Yeah, I’m not thrilled about that J. Crew advertisement either

The big “conservatives are evil” exhibit of the moment is conservative protests over at Fox about a J. Crew advertisement in which a mom happily paints her five year old son’s toenails pink.  I think it’s worth adding here that the boy clearly hasn’t had a haircut in a while.  In other words, if the ad didn’t identify him as a boy, he would be sexless — neither boy nor girl, just sexually content neutral.

The ad itself is pretty darn innocuous, but it is symptomatic of something much bigger:  pop culture efforts to emasculate men.  No matter where you look, men and boys are reviled, both specifically and in the abstract.

At colleges, women are told that their male peers are rapists.  At elementary schools, boys are medicated into submission.  In classrooms, the old “boy’s life” adventures that saw the heroic 10 year old save the fair maiden from Nazis, dragons, aliens, etc., have been replaced by books that focus on feelings, nothing more than feelings.  On girls t-shirts, anti-boy slogans blossom (“Boys have feelings too.  But who cares?”).  On playgrounds, school and otherwise, rough and competitive play is banned because someone might get hurt.  On TV shows, men are useless buffoons, ill-informed and ineffectual.  At universities, men are vanishing, in part, I’m sure, because the hyperfeminist environment is boring and hostile.  (And in part, because they are so medicated and bored in K-12 that they make bad grades and are anxious to leave the academic environment.)  The military, that bastion of manhood, is reviled as an institution that creates brutish baby-killers.

Compared to all this overt and subliminal hostility to men, a picture of a five year old boy being “girled up” by his mom is minimal, but it’s still another straw being stacked on to the male camel’s back.  One of these days, that back will break, and American men will be retired to stables where we can harvest their semen.  (Yeah, that’s a reductio ad absurdum statement, but I do feel that men are being marginalized to the point at which they’re useful only for their reproductive capacities.)

Male virtues should be celebrated.  Boys are energetic, aggressive, loyal and analytical.  That energy can be irritating, that aggression can be dangerous, that loyalty can be foolish, and the analysis can be emotionally distant.

By the same reckoning, though, that energy can be an enormously powerful force for good, that aggression can be channeled to protect the weak and helpless, that loyalty is a tremendous tie that binds and another force for good, and that analytical ability is what prevents society from lapsing into completely helpless navel-gazing.  We need our men and boys.  We need their skills, abilities and instincts.  Rather than pinking them down, we should be polishing them up, not brutishly, but constructively.

So yes, I don’t like that J. Crew ad, not because it shows a silly and tender mommy/son moment, but because it’s yet another attempt to erase the male in our society.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

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  • Charles Martel

    I saw the ad and have looked at some of the comments surrounding it. Many of the defenses of it center on the idea that this is a precious mother-son bonding moment at an age when the son is playful and curious. I can accept that families do a lot of things, and I’m not certain that a young boy experimenting with nail polish or girls clothes is irrevocably or irredeemably headed down some terrible road.

    But this effing thing is public. The woman, who obviously considers herself a superior being, has exposed her son to ridicule by taking what should have been a private moment and rubbing it in a lot of people’s faces. I feel sorry for the boy, not only because I suspect this mom will continue self-righteously diddling with his sexual identity, but because she has no respect for him. He is simply a means to an end for her, namely, a tool for showing how goshawfully enlightened she is. 

    I suspect she detests men. Otherwise, why else do so much to make sure that her boy grows up to be like one of those pallid tenor wimps that wins American Idol because he’s so in touch with his pink toe-nailed self?

  • Libby

    Well said, Book.
    I love how enlightened and tolerant the commenters are, and how quick they are too lecture people who disagree with them to just chill out about some harmless play with a youngster. Makes me wonder if they would be so tolerant and unconcerned if instead of painting his toenails she was shown playing cops ‘n robbers with him (including realistic plastic guns, fake death scenes) or pigging out on some non-PC food, such as deep-fried french fries or candy.

  • David Foster

    Check out this video.

  • Ymarsakar

    The only time someone painted my nails red was before I was 6 and that was only cause I let them (I have no idea who, 3 girls that might be cousins or just the children of family friends), not knowing the significance of painted nails. They got some entertainment out of it when they showed me to the adults.

    Well, I knew right afterwards that only girls did that. Although, I’m not sure I was told even then what the problem was. They just had this funny look on their faces.


    David Foster
    Cultural warriors – nah…just kidding.

