuality is not normal and if a persons is expressing themselves in ways that is not either masculine or feminine characteristics that match up with their biological sex, they won’t be as accepted (54). This J.Crew ad immediately made me think of this term simply because we take actions of a person way out of context. Just because this boy is getting his nails painted by his mother does not mean he is not heterosexual or will end up becoming a female in the future. I remember I did a fashion show in 6th grade at a local mall in my area and there was a boy participating in the event. To some, this may have been “abnormal” since we see girls participating in fashions shows and not usually boys. Since there was only one boy, many could have been making assumptions of his herterosexuality, but didn’t consider that maybe he has grown up in a family that is about fashion. Some people are raised in environments where fashion is a large part of their culture and it is important for them to dress to their best. That is what I think about the little boy in the ad since he is always surrounded by fashion since he is a model for J. Crew. This example just exemplifies how many make assumptions and look at anyone who does something not classified as “heternormativity” cannot be accepted within society.

    Overall, this post most me really think about a lot of the terms we have discussed in this class and how much we label people by what they choose to do with their lives. Though my brother and I have completely different interests and he grew up loving and adoring the typical boy activities, I know that if he did choose to experience things that you mainly see women doing such as painting your toe nails, this would not make him any different as a person.

    • Mandi on February 9, 2016 at 8:58 am

    I would associate this example with psychological theories of gender development specifically, the social learning theory. It also relates and overlaps with the cognitive development theory, gender schema, and symbolic interactionism.

    The social learning theory explains that we are shaped by the positive and negative reinforcement of those around us. It states that we learn what is considered to be acceptable for our gender through trial and error. If a behavior is socially accepted as masculine or feminine you will know by the praise or criticism that follows. Cognitive development theory expresses Beckett’s role in creating and forming his gender schema. This theory explains that children chose their role models and what to mimic. Both of these could affect how he would look at himself and his gender. Symbolic internationalism assumes that intermingling with parents and peers allows us to learn who we are through self-reflection and others view of us.

    In this case, the act of using pink nail polish is frowned upon by the general public however acceptable to his mother. His mother in a sense praises him by smiling and expressing that she feels fortunate to have a son who is fond of pink. Society on the other hand is appalled that his mother would endorse such a thing. Both his mother and society exist within the same cultural context but have converse reactions to this behavior. Social interactionism would presume both will later play into the way he perceives himself. He chose to mimic his mother and have his toe nails painted. His mother’s response hasn’t given any reason to think that pink toes are “girly” or feminine. Because he is unaware and he lacks interaction with others who disapprove he doesn’t know that many men would not consider painted toes to be acceptable to his gender schema. The article does not mention his father so we cannot assume that he does or doesn’t have his influence to mimic. In my opinion I don’t think he wants to be a girl. I think he saw his mother painting her toes and wanted to do what he had seen as the social learning theory predicts and explains.

    It is funny that our culture is taken back by pink nail polish while bull fighters in other cultures are expected to be dressed in neon colors. Through social interactionism we know that gender is culturally constructed. This is an instance that supports that claim. In our culture a little boy with neon pink nails criticized and frowned upon. In other cultures like Spain a matadors can wear tight, sparkly, neon, suits and they are socially acceptable. These men mimicked and adored by little boys. They have the equivalent to baseball cards for matadors. Both Beckett and matadors have adorned themselves in pink however; society has reacted very different due to cultural views of gender. Symbolic interactionlism is very prevalent in our culture and exemplified in situations such as these.

  2. I believe that, this advertisement may be a little confusing to the eye. To be completely honest her son looks like a girl and if I had not known he was a she, I would see no problem. However, because now that I know that this is a boy, not just any boy, but a boy with finger nail polish on his toes. That does change the meaning of the situation just a bit. Please hear me out first. I know you may be think I am a horrible person because it seems that I’m in agreement with those who are against this advertisement. But not just yet, let me explain my reasoning. Everyone is brought up differently from among their peers. “Culturally” some people would consider this to be ridiculous and would criticize this women for showing her son in a non-masculine way. For other cultures they expect little boys to grow up to be more masculine and show signs of either roughhousing, playing with boy tools or something not feminine. In this situation the boy is showing signs of femininity, or is he? In the book, Gendered Lives written by Julia T. Woods she discusses the Social Learning Theory. It is defined as individuals learning the ways of masculinity and femininity through see behavior of others. At young ages kids don’t really know what they are doing because they mimic what they see and do what they think may be right. For a prime example this boy is experiencing the Social Learning Theory within this advertisement. He is only is mimicking what he thinks is right. The young boy still doesn’t know exactly what he is doing. You can fault the mother if you choose but the young boy still may consider himself a boy. But with his mother conducting such activities I can see how it can be a concern for others. However it’s not your kid people. Everyone’s culture is different and may act upon think that may be consider abnormal to others. In the society we are in today there is no telling what parents think is more appropriate for their kid.

  3. I think that the critics of the J Crew ad most likely relate to the Social Learning Theory.

    This theory basically tells us that people will learn how to be masculine or feminine by reactions they get from others about what they do. Therefore if they are praised by something they do, they are more likely to do it again. From this, they will decide which behaviors they should have and do in life to be accepted.

    The critics of the J Crew ad discussed in this post perfectly use this theory to critique the ad as they frown upon the mother figure painting the son figure’s toes pink. The critiques call it “homogenizing” or “celebrating trans children”. Through this they are implying that just because a mother paints her son’s toenails and just because he wants pink toes and she is ALLOWING it, he will feel as though it’s the appropriate behavior to have. He will think that it’s not just okay to act in this way (aka a feminine behavior as chosen by society), but that it is encouraged.

    This makes me think back to as a child when I was told to sit “lady-like”. If I was wearing a dress or skirt and had my legs open, I was instantly scolded by my mom to sit in a proper form. This behavior she expected of me was taught to be a way a lady should act. Since I was scolded, I learned to sit “lady-like” to be praised and that that was the appropriate behavior to have. To this day I still never make the mistake to sit “un-lady-like” while wearing dresses and skirts.

