Real men wear pink

13 04 2011

Guys, you are not going to believe this. I hope everyone is sitting down.

Fox News published an offensive, ill-informed article.

I know, right?

A psychiatrist wrote this report about a truly horrifying photo of a mother in a J. Crew catalogue painting her little boy’s toenails. She was painting them pink.

Oh wait, that’s not a big deal? No one fucking cares? It has no effect on this child, indicates nothing about his personality, and we should think it’s nice that he and his mother spend time together and not read anything into it? OK, cool.

I can’t believe we even have to have this discussion. It’s just so silly. Adults, not these children, make it an issue. Frequently, these adults are not even the people most involved in the child’s life. (Beautifully pointed out in this article.) But this is a social work issue.

So often parents come to us, wanting to know if their children are “normal.”

“She’s eating paste…do they all do that?”
“He talks to himself. And he answers.”
“She only answers to the name Twilight Sparkle.”

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had a parent come in, concerned because their young child eschews gender norms. I worked with an eight year old girl who only wanted Spiderman toys. I agreed that this was lame, because Batman is so much cooler, but then I realized something. Mom was concerned that her daughter was a lesbian.

It’s not like the kid wanted a Wonder Woman action figure.

Child development is kind of our thing. We understand that sex and gender are not fixed as a permanent concept in children until around age six. We can help nervous parents to understand a few important things:

  1. Your little boy having a tea party or your baby girl wanting to be a race car driver does not indicate anything about their sexuality.
  2. Whatever your child’s sexuality, you better just accept it, because there’s nothing you can do about it.
  3. Whatever your child’s sexuality, you shouldn’t want to do anything about it. It is a part of who he or she is. One identity is not superior to another

Acceptance, treating people with unconditional positive regard, and seeing the worth and dignity in every person are all important parts of our ethical code as social workers. This includes children. And it includes helping their parents to accept them, rather than want to change them.

My brother and I both wore pink and blue. My parents didn’t care. We watched Free to Be…You and Me, where we learned that it was a-ok if William wants a doll, and that it’s all right to cry–crying gets the sad out of you! I hated Barbies and was obsessed with Ninja Turtles. I refused to wear dresses. My brother was forced to watch and sing along to the Sound of Music more times than he cares to remember by his sister and all his female cousins. We both loved writing. We grew up with gay adults in our lives, and never thought that there was anything wrong with being gay.

And yet neither of us turned out gay.

My little cousin was captured for all time at age three, happily waving the baby doll and crib that I sent him for Christmas, crying later on when he misplaced his “dolly.” He grew up to be an enthusiastically heterosexual star athlete.

Doesn’t make sense, if we listen to the good asshole doctor in the offending Fox ‘news’ article. It’s so easy to alter someone’s sexuality! Just a nudge this way or that and it’s welcome to Gayville, population: you.

Therefore, it must be just as easy to turn someone straight.  Just slap a little nail polish on the girls, and give the boys a football. (No lesbians wear nail polish, and no gay boys like sports. It’s just science.)

We all know it doesn’t work like that. In the words of a great 21st century philosopher, you were born this way…baby.

Some idiots do believe that you can turn someone straight. The National Association of Social Workers disagrees. As does the American Medical Association. And the American Psychiatric Association. Oh, and the American Psychological Association, The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Counseling Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Academy of Physician Assistants…

You know. A bunch of elitists.

Parents worry about everything to do with their kids. Are they happy, are they healthy, will they be successful, will they get hurt, don’t they ever shut up?

It’s our job to help them to understand what truly constitutes a problem. To let their children know that they are loved, and that they are worth something, no matter what. We need to help parents understand that, as much influence they have over their children, there are things that can’t, and shouldn’t be, changed.

There’s enough to worry about with kids. This stuff? Let’s just help everyone accept it.

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12 responses

13 04 2011
Jo Paoletti

Amen. I am totally amazed by the reaction to this ad.