  • Oldflyer

    I can remember watching my Mother doing her nails, and getting her to paint mine at about that age.  I doubt seriously that I went out to play with my guys with that paint on, but I was intrigued.
    I think one difference is that my experience would have been around 1940 or so.  There were no issues about masculinity then.  Today, this ad can be seen as  just one more brick in the wall that seems intended to separate boys from masculinity.
    A lot of advertising dollars seem to go to waste; at least they are wasted on me and my wife.  We simply don’t understand why we would buy the product after seeing the ad.  Our reaction to so many is to look at  each other and say: “Huh?”. Many others have a negative effect on me for just the reasons Book described.  Any ad that depicts a father, husband, or male in general as a Doofus, prejudices me against the product.  Wife says I am thin skinned, but this attitude has developed over time as I reached the saturation level with that trash.
    Taking it a little deeper.  There have been frequent and lengthy discussion in many forums  about why men are so late to mature.  Not to oversimplify the situation, because there are many factors, including the schools; I really think that part of it is the constant depiction of young men as irresponsible idiots throughout the entertainment field.  If every character you watch in the popular media, including the ads,  behaves that way, then maybe that is the correct way to behave.  Eh?

  • Ymarsakar

    Speaking of conservatives being evil, read this:

    My best friend in the world (not “some of my friends”, but my best friend) is a conservative Republican who loves Anne Coulter. Meanwhile, I’m looking for a good price on a “2L4O” (Too Liberal for Obama) shirt. Why is he my best friend? Because time and time again he has demonstrated that he is one of the best, most honorable men I know. Human decency can transcend political differences. 

    One of the things they don’t seem to ever ask themselves is how come human decency is found in Republicans in the concrete, even as they believe goodness rests with Leftist ideology. If being good came from Leftist ideology, why would they be the ones so flawed and the conservatives so much better humans?

    Ah, but that’s like asking who stole the muffins. You don’t want to find out it was yourself. So you don’t ask. You don’t think to ask.

    How come a conservative man is the most honorable? What happened to all those fearless nut baggers on the Left, the pick up artist feminist men?

  • David Foster

    A big part of the delayed-maturity syndrome surely has to do with the ever-increasing expectations for years of schooling. I don’t think it’s psychologically healthy for most people to spend 18 or 20 or more years back-to-back in classrooms….it may work for a few individuals who know what they want to do and and see how the schooling feeds into it, but for many if not most, it is simply seat time, with the boredom mollified by frequent binge drinking.

  • Charles

    Interestingly, I just picked up a book from my local library – Manning Up, by Kay S. Hymowitz.  I haven’t started it yet. (I also picked up Rawhide Down – about Reagan’s near assassination; so, I want to read that first)

    But, the subtitle of Manning Up is How the Rise of Women has Turned Men into Boys. Just skimming through it I noticed that it seems to touch on some of the ideas mentioned here:

    A more female-friendly economy (the author uses that term – female-friendly, I would call it liberal friendly economy).

    Delayed adulthood because of longer schooling.

    I have noticed Adam Sandler’s name used throughout the book; but will have to wait to see where the author goes with that.

    Hopefully, the book will not turn out to be a “let’s bash the stupid men” themed genre.

  • suek

    Speaking of ads…

    Then you have Bobby (Tru-green spokesman). The kid’s a treasure!

    And Susie. (for Verizon).

    I’m waiting for the ads that manage for Bobby to meet Susie. Will they team up and create the company that takes over the world? or will they become lifelong competitors…! Somehow, I think we’d all be a bit better off in either case! Cooperation is good, but so is competition.

    The other one I like is the girls with the supersoaped washing machine…”I know…I’ll call my Dad!” (advertising some sort of two way visual internet program). Of course, then Dad says he’ll call the plumber (but wisely…not a “cute” one). Gotta wonder about that…it looks to me like a washing machine problem, not a plumbing problem. In fact, it looks to me like the girls either used the wrong type of soap or simply way too much of it. But on the plus side, it _does_ make Dad the hero…and that’s way too seldom these days.

    Speaking of which… All is putting out a super concentrated product – you only use half as much. You’re supposed to be saving money because they’ve reduced the volume, so less packaging. Yeah right. And how many of us will actually use half as much as we’re in the habit of using? So they get to charge about twice as much – but it’s our own fault if we use too much.

    Pretty bad when the ads have to provide entertainment and story lines that are almost as good as most of the shows…!

  • Ymarsakar

    Adam Sandler was known for his initial boy-child roles, acting silly even though he looks like a grown male.

  • excathedra

    Amen, Book. Well said.
    When I became close with a Black man back in the 90’s he used to complain that in movies, etc. the Black guy always died first. I thought he was exaggerating. Till I looked. It was really amazing how often that happened.
    Nowadays, especially in advertising –although it’s  widespread in other media, too– the “chump” character is almost always a male, and a white male at that. Once you start to look for it, it is amazingly frequent.
    Classic masculinity, actual adult male manhood, is in serious trouble in the West. And to quote the author of Androphilia, “a society dominated by women and effeminate men cannot survive.”

  • Ymarsakar

    Amazing what people notice. Or rather, not notice.

  • tjmoseid

    “We need our men and boys.”
    Talk about patronizing!

