Boys in Pink! The Horror!

Debbie says:

J. Crew doesn’t make a damn thing I could fit into, at least not for the parts of my body their clothes are meant for. So I’ve never paid much attention. Until now.

JCrew ad with a mother painting her son's toenails pink

I have so many different reactions to this ad. First, I applaud them for their courage. Of course, they’re being attacked by the right wing; the Culture and Media Institute calls the add “transgendered child propaganda.” (Of course, a boy who likes pink is not necessarily transgendered, and J. Crew is not actually stumping for more transgender in six-year-olds.) You can bet J. Crew will lose customers from this ad, though they obviously believe they will gain more than they lose, and I would like them to be right.

Second, I always like to remember that pink is not essentially, or historically, a girly color. You only have to go back about 70-75 years to get to a time when pink, as a relative of red, was considered much more manly than that wimpy, girlish blue. This, of course, is one reason why the ad is not about “transgendered children.”

Third, I think about just how offensive I would find this ad if the child was a girl; everything would collapse into more pressure on girls to be girly. This simple reversal of a gender stereotype may be daring, but it isn’t (in any deep or important way) transgressive. By reversing expectations, the ad also reinforces them: this is a special boy because he likes pink (that he’s special might be good or might be bad, depending on how you see binary gender). However, what he can’t be is an ordinary kid who likes pink without that being important, without his preference being turned into a Statement about him.

Imagine an ad outside the binary: a gender-unidentified parent painting a gender-unidentified kid’s toenails (yes, I know, the ad is about the designer and her kid, but let’s imagine a gender-unidentified designer). Note that the boy in this picture would be gender-unidentified if it wasn’t for the caption. The kid’s toenails are all different colors: pink and cherry red and deep purple and fluorescent green. The caption is “Lucky for me I ended up with a kid who likes colors. Toenail painting is much more fun this way.”

Would it be more controversial than the J. Crew ad? I don’t think so; I think it would be less so. And I would like it even better.

Thanks to Feministe for finding this one.