Pink means gay?

Painting a boy’s toenails pink encourages homosexuality, according to critics of a recent J. Crew ad.

The ad shows Jenna Lyons, the company’s president and creative director, with her 5-year-old son.

Lyons is spending “quality time” with her son, apparently just having painted his toenails pink.

Lyons’s quote reads: “Lucky for me, I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink.” Read the Chicago Tribune‘s story here.

Conservatives labeled the ad propaganda. Liberals criticized the response. NOTE: I just posted a few links here, but you can Google it for many responses to the ad.

What are the ethical implications of the ad?

13 comments
Yimeng Huang
Yimeng Huang

Personally I don’t think this is a problem that the mom painted her sons toenails in pink. And I think it is not that cruel on the gender problem for children. As shown on the picture, he is a really cute boy. And in my perception, it is ok for a little boy to do some girl stuff. When my cousin was very little, his mom always dressed him with the skirt because she always wanted a daughter. However, he didn’t become a homosexual because of this. I really agree with Mandi’s opinion that it doesn’t mean anything if the pink is the boy loves and wants. You can’t ban the boy from loving pink color just because this color has some potential factors which may result in homosexuals.

jinrui shi
jinrui shi

In my point of view, pink doesn't mean homosexuality.

The action of painting a boy's toenails doesn't mean to encourage homosexuality. We should not focus on whether painting a boy's toenails pink encourage homosexuality or not. We should focus on the ads itself. If the boy loves the pink color, it doesn't mean anythings. So I don't agree with those who think that painting the boys nails would turn him gay.

Heather S.
Heather S.

I would have no idea who Jenna Lyons was off the bat looking at this ad. Then when I realized she was the president and the creative director of J.Crew I saw the pink Essie nail polish in the bottom right hand corner which has nothing to do with Lyons or J.Crew. I agree with Mandi, with I have no issue painting her son's toe nails pink. Moose showed us a video a couple of weeks ago of Sir Ken Robinson, and he talked about how creativity is lost throughout the years with people pushing math and science and things that "really matter" in the world. I think if Lyons and her son choose to paint his nails pink, then by all means go for it. I think it's great she's a business woman probably with a hectic schedule, spending quality time with her 5 year old son. Jon Stewart said on one of his shows, ""If you take them [children] to a face painting booth, it doesn't make them cats, or cat lovers." I think the emphasis shouldn't be whether or not the toe nails she's painting are boys feet or girls feet or if it's black or neon pink nail polish. I think it should be focused on something other then pink, the boy's toe nails being painted and homosexuality maybe like J.Crew's sweaters or clothing.

Andrew H.
Andrew H.

It is interesting to see the negative connotations today's society on certain colors. If people really wanted to consider pink a "gay" color, they would have to consider the entire color spectrum "gay" since the typical homosexual symbol is the rainbow. It seems to me that people who have issues with things such as this are just projecting their own homophobia onto other people and businesses. There is not an issue here. the images are not suggestive of being gay or even of being straight. They are simply pictures that illustrate what the article is trying to communicate. Children are playful, and to put any kind of label on a child such as sexual preference is wrong and unjust. I had a doll when I was younger and I am not a homosexual, and I would not have wanted to have someone judge me based off of my childhood activities. The ad is playful and fun, just as it was meant to be. If anything, the ad could be seen as slightly humorous. But in no way, shape, or form is the ad trying to indicate that the child is a homosexual. Overall, it is unethical for anyone to force their own insecurities on to others.

Mandi D.
Mandi D.

I have no issue with the mom painting her sons nails pink, if that is what he wants. However, my issue is with the ad itself. I'm not sure I really understand what it is advertising. At first glance, I would think it was for the fingernail polish. Considering Jenna is the creative director and president of J. Crew she can do pretty much whatever she pleases, but with that said, I think she probably knew that it would become a hot topic ad. And with history repeating itself, her company would be talked about and possibly sales could boost. I do not agree though with the criticisms that painting the boys nails would turn him gay. I think that if the son likes the color then there is no issue. Pink is a fad for men right now and it's possible that the young boy, most likely being around fashion a lot, picked that up. I think the lack of focus on the clothes and store is more of an issue in this advertisement than the young boy getting his toenails painted pink by his mom.

Jessica G.
Jessica G.