  • jj

    Oldflyer makes, almost as a side-issue, an interesting point: boys and girls mature and grow differently.  We do it at different speeds, arrive at the same place at different times, and develop a sense of who and what we are at, yes: our own highly individualized and different pace – but layered atop that is the simple reality that males and females do it differently.
    My mother never painted my toenails, or any other part of me – except once when we were painting the windmill on the farm and I accidentally nailed her left forearm with my back-stroke, at which point she rendered a fair percentage of my right side green, but that was a different sort of thing.  (My father made the mistake of laughing, and then had to take to his heels pretty briskly with her in hot pursuit – what did that make me suppose about sexual roles, I wonder?  Whatever it may have been, I’ve forgotten.)  Growing is a peculiar thing anyway.  I’m not in favor of this idiot mother decorating her son, but I’m not so simple as to suppose it’s going to ultimately make him something he’s not.  (In that area I believe in nature, not nurture.)
    For my first twenty-some years I had a neighbor my age, named Lizzie.  As little kids we played together and, as I recall, assigned ourselves appropriate roles, insofar as roles were assigned.  She was always the girl, I never was.  There weren’t all that many times that required any role involvement, frankly –  we spent a lot of time rafting on the pond; cleaning, maintaining, and riding the horses; climbing around in trees.  Active, physical, outdoor play of a kind that probably doesn’t exist any more.
    I ended up  6’3″, Liz stopped at 5’7″ – but there was a time there for a few years as we aged when she was taller than I was.  We started the same, then she grew.  At about the same time -and lasting for a couple of years – she became much more coordinated than I was.  She could jump higher than me, and run just as quickly – maybe a hair quicker.  She was, physically (probably mentally, too) much more together than I was.  In a really furious fight it wasn’t all that easy for me to take her, either – she was as strong as I was.  One day, when I was disappointed that she had beaten me at something, my father told me she would do that for a while, that was just the way we grew.  She matured quicker than me – but I’d catch up and, physically, surpass her one day.  All I had to do was wait.  (Along with explaining it, he turned it into a lesson on patience.)
    And then things did begin to change.  I got to be about 14, and took off upward.  Unfortunately I did it badly, growing nearly seven inches in one year – which left me an uncoordinated, clumsy mess – but I became, then and forever after, taller than her.  Weird things began to happen to her, too, and not just physically – we were enlightened kids, we expected that – but between the ears.  She became quite proper.  The example that comes to mind most immediately is exercising the horses, which we continued to have to do every day.  I’d sling a halter on whoever I was riding, and hop on.  She’d put on boots, get out a bridle, put it on the horse, put on a blanket, and saddle the horse.  (I’m sitting there waiting, nothing but a rope halter, barefoot, barebacked, wondering what the hell she thinks she’s doing.  Come on – we don’t have all day – since when do you need a saddle!  Let’s go!)
    And she began to not want to come and play so much.  And inevitably the day came when I walked through the kitchen door of her house, and helped myself to the cookie jar while her mother pointed me toward the den.  I went through the dining room, down the hall, into the den – and there was this girl there, wearing a dress – and just ridiculous shoes.  Lizzie, my Lizzie, was gone, no part of this “Elizabeth” person.
    And I mourned her while the weird things continued to happen to her.  Her eyes went from a swampy, muddy green to lustrous.  Her hair began to shine.  Her body lengthened, shifted around, nipped in at the waist and somehow her neck got longer.  Her legs lengthened, and curved, and she wore skirts and dresses a lot – completely impractical clothes.  She was Elizabeth.  Every now and then Lizzie would show up for a few hours, or even as long as a day – but we both knew she wouldn’t stay.
    And then things began to happen to me, too – between the ears.  I looked at those legs one day coming out of church, and a light-bulb went on so visibly that my father – and Liz’s father – both started laughing.  And parts of me lurched into gear, and my life and who I was underwent a permanent shift.
    This is a pretty normal experience I think.  Not everyone has a close friend of the same age and opposite sex just up the hill, through the woods and behind the pond; which is probably an advantage – but still.  I don’t know what would have changed this developmental path.  I don’t know what could have – but I most definitely don’t think getting my toenails painted would have been it.  I think the boys who are going to remain boys will do so in the face of pretty much everything.
    And I think we are a pain in society’s ass in many ways.  For the most part we are uninterested in school; follow the beat of our own drummer; are mean to girls – and each other – some of us will always like to fight; we are a menace behind the wheel when young (statistically, at least); often rude; generally thoughtless; and don’t wash our hands very often.  Society sees this as pesty, and has done what society always does when confronted with the pesty: overcompensated.  Now boys are failing in all directions, disappearing from schools, Boehner bursts into tears, etc., etc.
    I don’t know that it means a hell of a lot, when you get right down to it.  I think when we need them – and we always, ultimately, do – the boys will be right there, as they always have them.

  • Ymarsakar

    I’m not in favor of this idiot mother decorating her son, but I’m not so simple as to suppose it’s going to ultimately make him something he’s not.

    That’s what the bullying at school is for.

  • Ymarsakar

    And they’ll be boys right up until they are elected President. And after too.