October 7, 2011

This Litte Piggy Wore Pink

I am generally a day late when it comes to the media, and sometimes also a dollar short (Hulu, please let me finish last season's Glee-- for free? I'll be your best friend.)

This is something that in hit the scene in April, but I just heard about it while catching up on my Savage Love.  I can't imagine I'm the only slowus pocus in America, so I'm sharing it with you now.

In the full bloom of spring -- maybe not here, but somewhere-- J.Crew ran an ad-ish sort of thing (see it here) featuring their creative director, Jenna Lyons, painting her son's toenails pink, and apparently this created a big hubbub in the conservative community. Some people thought that Lyons was going to make her son gay by dabbing rosy paint on his piggies.

Obviously you can't make someone gay, just like you can't make a gay person straight-- as I'm sure deep down in his heart (or maybe somewhere else?) Marcus Bachmann knows-- so I'm not even going to go there, but here's what I wanted to know: Who said pink is for girls and blue is for boys? Turns out, retailers did, that's who. According to Joe B. Paoletti, author of Pink and Blue: Telling the Girls from the Boys in America, until the 1940s pink was considered a strong boy color, and blue was a delicate girl color in the United States, and then a couple of major retailers decided to mix things up.

Why would they do this? My guess is that they wanted to make money, as it is the job of retailers to sell products, and what better way to make money than to tell parents they're dressing their children all wrong, and they need to run out and buy gender-appropriate clothing. Spend more.

As with most fashion trends, Americans bought it-- in more ways than one-- just as we continue to buy every other fashion trend that comes down the chute (myself included, having just bought Sweet P and new pair of skinny jeans).

So the idea that color is related to gender was completely created by our culture. I'll take it even further and say that the idea that only women should have long hair, wear make-up, high heels (that's a whole separate post) shave legs, wear jewelry, carry purses, and that men . . . shouldn't, is created by our culture, our place in time and geographical location and nothing else.

I have two sons, one given, and one by birth, and they have both at times shown a preference for the rosier color. I wasn't present for Obo's birth, but I know that Buckaroo didn't fly out of my womb knowing these cultural rules. If I tell my sons they can't wear pink, or shame them for appreciating it, not only am I squashing their joy, I'm also happily gulping down the other ideas served up by advertising, including a very narrow definition of beauty: young, anorexic, white, straight. Also, don't forget the idea that happiness doesn't come from within, but from what we can own.

Nope. I'm not eating it, and I'm certainly not feeding it to my children.

Kudos to you, Lyons, even if your job is to sell me something I don't need. Buckaroo and I will join you and your sweet boy for a pedicure party any time.

For more reading on this topic, you may also enjoy Wayne Besen's article, "Why I Support J.Crew's Controversial Pink Toenail Ad" at the Huffington Post.


Brian Miller said...

nice...great piece...man we get some jacked up ideas and then send them out to be trends on twitter and then in our lives...the pink toe nails is just the next...i was marched out a church in the 80s for the length of my hair...

Patricia Caspers said...

Brian, I had a friend in high school who said people were giving him a hard time at church for his long hair. His response was, "Jesus had long hair." I always loved that.

Thanks for reading!

Lisa Ahn said...

Brilliant! I love your message AND your snapdragon eloquence.

I had no idea that gendered colors came from retail -- but I'm not surprised. Thanks for a great post.

Crunchy Mama said...

Love this post. Jerry has pink glittery toes as we speak. He sported them to Tai Kwan Do and was asked about them at swimming by a girl who seems to be curious about all things Yarrow and Jerry. He shrugged, "I like it." Hang on to that my little man I was cheering on the inside. How right you are that you can't make anyone gay or straight by anything you do, but we can make our kids confident and content with who they are and that's what really irked me about the response to the ad. The implication is that if the boy turns out to be gay that is a bad thing. I hope that mom stood up and said, yeah, so what?

Glider said...

this is a nice blog!!!

hi, im new blogger.
im still trying to make it better!
thanks to go to my blog for a short vist~~~

Anonymous said...

Good Lord! Can you imagine if we had to do without pink piggies....especially over here?!? Rules...shmules:) fmf

Anonymous said...

Great Post! Love all your details - I actully like pink on guys - and I've always loved blue on you!
<3 Mom

my word verification was "fartant"