Does acceptance come only in blue for boys?
First. Let’s be clear—this is an ad for JCrew to get people buying their product- so we don’t even know if this is real life or not. It is a staged, well-lit, photo used to highlight JCrew’s nailpolish and striped shirt. This is not a candid shot taken in someone’s living room. So who knows what’s really going on here? Did they only do this for the camera? Do they do this all the time? There is no shortage of made up back stories. Trying to glean what this Moms typical interactions around gender identity are from looking at one ADVERTISEMENT showing a son getting his toenails painted is certainly not real science. In the end, you can’t tell much about this ad– but perhaps the Mom and son are laughing at how easy it all is to get their ad out to millions of people without even needing to pay for the mailing. If you ask me, boy did they get some good play based on this “controversy.”
That aside, if this is a real depiction of what goes on between this mother and her son, it’s called…playing. And playing is part of normal development.
Painting a boys toenails is not going to change his gender identity. There are boys and girls who both love paint. Love getting messy. Love getting positive attention from their parents. Love all different colors. It’s OK.
Parents will have different values. I think people need to heed my Dad’s advice from when I was little—keep your eyes on your own plate. Nail polish isn’t going to hurt anyone. This is not abuse. It looks like they are both having fun.
On the more extreme side, we do need to teach our children that not everyone is born the same way—and that some boys like typically labeled “boy things” and some like typically labeled “girl things.” And yes, that some people have strong opinions that they will voice loud and clear if they feel that you are deviating from what THEY BELIEVE is correct.
Children need to be able to explore different roles, different facets of gender and different ways of playing. Male and female roles are not hard and fast—but rather, on a continuum. A little boy having fun with his Mom and painting his toenails or wearing pink—has no baring on this boy’s sexuality. Remember; there was a time in the 20th century that pink was touted as a boy’s color and blue was a girly color. There was a time when men wore make up. Had long hair. Wore dresses. Didn’t bathe. Things change– and what is acceptable behavior today may not be in the future.
What this picture conveys (aside from BUY NAIL POLISH FROM JCREW AND BUY THIS STRIPED SHIRT!) is that the boy is having fun and that he has a nice relationship with his mom—a mom who permits him to play and explore without limits or labels. He will learn soon enough that the world is often harsh– some people react very negatively to others who challenge gender roles. My hope is that this same mother who allows her son to explore and play at this age, will give him the tools to make his own decisions about being comfortable in his own skin and confident in his choices.
The last thing we want to do is humiliate and belittle our children as they figure out who they are and learn about the world.
How should we respond?
First, take a breath: This hooplah that has surrounded this ad has reached beyond the ridiculous. It’s easy to lose perspective. So take a step back. Don’t over-react. It’s just playing.
Evaluate your values: Do you tout respect and acceptance, remember that in everything you do. Allow your children to be who they are- to be bold, assertive, confident, interesting, good people who can rely on you to love them as they are.
Make your home a safe haven: If your children are getting negative messages outside of the home, make sure you don’t echo them within the home. Be there with open arms.
Enjoy your children: They are only young once—playing is fun and at a young age they don’t care what pink and blue means and what dolls and trucks mean. They will learn soon enough from the world what is acceptable. So have fun and don’t worry so much—or read into every little thing.
I welcome your opinions. But please, use some tact and respect. Children and teens peruse this site as well as parents and educators. Everyone, whether you agree or disagree, is welcome in this safe place to discuss issues. You are also welcome to visit us on my facebook fan site– www.facebook.com/DrRobynSilverman . We’ll be discussing it there too!
Thanks for dropping by.