When Men Were Men and Boys Were Girls

Fox TV is in its typical swivet over a J. Crew catalog image of a mom painting her son's toenails (gasp) pink. "it may be fun and games now, Jenna," frets Dr Keith Ablow, "but at least put some money aside for psychotherapy for the kid—and maybe a little for others who’ll be affected by your 'innocent' pleasure. This is a dramatic example of the way that our culture is being encouraged to abandon all trappings of gender identity—homogenizing males and females when the outcome of such 'psychological sterilization' [my word choice] is not known."

Good junk phrase coinage, there, Keith: Psychological Sterilization. Zowie.

So anyone who reads my work and read CAMD knows that pink, when it was introduced in 1900, was for B*O*Y*S*, seen as a masculine version of red. Blue, which connoted faith, constancy and the Virgin Mary was for girls. Take a look at the old Disney movies--Cinderella, Alice, Wendy, Mary Poppins all wear blue. Michael, the littlest boy in Peter Pan, wears pink pjs. The switchover didn't really kick in until well into the 1940s and the assumption that loving pink was somehow genetic to females and that girls must be steeped in it for the first five years of life didn't start until the mid-1980s.

Meanwhile, check out this photo:

Cute, isn't she? Pretty long hair. Lovely white skirt. Be-feathered hat. And those patent leather Mary Janes! What a sweet little girl!


Hold up. That's the 32nd President of these United States--Franklin Delano Roosevelt--at age 2 1/2 in 1884. Isn't he dreamy?

That's how they dressed little boys then. And, please note FOX, not just the Democrats. In case Keith needs any more convincing, according to my kids, clothing and gender guru Jo Paoletti, there is a lovely photo of Michael Reagan, son of another POTUS and toxic conservative commentator, as a young'un dressed in an all-pink suit. And he's not the son who grew up gay.....

More on the history of pink and blue at Jo's blog, in CAMD and in this Smithsonian online piece (thanks to Scott Newstok for tipping me off to it!) And the inimitable Melanie Klein wrote this elegant post on the J. Crew photo on Feminist Fatale