  4. Reading this I know I can say that I don’t agree with Dr. Albow’s opinions, or statements, about the issue. Jenna Lyons in my opinion is just simply spending time with her son, she is engaging in her style of parenting, and she knows what she is doing as a parent because her son is happy in the picture; even if it was for the advertisement. First thing I could think of after reading Dr. Albow’s statements was that he is essentializing the situation very much. This implies that he believes boys and girls have traits and behaviors that inevitability are “assigned” to them when they are born and identified as male or female. Personally I saw nothing wrong with the advertisement and I stick to a strong belief of how parents raise their kid(s) is their business. When different opinions like this though come up, it’s all just a matter of what people believe in when it comes to parenting. With essentializing, people like Dr. Albow have come to believe, going off your statement Dr. Johnson, that once you’re born a boy or a girl, that there are certain gender norms that you “Have” to follow now for the rest of your life. This is clearly not the case anymore because over the years we’re have come to obtain more freedom to express who we want to be. Without the labels of “masculine” or “feminine” I’m pretty sure that there would be less controversy of what people see now, as seeing whether or not certain acts are “gender bending” to one’s biological makeup.

    People are going to stick to their opinions, people are going to believe that certain things should be natural, so when different opinions clash like this, it creates unnecessary conflict ( I believe it’s unnecessary anyway) about how to raise one’s child. There are no rules or laws that state what males or females are required to do, based on their gender. Right now everyone has the freedom to express their character in whatever way pleases them, the catch is that they’re the ones who also now have to be tolerable of people who don’t agree with their opinion of how to behave or act in a masculine and feminine manner. Yeah she painted her son’s toe nails pink, show me where you’re not supposed to do that and I’ll be satisfied. I’ve wore pink shirts growing up and with my female cousins I’ve played with their dolls with them, and honestly I still consider myself to be a comfortable male. I’ve seen how certain gender behaviors are looked down upon over the years, but now it has come to “do as you wish, as long as you’re comfortable.” Don’t essentialize how certain genders “Need” to behave, that’ll shut you off from being open-minded.

  5. I enjoyed reading the “Seeing Pink” article because like Dr. Naomi, I too forced down my guy-friends and covered them with makeup, glitter, and anything to make them “pretty,” when I was little. Though “pretty” was an insult in the guy’s eyes; none of the guys wanted to be anything other than fierce men willing to uphold their honor and ego. I can remember some of the men in my life reinforcing the ideals of so-called “normality.”

    This brings about the fact that little boys, and little girls, have been conditioned to feel validated only when they uphold and perform the supposed norms. But I am encouraged, even if only a little, by the growth in the acceptability for boys and girls to experiment with their clothes, interests, careers, etc. in a more constructive environment. There still exists a gap for girls and boys to express themselves and experiment with their gender, sexuality, and overall gender-specific interests, but there has been a major shift in recent times. Communication and the transfer of ideas, is what I would attribute to the advancement and easement in gender-specific dynamics. Communication, overtime, has become a “fulcrum of change.”

    Julia T. Wood explains that there can be no direct change, no induction of new ideas, without direct communication contribution. Communication acts as the transportation of new ideas; without people speaking out about inequalities and stigmatized topics, there will never be any sort of change. As a participant of society, of culture, and of a community, each person is responsible for speaking up about the topics which create inequalities and marginalized social strife.

    Part of being a vehicle for change is having spokespersons, who hold cultural importance, to speak out about an inequality. There have been many celebrities within the past few years that have talked out, and supported, their children who have either questioned their sexuality or gender normalities (specifically with clothing). Miley Cyrus’ father has been supportive of her sexuality, Will Smith has been supportive of his son’s fluidity with clothing, and Angelina Jolie has been outwardly supportive of her son’s experimentation. It is this outward expression from celebrities which help attribute to communication being a fulcrum of change.

    Overall, within my personal life, within being a member of a close-knit community, a person’s word and beliefs really can change other’s beliefs and opinions. Some people just cannot wrap their heads around ideas or other perspectives, but change can be made and does happen. So far it has taken a long time for change, but communication will continue to play a key role in change.

  6. I personally never knew about this controversy, but I’m glad I read about it now. I do not agree with the reasoning behind this controversy, but I can see why there would be. As with any celebrity, they are going to receive more backlash than a 9th grader in Minnesota. Not to say that their issues are less important, but they have less eyes watching and judging. The fact that this woman is/was the president of J. Crew provides her with a larger audience for criticism, or even praise.

    When reading other classmates posts, I saw that a trending theory is the social learning theory, found on page 45 in Dr. Julia T. Wood’s, Gendered Lives (2015). This theory claims that gender is learned by living our lives, watching others and imitating their behaviors and responses. This is absolutely true. I find this theory extremely accurate in today’s society and probably even more accurate in past societies where there were separate classes (or learning facilities) for men and women. However, the example that I have to share is more fluid with gender constancy.

    Gender constancy is knowing that you are male or female regardless of what you are told. It will not change. When I worked at a pool a couple summers ago, I worked in the snack shop selling food and candy. Obviously, this was the place to be during breaks and many children would come crowding around trying to bribe my friend and I into giving them free candy. Some kids were rude and some were very sweet. A couple of the boy took a liking to us and would come around back to hang out in the shade. One of these boys names is Tucker. He was about four and was very active. He would run around in a knight Halloween costume with his foam sword attacking people (in the cute kind of way). He had bright blonde hair and one day… had bright blue fingers and toes. When my friend and I asked who painted his nails he mentioned that his mom did it because he asked her too. Testing to see his response, I asked, “but nail polish is for girls?” and with out hesitation he yelled, “that’s why I chose blue!”.

    He had blue nails for the rest of the summer because my friend and I complimented him so much on it, but that never stopped him from attacking people with his foam sword and knight costume (sometimes it was a ninja turtle with nun-chucks). I believe that Tucker was representing gender constancy because despite his painted nails, blue makes them “manly”.

