Make-up & Hot Pink Toenails—Not Just a Girl Thing.

Via on Apr 8, 2011

“Doing Gender” in the Mainstream Media.

My toddler son has a thing for all things wheeled.  He can easily distinguish a skip loader from a backhoe and a semi-truck from a dump truck. He’s also intrigued by my jewelery box, stacking bracelets high up his pudgy arms. After watching Mommy’s daily morning ritual of applying some eyeshadow and liquid liner on countless occasions, it’s none too surprising that he’s fascinated by my make-up box, eager to smear eyeshadow across his eyelids (forehead, nose and cheeks). My friend’s little boy loved sparkly ballet flats and dollhouses while another’s had a penchant for his sister’s pink tutu and glittered angel wings.

These boys are commonplace-and not represented in mainstream pop culture. There’s no room for these normal explorations in our hyper-segmented world of marketing. And, as a tragic example further down in this post will show, these normal, healthy childhood curiosities and small pleasures are usually quickly beaten out of boys, figuratively and literally.

Given this heavily color-coded world of children’s play, policed through gendered toy ads, catalogs and cartoons, this J. Crew advertisement comes as a breath of fresh air.Without eliciting much fanfare, a young boy and his mother are shown spending “quality time” together by painting their toenails. Hot. Pink. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

When a 17-month-old boy is beaten to death for being too “girly,” a 5-year-old is accused of being gay for choosing to dress up like Daphne from Scooby-Doo for Halloween, a boy who likes pink dresses causes headline news, and a high-school football player is kicked off the field for wearing pink cleats during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I think it’s more than obvious that social expectations regarding femininity and masculinity continue to be incredibly rigid, stifling, and too often dangerous.

And, advertising happens to be a major player in the active construction of culture and the socialization of it’s members (us!), a socialization process that shapes our expectations of ourselves and others, our desires and our relationships. In other words, the values and norms of a society are framed by the branded images and lifestyles consciously and carefully constructed by advertisers seeking to maximize profit.

J. Crew’s ad presents the idea that pink isn’t just for girls, just as blue isn’t just for boys. It expands the range of possibility for what girls and boys can do and be. It may be one ad running counter to a stream of narrowly defined ads that eliminate a full range of possibilities for boys and girls, but there it is.

And it makes me hopeful. And, sometimes, given the material I regularly work with, celebrating small victories and becoming hopeful is vital and necessary.

Note: Via The Illusionists, “The woman in the picture is Jenna Lyons, J. Crew’s executive creative director, appearing alongside her son.”

Originally posted at Feminist Fatale.

About Melanie Klein

Melanie Klein, MA is a writer, speaker and Associate Faculty member at Santa Monica College, teaching Sociology and Women’s Studies. She attributes feminism and yoga as the two primary influences in her work. She is committed to communal collaboration, raising consciousness, media literacy, facilitating the healing of distorted body images and promoting healthy body relationships. She has worked with the new citizen journalists of the LA Academy of Global Girl Media and the peer-educators of J.A.D.E (Joint Advocates on Disordered Eating) on ways to tap into the power of their own voice. She is an expert contributor in the areas of media literacy and body image issues for Proud2Bme, a NEDA project. She is the adviser of the Santa Monica College Leadership Alliance and the founder and co-coordinator of WAM! Los Angeles. She founded FeministFatale.com and is a contributor at Adios Barbie, Intent.com, MindBodyGreen and Ms. Magazine’s blog. Her essay on yoga, body image and feminism appears in Curvy Voices and her extended chapter on the same topic is included in the anthology, 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics and Practice. She has been featured on HuffPostLive, KPFK’s Feminist Magazine and The Point on The Young Turks. She is featured in the forthcoming book, Conversations With Modern Yogis. Twitter: @feministfatale

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6 Responses to “Make-up & Hot Pink Toenails—Not Just a Girl Thing.”

  1. [...] Cross-posted at Feminist Fatale and Elephant Journal. [...]

  2. Claudia Azula Altucher Claudia says:

    I have been enjoying painting my nails in blue lately… feels very femenine to me ;-)

  3. [...] Melanie Klein discuss in her article, should become more gender neutral: My toddler son has a thing for all things wheeled. He can easily distinguish a skip loader from a [...]

  4. [...] their hatred is perfect. We are all brothers and sisters. Those who act outside the realm of social norms (or your perception of “normal”) are people who need love just like you do. The least [...]

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