As humans, we like to give meaning to symbols we create yet we can change the meaning at anytime. The color pink is often associated with baby girls as blue is associated with baby boys. That does not make it a sustained idea. Ethically, I feel the ad was put together to show just that. Painting a boy’s toenails pink is not a problem to me. The problem arises when you make that little boy feel like painting his toenails is a gay act. By doing that, we have put our own personal “symbol” or view on something that the little boy saw as just an activity with mom, not knowing if it were gay or not. I agree with Dr. Dreger when she said that kids love things that are sparkly and bright. They do not view certain activities in the same way adults do. They just want to have fun without placing a meaning behind everything they do.

Sonya B.
Sonya B.

I agree with Shamari's point that the color pink should not be the main focus of the situation. Both heterosexuals and homosexuals paint their nails--whether they be rock stars or fashion icons. Neutrality is definitely key in this situation. Also, I think it's wrong to suggest a child shouldn't act a certain way simply because it isn't classified as the norm for his or her gender. I think the important part of the ad is the fact that a busy, hardworking mom takes time to spend with her child--which is more than can be said for many working individuals these days. As long as the child is enjoying the time with his mother and is not being forced into having his nails painted, he should be able to and not be judged for it. Like Dr. Drescher said, no one knows exactly what causes homosexuality or transgenderism. I don't think nail color is a factor.

Tiffany
Tiffany

I don't think that should be advertised. I think that shouldn't happen or should paint your own child's fingernails pink on top of that. I think that because his favorite color is Pink doesn't mean it should be on his toes. I'm all for expressing one self but not when your mother is painting toes and putting that on an ad. That picture is not worth it in 10 years when he is dating a girl or whatever preference he want but he is now remembered as the boy who loves pink and paints his nails. I wouldn't do that and put it in a J Crew ad that is for sure. I think she shouldn't have done that.

Nota Supermom
Nota Supermom

It felt calculated, not organic.

I did put makeup on my boys when they were babies (don't judge; it was cute!), but I wouldn't have done it when they were school aged.

Kids that age can be surprisingly rigid about sex roles and I wouldn't purposefully set my kid up for the response they'd get from peers.

Shamari R
Shamari R

What I think is interesting is the fact that the critics of the J.Crew ad, according to the referenced article stated that "painting a boy's toenails pink encourages homosexuality" as opposed to just stating, painting a boy's toenails in general encourages homosexuality. In my lifetime, which has not been extremely long, I have observed numerous changes in fashion allowing for things to become more and more accepted by society. However, I would have assumed the majority of society would have been opposed to painting a boy's toenails in general as it is often seen as an activity only done by a girl. Today there are many teens that are painting their nails black to express themselves. Nonetheless, I am wondering if the critics are saying the color "pink" will encourage homosexuality or the act of painting his nails. Either way I believe gender roles are too complicated and there are too many stipulations placed on girls and boys. Boys can't do this or behave this way and girls shouldn't wear this or that. No matter what children do there will always be someone that may suggest they participate in other activities for gender appropriate. Growing up I was always encouraged to play sports but for some reason it never appealed to me, I preferred the performing arts and other forms of creative expression. I also agree with the quote made by New York psychiatrist, Dr. Jack Drescher “most research on gender identity and sexual orientation concludes that neither is a choice. Nor can they be shaped by a parent’s wishes.” At the end of day it was mom and her son sharing a moment. As far as ethical implications I do not feel the ad is trying to make a point out of anything; it is just an innocent photograph. Addressing the criticism, by stating that pink will make the son gay, is also affirming that the idea of being homosexual is wrong. An idea I do not personally support because just because I may not like something does not make it wrong. Also like mentioned in some of the articles addressing the same issue, it can be assumed that if a girl was photographed in mud playing with toy trucks no one would assume she was gay. When it comes to free expression, neutrality is key.

thekrg
thekrg

Tiffany, do you think there's an ethical implication? I agree that the ad will follow this boy throughout his life. This is something that his mother perhaps should have considered more fully.

thekrg
thekrg

It's true that children can be cruel and gender-role focused. I just don't understand the huge deal. It seems like there's better news to cover, doesn't it? BTW, no judgement from me. My son loves to dance. My daughter is super athletic. Thanks for your comment.

thekrg
thekrg

You have great points, Shamari. This mom was spending time with her son (perhaps just for a photo shoot, but I digress). It can be seen as fashionable for men to wear pink. If it were fashionable right now for men to paint their nails, this would be a non-issue. My daughter doesn't like to paint her nails. When she does, she usually wants them her favorite color... blue. I don't think this says a single thing about her sexuality.