  7. I found this blog post to be very interesting. Reading about the way the audience reacted does not surprise me one bit because of how people are. Yes we have come a long way but there are still a lot of people who have traditional views and think pink is only for girls. While reflecting on this article I thought of something I have always been self-conscious about. When I was younger and even now whenever I put my hair back in a low bun or pony tail I always feel as if I look like a boy. As I thought and reflected on why this may be the case I remembered why. Ever since I can remember everyone has always said I look just like my dad and I’m my daddy’s girl. In my mind this is why in my head I would associate my hair being back with looking even more like my dad who has a short buzz cut.

    Further in the blog post it starts talking about chromosomes and how parents should ensure their children “become comfortable” with the gendered identity their child was born with. However Julia T. Wood states claims that the first relationship we have fundamentally influences how we define our identity, including gender (pg. 43).” This is called psychodynamic theory. An example of this is when a mother is closer with her daughter and a father closer to his son. Mothers tend to talk more about emotions and infant boys seem to recognize they differ from their mothers. (pg. 44)

  8. Seeing this J. Crew add and then reading the blog post describing the controversy over a small detail such as toe nail polish left me with a surprised look on my face. I’ll be honest; I did see the pink toe nail polish on Jenna Lyons’s son and thought to myself that pink is usually categorized under feminine qualities in our society’s gender roles. Other than that, I didn’t think much of it. I would have never jumped to the conclusion that Jenna is teaching her kid to be transgender or gay. And after reading ABC’s coverage of the story, I was even more put off (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/crew-ad-boy-painting-toenails-pink-stirs-transgender/story?id=13358903). If anything she’s letting him know that he can like whatever color he wants to. I think a lot of people uneducated on the subject of gender jumped to conclusions way out of their knowledge range.

    A theory that came to my mind while reading this blog is social learning theory. According to Julia T. Wood, in her book Gender Lives: Communication, Gender, & Culture, she describes the theory as people get a good sense of what masculine and feminine societal qualities are through doing as others do and also receiving feedback from people of those roles (45). People can also learn the characteristics of masculine and feminine through the media. While the color pink is usually associated with feminine qualities and painting finger or toe nails is as well, I can see why some people would have a small reaction to the J. Crew ad. A good example of how the media portrays characteristics of masculinity and femininity is through toy aisles in stores. Just because a certain color is sometimes classified under masculine or feminine characteristics, doesn’t lead to the conclusion that someone is gay or transgender. Thinking back to what we’ve learned in class, I remembered the girl gender role toy video we viewed: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/crew-ad-boy-painting-toenails-pink-stirs-transgender/story?id=13358903 In the video, Riley specifically mentions the different colors shown in the toy section, with pink being classified under girls toys. She is absolutely astounded that boys and girls have to use different colors due to what society gives them in a sense.

    People are going to understand the roles of masculine and feminine through the actions of others. When learning about gender communication, it is important to understand that there is a difference between sex and gender. According to Julia T. Wood, sex is defined as the biology of a person, while gender is created through society (19). Therefore, just because a little boy paints his toe nails pink, a characteristic that is seen as feminine in today’s society, that does not correlate with that person’s biological sex or sexual orientation.

  9. This blog exposed where society stands with their acceptance of people exploring their gender identity. It is interesting to see how much people can criticize a young child for simply having fun with his mother and liking a certain color. This reminded me of the social learning theory.

    The social learning theory, this theory says that children learn about different gender norms and what it means to be masculine or feminine by connecting with other people. Through those interactions they learn to copy certain behaviors and then determine if that is the correct behavior based off of the response they get.

    Through his mother supporting his favorite color being hot pink the little boy is also learning acceptance. I think it is awesome that he will grow up not being stuck in society’s strict gender rules. Just as the social learning theory showed that because he is getting positive reinforcement for his color choice he will now know that it is okay to like that color no matter his gender identity. I think that the reaction to this article was far too critical of this boy and his mother. All society saw was a little boy with hot pink on his nails. Where really they should have seen a mother teaching her son to be accepting and to choose things because they are what he wants not what society wants for him.

  10. After reading this post, I am not surprised by society’s reaction to J. Crew’s advertisement. For whatever reason 2015 was the year everyone felt the need to publically (typically through social media) voice his or her opinion and create as many controversies as possible. The fact that people were upset that Jenna Lyons painted her son’s toenails neon pink proves our culture has a ways to go before boys and girls will be able to express themselves freely.

    I found it interesting how Dr. Naomi pointed out that if the advertisement had been Jenna’s daughter doing a more “masculine” activity, then there would no have been a controversy about the advertisement. This reminds me of Julia T. Wood’s explanation of Judith Butler’s performative theory in our textbook Gendered Lives (2015). This theory argues that we generate our identities, including gender, through our expression and performance. Meaning gender is not something we have (like a noun), but rather something we do in certain situations at specific times (like a verb). For example, the people who were upset by the J. Crew ad felt this way because our society believe we should act, walk, speak, etc. in ways that align with our impression of being a man or woman. People in our culture would have responded much better had the little boy been playing or sport or had it been a little girl getting her nails painted. Yet, Judith Butler does not see being a man or a woman as an internal reality. She thinks it is simply a phenomenon that is produced and reproduced all the time. This theory argues that nobody is really a gender from the start, so the little boy having his toenails painted pink is not participating in a “feminine” activity.

    When I was growing up, I loved playing with dolls and Barbie’s, but I also enjoyed catching frogs and climbing trees. If I were featured in an advertisement catching frogs (a “masculine” activity) there would have been no controversy over it. This is because our society tends to be more accepting of females engaging in “masculine” activities, than of males to engaging in “feminine” activities. By engaging in those activities as a child, the performative theory says I was generating my identity through expression and performance, reiterating that gender is something we do, not something we have.

    Check out this short video of Judith Butler (key theorist of the performative theory)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bo7o2LYATDc

  11. I can personally relate to this post because I was very feminine as a young boy growing up. It got to the point that I vividly remember my dad yelling at me to “stop being a momma’s boy”. This post made me reflect a little bit on my own upbringing and how the various circumstances surrounding me during my childhood, played into making me into the adult that I am today.

