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“boy’s life” adventures that saw the heroic 10 year old save the fair maiden from Nazis, dragons, aliens, etc., have been replaced by books that focus on feelings, nothing more than feelings.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 Bookworm Room