The Perils of Pink Nail Polish

By Michael Edmonds 09/05/2011 9


In the US, the painting of a young boy’s toenails with pink nail polish by his mother, in promotional material for J. Crew (a clothing company) has created a furore in conservative America. An article outlining this outrage can be found here.

Conservative proponents have expressed concern that such “nontraditional activities … can be destructive and damaging to a child’s identity and self-esteem”, with one psychiatriat even suggesting that the mother should be putting aside money for future counselling treatment for her son.

However, it seems to me that the problem here is not the mother, it is these conservative groups who push their own views of what they restrictively think is the “right” behaviour for each gender. Indeed, I suspect that this abhorence from conservative groups is more about homophobia and the erroneous belief that pink nail polish might result in the son growing up to be gay.

Yes, there are some gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered teens who end up needing therapy. But I think that need for therapy speaks a lot more about how these groups are treated by society (and particularly by conservative groups) and less about what they did as a child.

In complaining about a perceived problem these groups are creating much bigger problems with bigotry, homophobia and intolerance.


9 Responses to “The Perils of Pink Nail Polish”

  • Oh dear. We have a photo of the male offspring having a tea party with a couple of female friends. I suppose in the conservative bits of the US (ie rather a lot of it) that would make us Really Bad Parrents!

  • Alison,

    Seeing conservative Americans are very much into tea parties these days, I can’t see the problem 🙂
    If their definition of a good parent is using fear and prayer to rear their offspring, then being a “Really Bad Parrent” is probably a REALLY GOOD thing.

  • This is so moronic. The whole pink and blue thing is so arbitrary and didn’t even begin to be “fashionable” until around WWII.

    OMG – pink nail polish on boys! It’s the end of civilization as we know it!

    Frankly, it’s the these conservatives in the US who really need some psychiatric help.

  • From the inimitable Ben Goldacre:
    But is colour preference cultural or genetic? Well. The “girls preferring pink” thing is not set in stone, and in fact there are good reasons to suspect it is culturally determined. I have always been led to believe by my father – the toughest man in the world – that pink is the correct colour for mens’ shirts. In fact until very recently blue was actively considered soft and girly, while boys wore pink, a tempered form of fierce, dramatic red.

    There is no reason why you should take my word for this. Back in the days when ladies had a home journal (in 1918) the Ladies Home Journal wrote: “There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. 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.”

    The Sunday Sentinel in 1914 told American mothers: “If you like the color note on the little one’s garments, use pink for the boy and blue for the girl, if you are a follower of convention.” Some sources suggest it wasn’t until the 1940s that the modern gender associations of girly pink became universally accepted. Pink is, therefore, perhaps not biologically girly. Boys who were raised in pink frilly dresses went down mines and fought in World War 2. Clothing conventions do change over time.

    But within this study, was the preference stable across cultures? Well no, not even in this experiment, where they had some Chinese test subjects too. For these participants, not only were the differences in the overlapping curves not so extreme; but the favourite colours were a kind of red for boys and a bit pinker for girls (not blue); and they had more of a red preference overall. Red, you see, is a lucky colour in contemporary Chinese culture.

    http://www.badscience.net/2007/08/pink-pink-pink-pink-pink-moan/#more-518

  • And as for the pinkification of breast cancer and Mothers Day – bah humbug! It’s not even done ironically.

  • This made me laugh, from the readers’ responses to Ben Goldacre’s article that Alison linked to:

    4.BobP said,
    August 25, 2007 at 8:15 am
    My wife always dressed our children in pink, and up until now I had assumed they were both girls. Please, is there any way I can check?