    The construct that comes to mind is cognitive development theory. According to research conducted by Gilligan & Pollack (1988), Kohlberg, (1958) and Piaget, (1932/1965), children gradually develop their gender identities based on the people who are around them the most. I’m not too sure about this boy featured in this blog and how he was brought up, but I was raised predominantly around women. Even though my dad was technically in the picture, he worked most of the time, so I found myself around my mom, sister, and several of my mom’s sisters (my aunts). By me being subconsciously exposed to the dialogue and culture of my aunts, I naturally picked up on some rather feminine habits. One habit that I did consistently, that drove my dad crazy, was when I would let my wrist hang freely by my side as i was in line waiting for my turn to do lay-ups on the middle school basketball team. I vividly remember both my mom and dad telling me that I had to stop doing that and that I looked like a “sissy”. In retrospect I never got the big deal, but i see that me doing subtle gesture such as this was a result of me being exposed to various mannerisms that were considered feminine. However, to this day I believe that I did nothing wrong by choosing to rest my wrist that way, and I even think that a lot of the mannerisms that I picked up o from my aunts seem to come less forced, as opposed to conventional masculine mannerisms.

  12. I feel that the J. Crew advertisement strongly correlates to the Social Learning Theory by Julia T. Wood’s in Gendered Lives (2005). The theory states that children learn masculine and feminine behaviors by imitating people they know or from behaviors seen on television, movies, and the internet. In the ad Jenna Lyons is painting her sons toes neon pink, in society pink is associated with femininity, especially neon pink. People seeing this ad may be worried that if their sons see this ad they may want to start wearing pink nail polish or clothing, and fearing that this will make them gay or less masculine, and start identifying more with females. Over the past few years I have babysat for a family with four children, one boy and three girls. While babysitting I have noticed that the girls like to watch shows like, Dr. Mcstuffins, Barbie, and Princess Sofia. While Gavin will watch these shows with them he still prefers shows where there is a male lead, he loves the kids version of Avengers, Transformers, and Captain America. He even has costumes for Spiderman and Captain America, and will ask to go to sleep in them. The girls tend to wear pink tutus, and little pink heels, and carry wands around. It’s amazing to see how influential television shows and movies are on children, but even Gavin who watches the more feminine shows still prefers to dress as male super heroes, I feel this may have to do their parents communicating to them or encouraging them to be more feminine or more masculine depending on sex.

  13. Dr. Johnson,

    This is a very interesting post because I have never really had an experience with dressing up like the different sex until middle school. All my life I have only really been concerned with any and everything girly. My brother could care less about my toys and clothes. But there is this one time when I stole his gameboy just because I was young and the “annoying” little sister. I only did it to bother him not to actually play with it. In middle school my friends and I decided that we were at the age where it was our last year to go trick or treating to lets dress up as silly as possible. So, that was lets dress up as a boy. I hate every second of it and changed as soon as I could.

    I feel like I was the way I was because of the social learning theory. I just knew I was supposed to be and act a certain way and I didn’t want to be any other way. I just have always love make up and doing girly things but its funny because when I play sports I’m the most aggressive one of the field. I would love pushing people around and making sure I would be the best on the field. But, I believe that just came from having an older brother and dad. We would always play around and play sports. I would always get mad if they won so I would play that much more aggressive. Julia T. Wood’s (2015) book, Gendered Lives, she introduces the social learning theory which states that we learn how to masculine or feminine by imitating others (Pg.45). Till this day I have always looked up to my mom. When I was young I always asked her to do my make up the way she did it and I even remember I would try to wear her heels around the house because I wanted to do everything she did. I feel like my brother did and does do the same thing with my dad. My dad is such the business man and my brother wants to do the same thing. They both love baseball and were so good at it. I feel my brother and I had such amazing parents to look up too that we just wanted to do everything that they did. Also, we were with them every single day and watched them so thats where the social learning theory came into play.

  14. This post was very interesting to read because as a buyer of J.Crew clothing I am very surprised by this add, but have no problem with the add. I always assumed that J.Crew was a very conservative clothing company based on the type of clothing they sell. The problem that most individuals have with this add is that they are advertising clothing while challenging gender roles. These gender roles are challenged according to Julia T. Wood on the basis of understanding sex and gender.

    Julia T. Wood (2015) states that sex is a designation based on biology, whereas gender is socially constructed and expressed. She also states “gender is not strictly personal. Rather gender grows out of cultural ideas that stipulate the social meaning and expectation of each sex” (2015). This is what the J.Crew add is doing. This add is challenging these gender roles by having the boy do an act that is usually seen as a “girly” thing to do. The boy is just purely expressing himself using nail polish and it doesn’t mean that he is homosexual or anything else. He is expressing his individuality by doing a so called “girl action”. The question is when did painting nails become such a feminine thing to do? I know many men that go to nail salons and polish their nails and get their nails cleaned. It is just the fact that the boy is using a pink colored nail polish that media causes an uproar, when in fact many other men are doing somewhat the same thing. It also relates to getting your hair cut. Is it considered girly if a man goes into a hair salon and wants his hair colored or styled? Is it also considered not masculine to pay more than 10 bucks to get his hair cut. Young children are only told what is masculine and feminine. If we stop telling children what is right by their gender and let them do what they want to express their individual selfs than all of this controversy will someday come to an end.

    Another add that has also caused a lot of controversy is the Campbell’s “Your Father” add. This adds is about two fathers raising their adopted son. Many individuals had a problem with this add because it is advertising Homosexuality. I believe that this add has nothing wrong with it and honestly didn’t even cross my mind that these men were Homosexual. Just like the boy and the nail polish he is expressing himself, and this add is doing the same with these men being married and raising a not traditional family that most people think of. This add is very inspiring because it shows that as Americans we are moving past all the gender norms and hate and focusing on the good aspects of family which is love. It doesn’t matter if this add was a traditional family what matters is that the parents are showing that little boy love and spending quality time together. Maybe one day the word, traditional family, will not mean the same it does now, and no one will question a boy if he wants to do feminine things, or a girl if she wants to do masculine things.