14 04 2011
socialjerk

I could not believe that anyone actually cared about it.

One idiot commented on another article with, “What’s next? Me having sex with my daughter?” Sir, if that is the first place your mind runs, please submit your name and address for a thorough child protective investigation.

13 04 2011
Ann Becker-Schutte

I was one of the people who was thrilled to see a parent and child interacting without being artificially constrained by restrictive and arbitrary gender roles. I thought it was lovely and hopeful–and posted something to that effect on an article about the picture (prior to the controversy). As a psychologist, I am fully on board with your position!! If that’s a high horse, I want a ride.

14 04 2011
socialjerk

If people can’t be silly and do what they damn please at age five, when can they? I think parents and kids would be a lot happier if they just relaxed about all this stuff. It’s so sad to hear a kindergarten age child say he can’t play with something, because it’s for girls. (And thinking that being like a girl is a bad thing.)

Glad to have you on board!

14 04 2011
Carolyn

You make me laugh SocialJerk! Really you do. Do people seriously think painting a babie’s toenails (and pink!) will effect a child’s sexuality. What about all the girl babies whose toenails were NOT painted pink. Are they all going to become lesbians. And really, who cares if they do (apart from all the men who are attracted to women and thus they are removed from the pool). I am continually amazed by the stupidly of the people at large.

14 04 2011
socialjerk

I wish it were just a joke. People get incredibly sensitive about these things. People who disagreed with the photo were essentially accusing this woman of trying engineer gender confusion in her son. As if that would be any parent’s goal.

14 04 2011
Kate

Ah, yes, when the marketing gods came down from on high and deemed the color pink ‘feminine’ and the color blue ‘masculine’ it changed the face of the world forever. Mankind had been issued their marching orders, and they best be making sure their babies like their gender appropriate colors, toys, and games – lest they fall prey to the ever present threat of… homosexuality. And if that happens, well, if that happens… um, so what?

Thank you for your post. Sometimes it feels like the tide of stupidity is overwhelming, but perhaps it’s just a bunch of frightened animals, bleating frantically as they see the writing on the wall – change is coming.

How far do we really have to go to accept, respect, and love one another? To cherish and celebrate our differences as well as our similarities? Is this really so difficult? Much ado about nothing. Sound and fury, signifying nothing. If only we could get over our fear of not conforming to ‘social norms’… everyone’d be a lot happier to just to be.

14 04 2011
socialjerk

Thank you for your comment. I do think people tend to lash out when they see that their time on top is coming to a close–racial violence and oppression worsened in the South during the civil rights movement, to make an awkward comparison.

A former coworker often dressed her two year old son in pink, because she thought it looked cute on him. Another coworker actually asked if she was concerned that she was going to “make him” gay. My friend told our coworker that she does not delude herself into thinking she has that much control over her child, and would not care if he was gay anyway. But the “concerned” coworker is a mother of two boys herself, and a caseworker at my agency…kind of scary to think about.

I really do wish more parents could just let kids be themselves and develop interests based on what they like, rather than based on what their genitalia deems appropriate.

14 04 2011
Scott

This made me feel a little better, and it’s hilarious. Jon Stewart takes the commentators down a couple notches.

http://www.businessinsider.com/j-crew-pink-nail-polish-jon-stewart-video-2011-4

14 04 2011
socialjerk

Jon Stewart makes EVERYTHING better!

“You’re all aware that nail polish comes off, right? You’re all acting like this lady gave her son an ‘I love cock’ tattoo.”

16 04 2011
mjfrombuffalo

“I worked with an eight year old girl who only wanted Spiderman toys. I agreed that this was lame, because Batman is so much cooler, but then I realized something. Mom was concerned that her daughter was a lesbian.

“It’s not like the kid wanted a Wonder Woman action figure.”

This made me literally LOL. 🙂

18 04 2011
socialjerk

Mission accomplished!

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