About Me

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Lake Charles, Louisiana, United States
Hello, and welcome to my blog! I like to write about children's literature, fairy tales, feminism, and pop culture in general. I've recently earned my Ph.D. in children's literature at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. I also review children's and young adult books for Kirkus and teach English at Sowela Technical Community College. Oh, and I like cats! [Banner image artwork by Yuki Midorikawa]

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Princess Boys


The other night, Jon Stewart did a story on the apparent hubbub that's arisen over a picture of J. Crew's creative director and her five year old son. In the picture, the boy is wearing pink toenail polish, much to the mother's apparent delight. Stewart appropriately titled his story "Toemageddon." Daily Show viewers were treated to a breakdown of the ridiculously over-the-top responses to this seemingly innocent (and frankly adorable) picture from FOX News, NBC, CNN, and others.

I agree with Stewart, insomuch that a boy with pink toenails is probably not going to turn gay--mostly because I'm as yet unaware that "turning gay" (or lesbian ... or straight, for that matter) is even possible.

And we furthermore must wonder what these news anchors find so terribly frightening about the prospect of finding oneself the parent of a gay son in the first place.

I'm currently reading a wonderful book called Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein. You may have heard of it ("Is Pink Necessary?"). In it, new mother Orenstein wonders, "Since when did every little girl become a princess?" Despite her best attempts to shield her daughter from princess culture, those around them insist on making its presence known; in one scene, even the pediatric dentist refers to Orenstein's daughter as "princess" and the dentist chair as "her throne." Later, she catches her daughter lying on the floor at a party, eyes closed and arms at her sides, ostensibly waiting for Prince Charming himself to awaken her with a kiss. At age four, the girl had never even seen Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

When did we become so thoroughly obsessed with gender identity and our children? Why is Orenstein afraid of allowing her daughter to buy into princess culture (a currently 4 billion dollar-earning venture for Disney), while J. Crew creative director Jenna Lyons rejoices over a son with pink nail polish?

The picture book My Princess Boy tells the endearing story of a mother who comes to accept the fact that she has a son who enjoys wearing "girly" clothes and doing "girly" things. Take a look at its Amazon.com listing, and you'll see that Amazon.com immediately recommends to us And Tango Makes Three, the equally endearing story of a pair of male penguins who adopt and raise a chick.

My goodness. How did Amazon know that buyers who support boys in pink also support same-sex penguin daddies?

I wonder, then, what's more worrying: a mother who paints her son's toes neon pink--or a little girl who wants to grow up to be a dead princess in a box?

*Thanks to Amanda Anderson, who also wisely enjoyed the kitty face paint quip, for the Daily Show clip.

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