  15. This article reminds me of queer theory, which is a critical theory. This theory suggests that we are moving past the binary system of sex, gender, and sexuality. Queer theory challenges what society deems normal and how we view the range of fluid identities. The two most important and central ideas of queer theory is that 1) binary terms, such as man and woman, are useless and restrictive and 2) identities are not fixed, but fluid. A key concept of this theory is heteronormativity. In Julia T. Wood’s (2015) book, Gendered Lives, she suggests that heteronormativity is what is being challenged, as it is the idea that heterosexuality is the only “normal” sexual identity.

    For example a friend from high school who is biologically female identifies as transgender, but sometimes still prefers to dress as society thinks a female should. My friend identifies as gender fluid, because they refuse to specify what sex they are. I think this is a good example of challenging heteronormativity, and expressing how their identity changes depending on context.

    The critics of the parent in this article are pushing heteronormativity onto this child. Even further, they are pushing gender norms, such as “only girls can wear nail polish,” and stereotypes, such as “gay men like ‘girly’ things like nail polish.”

  16. As I get older and am staring to look at my future and what it will look like, I always see myself having kids. As we talk about gender and sexuality, it makes me question how I want to raise my future children and also what kind of world I want them to grow up in. It is interesting to find out so many people resisted this advertisement and became upset. I just see a happy mother and child. The Social Learning theory that Julia T Wood talks about in her book “Gendered Lives” (2015), explains the theory as social interactions will shape a child and their views on gender. They will learn the traits of each gender and what is acceptable behavior for each. For example when a young toddler ‘who is a girl, see’s her mother taking care of other or a younger sibling; she is seeing what is deemed “appropriate” and will mimic that behavior.

    I think as our society keeps learning and evolving, we will see more and more children that are androgynous. If we keep on pushing others to be open and to accept that gender is not black and white, children will be able to be who they are at a younger age. Androgyny is have both feminine and masculine traits, and I believe if we give boys and girls the option to not just be in there” gender box” we will see more examples of this.

    Let this little boy in the advisement paint his toes pink. Let him make his own decisions about his gender. If he is happy, cared for, and learning what is the problem? We have to stop enforcing our views of gender on others and that includes children.

  17. Although I do shop at J. Crew and favor their, what I consider, preppy sense of fashion, I have never seen this advertisement before. I am surprised that J. Crew released this ad because of the obvious controversy it was bound to cause, risking a lose of customers. Although this ad may not bother some and may have made a statement, because it does not appeal and follow the values of all of their customers, a decrease in sales may be a consequence.

    Thinking about this, it reminds me of a time when I was talking to my hairdresser about her children. She told me a story about how one day she was painting her daughter’s nails. Her son then came up to her and asked her why he couldn’t have his nails painted too, like his sister could. She told him that that was something that mommies and daughters did together but when he got older if he still wanted his nails painted then she would paint them for him. It can sometimes be difficult for some to see children partaking in actions that are “better suited” for the opposite gender. For example, a parent might discourage their daughter from playing with toy cars and replace them with a doll instead. I think that my hairdresser’s response to her son however, was fair, as she guided him in the direction we expect little boys to follow, but gave him the option to do as he pleased once he grew older.

    I think a big part in how parents try to raise their kids according to their gender is influenced by other people. I am sure that my hairdresser did not want to paint her son’s nails, not because she thought it was something only little girls did, but because of how other little boys would treat and act towards her son if his nails were painted. Gender norms are something that exists in this world, right or wrong, and I think because people and parents continue to react negatively to actions that go against those norms is why they continue to exist.

    Social Learning Theory described in the textbook, “Gendered Lives,” written by Julia T. Woods, is defined as, “individuals learn to be masculine and feminine by imitating others and getting responses from others to their behaviors”(Woods, p. 45, 2015). This theory can be applied to the story of my hairdresser and her son because as her son attempted to be like his sister and get his nails painted too, his mom’s response to his behavior made him realize that those actions were more feminine than masculine. From experiences like this, her son will realize how society expects boys to act.

  18. This post certainly hits some very good points about a very fragile social dynamic. When I was younger (and even nowadays), I have had female friends who “push the gender role boundaries” simply by dressing or acting masculine in any way. Anything from wearing jackets meant for boys, playing violent video games or having short hair was almost always accepted. Plenty of my friends did it – they enjoyed it and identified through it regularly, yet were not typically punished for not adhering to traditional gender norms. Myself, on the other hand, wouldn’t dare wear makeup, tighter pants or jewelry out of my fear of being sliced out of my comfortable gender zone. This double standard, although it has never harmed me personally, is a strange communication phenomenon

    In Gendered Lives, Dr. Julia Wood explains the Social Learning Theory (2015); young people adopt their according gender roles through social interactions. If a social interaction yields a positive reaction from peers, friends, and role models, the behavior will continue. For example, if a young boy went to school wearing his hair very long and straightened and his classmates pick on him for this, he would likely alter his behavior observing those who were not picked on, and channeling their behavior.

    Personally, I see no problem with this “controversial” ad, agreeing with the idea that it is no different than a young girl being prepared for a football game.

  19. The article, Seeing Pink, illuminates the restrictive gender roles that are placed on male and females. The article includes an advertisement by J. Crew, which shows a mother painting her sons toenails pink. This raised some questions as to what the advertisement was promoting. It was seen by some as promoting transgendered children, where others simply saw it as an advertisement for the products shown.
    This article then goes on to touch on the culture of the United States and how gender roles are learned and not natural to every human being. This point can be expanded upon by examining cultural theories. Cultural theories hold the belief that gender norms are dynamic and will change with each different culture one is a part of. Symbolic interactionism is a cultural theory that I feel best explains how children create their identity. Symbolic interactionism asserts that the society one is a part of, teaches one what gender roles are expected of them. Through the language people use, to the activities that they participate in, gender roles are learned and not inherent. For example, if a young boy grows up in a society/home that praises males for strength and toughness, then that child will most likely display those characteristics. On the other hand, if that same boy decides that he wants to wear pink clothes and play with dolls instead of play sports outside, he will most likely receive negative messages as a consequence from those who surround him that specific environment.

  20. The fact that people who viewed this ad reacted so negatively to it does not surprise me at all. Even though people in this day and age are slowly becoming more open minded when it comes to people expressing their gender identity openly, most are still stuck on the idea that there is “two and only two” genders, and that girls should act feminine and boys should act masculine. The negative reactions that people shared about this ad, although they don’t surprise me, make me upset because the fact that Beckett’s favorite color is pink and he wanted to spend his quality time with his mom painting his toenails does not mean that he is going to “turn” gay or transgender as he gets older (I know, how shocking a concept). This ad is a perfect example of Julia T. Wood’s social learning theory (2015), which states that children learn about traits that are considered “masculine” or “feminine” by observing and interacting with others, and then replicating those traits and learning which traits are appropriate based on the responses they receive from others (pg 45). This ad is an example of this theory because Beckett must have watched his mother paint her toenails a number of times and he saw how much fun it looked, and he wanted his mother to do it for him in his favorite color: bright pink. Because his mother didn’t give him a negative reaction to this request, he must think that this activity is appropriate for both boys and girls, not just girls.
    I have one younger sister, which means that my household is 3/4 girls. As I’ve grown up, however, my dad has taught my sister and I that girls can do more than just learn how to take care of a house and wear girly dresses all the time. My sister was more into the girly stuff when we were growing up (she wanted to be a fashion designer and her favorite color was, and still is, pink), but I was always interested in what my dad was doing. He taught me how to work with computers and technology, he taught me how to sail a boat, and he taught me the very minimum basics of how to drive a stick shift before he had to sell his beautiful old BMW and replace it with an automatic (I don’t remember a thing about what he taught me but I’m hoping to learn again). This experience that I had is an example of social learning theory as well because I was interested in typical “boy” things, and my dad was encouraging my curiosity by teaching me what he knew.

  21. In my opinion, this is advertisement should not be so controversial. Based on Julia T. Wood’s explanation of Social Learning Theory in Gendered Lives (2015), feminine and masculine traits are learned from observing others. Younger children do not necessarily know that certain colors and behaviors are assigned to specific genders. In addition, it seems that Jenna is showing her son that it is okay for boys to like pink (or feminine things in general). I personally think that this advertisement is a great idea because it does reinforce the idea of androgyny in today’s society being more and more acceptable. I do not agree with the arguments that state that painting a little boys toenails is correlates to homosexuality or being transgender later down the road. My own little brother asked my stepmom to paint his nails when he was younger, and is neither gay or transgender. He simply has traits that are masculine and traits that are feminine. Essentially, I believe that this advertisement is completely okay and that it promotes having qualities that are associated with both genders.

  22. The remote thought of painting a young boys nails hot pink and him turning gay is absurd. Children that young go through phases on what they like, obsess over, and hate. A week later, Jenna Lyon’s son could be loving the color macaroni yellow. If she was photographed in an ad painting his toenails that color, would it cause an uproar? Probably, but not to the extent that the hot pink color did. This is a young boy, doing a “girly” activity, yet he is so young, he has not been exposed to the cultural pairings that society sticks with what is masculine and what is feminine. There is no way at that age that he is aware of the difference.

    I can think back to many times growing up when I was around this boys age that I would take my shirt off and play in the basement with my brother. I took my shirt off because he did, and I was such a tomboy that I wanted to be like him in this situation. That is just an experience that I had at that age, it did not mean that I was going to grow up to be transgendered. Just like Jenna Lyon’s son will not necessarily grow up to be gay, or wishing he was female.

    This J. Crew (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/crew-ad-boy-painting-toenails-pink-stirs-transgender/story?id=13358903) situation is intriguing, especially because it is relating to where we are at in the semester. I bet Jenna Lyon’s also does “boyish” activities with her son too, it just was not made into an ad. People who were against this J. Crew advertisement probably correlated it with the social learning theory without even knowing about that theory. The action of painting the son’s toenails is a behavior that he may learn and pair it with a masculine activity, even if it is normally seen as feminine because that is how he was exposed and learned about it. His mother was in a way rewarding him of this behavior because she was teaching it to him and he was doing it.

    For example, the “Throw Like A Girl” ad on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs) that went viral can be seen in retrospect with this J. Crew ad. In this video, it asks a young boy to run and throw like a girl. He does so in a manner that is sad, and unrealistic to a girl of any age. He demonstrates the way he thinks girls run and throw probably based on how it has been communicated to him through television, movies, and cartoons. Or maybe from his siblings or father teaching him how to throw and run, and then commenting with stuff like, “Oh son! You throw like a girl!” However, it is not his fault! That is just how he learned about girls and their “un-athletic” abilities. A stereotype that is hopefully fading away within today’s society!

  23. This was a very interesting blog post to read, and reflect upon, because J. Crew as a company has always had a interesting fashion sense, they have a very feminist and masculine mix of clothes for both men and women. I shop at J. Crew and to see this ad it does not surprise me at all. But what also does not surprise me is the reaction the public had to this ad. Seeing this ad, and Dr. Naomi asking if this brings up any memories of any experiences that are similar to this, it does actually.
    When I was around the age of 8 or 9, my younger cousin Lizzie, went through a tomboy stage, she was the complete opposite of her twin Caroline. As a child she did nothing but play sports, hang with the guys, and eventually started dressing like one as well. One summer we were on a trip and she actually started using the men’s restroom. One night though, when we were in Massachusetts, she went to the men’s room, and man yelled at her and told her to get out. My Aunt got offended that the man reacted this way, and told him that her daughter is just growing into the person she identifies best to. I think that my aunt reacted this way just showed how open minded she is. Now today my cousin Lizzie doesn’t go to the mens restroom any more, but still dresses in a somewhat more masculine way. It is still very interesting to reflect on that incident that occurred over 10 years ago and see how close minded people were and still are today.
    As I have reflected more and more upon that incident, I think about the environment that my cousins both grew up in. All three of my cousins are female, Lizzie, Caroline and Kenyon. What is most interesting is that the Social Learning Theory(pg 45) mentioned in Gendered Lives written by Julia T. Woods can not be entirely applied to Lizzie. Social Learning Theory is defined as “individuals learn to be masculine and feminine by imitating others and getting responses from others to their behaviors.”(Pg 45). Because the house hold was so feminine, and very girly, and not that her parents forced her to be girly, but she didn’t have any thing to imitate to that shaped her to be more masculine either. The household was so liberal that my Aunt and Uncle really just let them grow into the people they wanted to be. I think though that when that man yelled at my cousin Lizzie that was the first time she got a negative response to her behavior, but after that she continued to dress and act in a masculine way, except she stopped going to the men’s bathroom.
    Overall, I do believe that this country, as far as we have come, we have a long way to go before people fully accept everyone for how they act or dress. I believe the only way to further develop societies idea of social norms is to educate society. Until we start educating the public on what gender and sex are, the public will remain narrow minded. I believe education is the key because this helps people develop their own personal opinion. Whether that means they believe men should be men and women should be women, I would rather see people be educated and make a more well thought out opinion than ignorant one. So for this J. Crew commercial, I think this definitely forced the public to become aware that we live in a society where it is becoming more acceptable for boys to like the color pink, and for girls to like to wear more masculine outfits.

  24. I found this overall controversy to be one that is blown a little out of proportion in regards to the gendered norms constructed, and the parenting style that is exhibited. The fact that a color can cause so much uproar when placed in a J. Crew advertisement (http://a.abcnews.com/images/Health/ht_jcew_pink_nail_polish_nt_110412_wg.jpg) with a little boy and his mother is a concept that confuses me. Since when did liking specific colors fear the risk of a child being gay or transgendered? In addition, while painting toe nails is considered a feminine action, I feel this was a mother bonding with her child, the way they both may enjoy.

    The construct that comes to mind when considering the story above is androgyny. Androgyny is the combination of both masculine and feminine characteristics. Yes, sex is divided into the categories male and female, however gender is a completely different story. The concept of androgynous is something to be considered in regards to the J.Crew catalog because Jenna might aspire to show Beckett, her son, that being both feminine and masculine is okay. Jenna is painting pink polish on her son, because it is his favorite color, displaying that it is acceptable to exercise this perceived act of femininity, despite him being a little boy. She finds it alright for him to be a young boy who can be feminine if he wishes.

    In our society today, not everything has to be completely one way, or another way. Many have tried to blur the lines of the “normal” genders to create a whole different world of gendered identities. There are males in America who willingly go to nail salons to get their nails done, and they are not homosexual. A man or a boy can be both masculine and feminine, or in other words, androgynous, as can a woman or a girl.

  25. When we were asked to think about what our favorite childhood game was and whether it fit our gender, I was very surprised at what memory popped up in my head. My favorite game I used to play with my younger brother was Pokemon. I had my own set of cards where I would play and trade with other kids, mostly boys. I also have two older sisters, however, my brother and I are closer in age, so I played more with toys that were aimed towards boys. Like the story you mentioned above with the pink nail polish, I too wasn’t fitting the gender norm. I find it very interesting that the circumstances one lives in, whether it be their class, demographics, race, etc., can all influence ones understanding of gender.

    In Julia T. Wood’s (2015) book, Gendered Lives, she introduces the Social Learning Theory. This theory explains that people learn masculine and feminine traits by watching others, carrying out those behaviors themselves, and getting a positive or negative response. Children can imitate the actions they see on TV and from everyone around them (45). For example, if a biologically born girl watches her older brother burp and pick his nose, then she is more than likely going to imitate that behavior. Whether she repeats that behavior depends on her parents response. When reading about the nail polish story above, this theory was the first one to come to mind. The young boy is the son of the President of a well-known clothing company. Before critiquing her actions, I think we should all think about what this little boy is growing up around.

    More than likely this boy is around fashion designers, models, and other figures from a wealthy social class. In the fashion industry it is very normal to see men dressed in a feminine way, or as most people call it, metro-sexual. As it states in the Social Learning Theory, children imitate the people around them which means they think it is acceptable to look a certain way because everyone else looks that way. So painted nails may not seem odd to this little boy and he wasn’t scolded for this behavior. He’s around people that dress like that all the time, and I bet those people in his social group wouldn’t think his nails were out of the ordinary.

    I enjoyed playing Pokemon because it was something I could play with my brother, it wasn’t “weird” for a girl to do, and it was actually really fun. Even though it may have been targeted towards boys, in my house it was acceptable for me to play it. Just like Lyon’s son, pink nail polish may be aimed at girls, however, in their household it is acceptable for boys to wear it too. It all depends on how and where the child is brought up that may have a huge influence on how they understand gender.

  26. I believe the critics of the JCrew advertisement were most likely were symbolic interactionism theorists. Symbolic interactionism says that gender is learned by the individuals interaction with others, as well as society.

    There was a hyperlink in the blog post to an article titled “J.CREW Pushes Transgendered Child Propaganda.” Then goes on to label the retailer as “preppy” and state that the retailers new target customer is “mothers of gender-confused young boys.” So what if Beckett’s favorite color is pink, so what if Beckett wants to spend time with his mother and do things as she does. This does not mean that he is gender-confused. Symbolic interactionism thinkers would say that because he enjoys these types of activities, perhaps Beckett will want to partake in a more feminine gender. As it stands, there are many males who don’t follow masculine norms, but are attracted to women.

    For example, I found another blog post (http://thoughtcatalog.com/james-hunt/2015/05/confessions-of-a-feminine-straight-guy/) from a guy who writes about how difficult it is to be feminine and straight. He writes about the difficulty og his friendships with other guys who think he is gay because of the things he wears and the way he carries himself.

    Like Dr. Naomi stated in “Seeing Pink,” we have all come a long way. We shouldn’t desire to go back to the days of narrow mindedness.

  27. The next three responses are from a previous section that I left up as examples for you. Note the use of the LEE (label-explain-example) pattern incorporated into these interesting, personal responses. In addition, two of the authors have included relevant links, which are described to demonstrate how the writer connects it to class material.

    The last two comments demonstrate how your blogs can take conversations beyond the classroom. Mary Jo was someone who was just reading the blog and thought it was interesting enough to make a comment.

    Encourage your friends and families to read your blogs to do the same! Not only does this allow you a chance to show off your skills and knowledge to help educate those to whom you are close, it will also demonstrate for employers that people care enough about your writing to engage with you about it.

  28. Dr. Naomi,
    I had heard about this controversy before and now reading more in depth about it, the story seems even more ridiculous. I agree with your statement that if this were a girl doing something remotely “masculine,” then it wouldn’t be such a controversy it would have been seen as humorous. I have a similar story pertaining to nail polish. One of my friends from high school grew up with three brothers. The youngest one day came in her room while she was doing her nails and he asked her if she would just paint a clear nail polish on his fingernails so he could see what it looked like. He ended up liking it a lot and every week would ask her to re-apply the nail polish. She used this as blackmail saying that “If he ever did something again to make her mad she would tell all his friends that he liked to wear nail polish.” This of course scared him off and he never wore nail polish again. He is your typical jock so the fact that he thought wearing nail polish was cool always made me laugh. I never thought that he was gay or transgendered but just curious. I think that our society tends to over think things. I’m sure there are a lot of other mom’s out there who have let their sons wear nail polish but don’t have the guts to say it and instead hide behind this curtain of gendered norms that our society has set forth for us to follow. I think that the author of our textbook Julia T. Wood makes a good point about communication being the “fulcrum of change.” (pg. 13) She explains that we can use communication to turn the tables on the typical status quo ideas, and to challenge current ideas that are held by our society and culture. Looking at this Jcrew story example, people, including Jenna Lyons, can communicate their view points and try to get our society to understand that times have changed. Boys can wear nail polish without being transgendered, and people such as Ablow should be able to see this story from a different perspective. Our society needs to be able to see that this is not the end of the world and that having fun is normal. I think articles online such as this one: http://bigfatmarketingblog.com/2011/04/14/j-crews-nail-polish-gate/ that state the whole nail polish controversy is stupid, and that the author goes on to explain that she has had similar experiences, proves that communication really is the “fulcrum of change,” because she had the freedom to communicate her point of view. (and a positive one!)

    • Caroline on June 22, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    Dr. Johnson,

    I can completely relate to this post. When I was growing up, I lived in a conservative community with a lot of military families. We were very close to our neighbors who had mostly daughters but one family had twins, a boy and a girl. Dr. Julia T. Wood states the social learning theory to be when ” individuals learn to be masculine and feminine primarily by imitating others and getting responses from others to their behaviors”.
    The girls and I always loved to play dress up and Chris the boy twin would volunteer to join us and liked to have make up put on and his nails painted. He found it to be amusing because of our responses. However, when is very strict military father came home, his father became very upset and angry and would yell at Chris. His mother and sister had no issues with his behavior so he was getting mixed responses. Chris was not transgendered. He was comfortable with his masculinity. If he was playing with the boys in the neighborhood, he would be playing sports or other activities considered masculine. It appears to be easier for women to accept a male in both roles than it is for another man to accept this behavior.

  29. This was a really interesting post; I had not heard of the J Crew ad receiving so much attention. When I was younger, my sister and I would dress up our younger neighbor, Zach, in our clothes. It was fun, and he looked pretty. I think part of being a child is trying on different roles to better understand oneself and their world; it’s about exploration. This post reminded me of a Trident ad where a girl puts make-up on her brother: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__ODw94ZeuU I wonder if this ad upset some people too.
    This post also reminded me of the article we had to read about the “Man Box,” because the restrictions associated with being masculine or feminine parlay into what we say, how we say it, how we move, our appearance, and how we feel or are supposed to feel, especially for men. Ablow says that people need to “become comfortable” with a specific gender; however, it seems like it would be much more “comfortable” for people to live outside of boxes with an integrated since of their culture’s genders.

    • Dr. Naomi on June 16, 2011 at 2:36 pm
      Author

    Yes, I’ve seen it! I’m always amazed with how passionately caught up people get in being able to know what sex a person is and how virulently some respond when someone doesn’t clearly fulfill the gender they associate with a sex.

    There was another child a few years ago dubbed “Pop” from Sweden whose parents did the same thing: http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/01/keeping-the-sex-of-a-toddler-secret/.

    While I understand and respect the parent’s wishes in each of these cases to allow their children to grow up free of the gendered biases and expectations that come with being assigned a sex, I do think they should leave this choice up to the child. Since there often their are such strong, negative reactions from others to not being able to tell a person’s sex, it doesn’t seem fair to me to subject a child to that without giving the child a choice in the matter.

    On the other hand, there also have been some interesting cases of both strong backlash and support for young children who DO choose to break the gendered norms associated with their sex. Again, I’m amazed at the backlash to something as simple as a Halloween costume choice, which is very similar to the situation I discuss in my blog: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/son-gay-mommy-blog-ignites-controversy/story?id=12066925

    Here’s another case where parents weren’t supportive and forced their son into therapy because he wasn’t masculine enough: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/blogpost/post/family-of-kirk-murphy-says-sissy-boy-experiment-led-to-his-suicide/2011/06/10/AGYfgvOH_blog.html. Recently, he committed suicide and the family now blames the therapy for this.

    It’s also interesting how people assume that children’s (especially boys) choices in dress, toys to play with, and other behaviors automatically related to sexuality too. Sadly, the fear and disdain that some people show these children and their parents demonstrates how far we have to go to recognizing gay, lesbian, and bisexual people equal social status. We’ve come a long ways in recent history, but still have some work to do!

    • Mary Jo on June 15, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Have you been following along the heated debate after the story of the Canadian couple that has chosen to keep the gender of their baby a secret? This original story was the in the Toronto Star – http://www.thestar.com/article/995112

    There were many follow up articles and blog posts on both sides of the fence with one story where the parents spoke out about the controversy after the initial article – http://www.parentdish.com/2011/05/31/parents-of-gender-neutral-baby-storm-speak-out/.

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