J. Crew Can Keep Its Pink Toenail Polish: I Want My Boy To Be A Boy


Just for farts and giggles, I sat my son Jo-Jo down, grabbed his little foot, took his big toe into my hands and started painting the little piggy that goes to market pink. And from the look on his face, he might as well have said, “Aww hell no momma. I’m Jo and I gotta go!” That spunky little boy of mine jumped up so fast he left a trail of pink polish smeared on me, the carpet and my favorite pair of blue jeans.

He wasn’t having it.

I don’t think his reaction has anything to do with the color of the polish or even the fact that I tried to paint his toes. Because let’s be real, he’s two and he doesn’t associate getting his toes painted with being a girl or a “girly” boy. It’s just that my boy is a rough-and-tumble, kick and karate kind of kid. It’s in him. He’s not gonna sit and do dainty things like patiently, calmly and delicately part and comb a doll’s hair like my girls do. He’s gonna take his Iron Man action figure and charge him through the air, and, while making all kinds of roaring noises, he’s gonna crash land his action figure smack dab into a ridiculously large pile of other toys I’ve bought him.

But is painting your son’s toes pink a big deal some kind of new-fangled way to show just how progressive we parents can be when it comes to raising our little boys?

Well obviously it is for some.

By now, you must have heard the controversy surrounding a J.Crew Ad featuring a little boy with his toenails painted pink and a caption from his mom, a J. Crew executive, that read: Lucky for me, I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon.

People are outraged. Even a number of psychiatrists say that our culture is being encouraged to abandon all trappings of gender identity. Others say it’s harmless fun and painting your kids toes pink doesn’t make a kid gay or give him the impression that he should dress in flamboyant drag like RuPaul just like leaving them unpainted doesn’t make them any straighter. Amen to that.

From the looks of it, the little boy in the picture above seems to like pink polish on his little piggies. And if he does, then good for him and his mom. What works for them is for them.

But for me, a relatively open-minded mom, I’m just not that open when it comes to having my son actually walk around with neon-pink toenails and getting used to the idea of being primped and pampered like his sisters. In my house, we’re going to leave getting all pretty to the girls and save the Barbershop talk for the boys.

What I want to know, though, is this: What’s up with these clothing companies anyway? Are our children under attack? Just a few weeks ago, Abercrombie Kids advertised string bikinis with padded bras for girls as young as age seven. And now this. So, if I’m to read into this correctly, these clothing companies want 7-year-old girls to sex up bathing suits for their play dates by the pool and they want the little boys to be the belle of the ball?

Don’t get me wrong: I believe you have to let children be who they are. But at the same time, you can’t be so hands off that you are guiding them down a path that they’re not ready to travel or capable of traveling on their own. For instance, if you let your child climb behind the wheel of a car for a driving lesson and let her drive freely down the road knowing there’s a dangerous curve ahead that could send you both careening off a cliff, are you going to avoid warning her about it? Of course not! You’re gonna let her know to gently pull to the left because there’s danger on the right.

That’s all to say that parenting is about giving guidance and setting some boundaries. Kids can’t make all of their own decisions somebody’s gotta be the teacher and somebody’s gotta be the student. And while under my tutelage, I don’t want my son getting his hair curled or toes painted or wearing dresses. I don’t. Because in this society, he will be judged harshly for not having a traditional “manly” look and decorum about him, and could easily find himself in all kinds of danger because of it.

Even though being transgender is a little more accepted now, life is still not a bowl of cherries for most of those who live the life. It’s tough. And no mother wants her child to grow up struggling because the world is close-minded and hateful.

Of course, I will accept my child for who he is, no matter if he’s a boy who acts like a manly man or one who prefers pink toenails. But I’m not going to instigate the latter by openly cheering him on if he wants to dress up in princess dresses and lipstick like his sister and pose with his hand on his hip, pretending to be like me. I want a man to be a man with no remnants of a woman at all. Not even for a minute.

I’m just glad I’ve got a Tim Allen-grunting, Tool Time- type of guy for a husband, and I’m glad my son looks up to his dad and likes to walk around trying to tinker and fix things rather than worrying if his butt looks too big in an A-line skirt.

I’m not gonna let my son paint his toenails or act more like a girl than the boy he is. Sorry. Say what you will. I’m not gonna do it.

And you know what? I am damn glad Jo-Jo didn’t let me do it.

Kia Morgan Smith, author of the delightful children’s book, Goony Goo-Goo and Ga-Ga Too, is a passionate and dedicated educator and former award-winning education reporter from Philadelphia. She has five kids and balances life like nobody’s business all of which she chronicles on her blog,CincoMom. She lives with her husband and their family in Atlanta.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. Mistress_Scorpio

    Wow, indeed. The world ain’t the only thing close-minded and hateful.

    • Pretty much my thoughts exactly. As if allowing your child to paint his nails or wear a dress could turn him gay or make him transgender. Your child is what he is, whether that is gay or straight, trans or cis, or anything in between. Whoo boy.

    • What was hateful about the post? I’m not gonna allow my kids to be buddhists either. Am I hateful now? As parents we get to make some of these choices. And this is one of them. If he ends up growing up and making the choice to be more of a girl than a boy, then that’s his choice. But I’m not gonna foster it, that’s all.

  2. You won’t do it because you don’t have to. I knew a mom with a forceful preschooler would demanded hello kitty and nail polish. They handled it well, and went along with his preferences. Just like you would if your child wanted pokemon instead of elmo. As a matter of fact the whole preschool class gave him girly valentines because our 4 year old kids told us what he wanted.

    Sometimes, it’s a choice between contributing to a kid’s depression and suicidal ideology or contributing to their positive self concept. Most of us won’t have to make that choice, but if you had to I think you would choose pink nail polish.

  3. I’m kind of on the fence about this one. I have a daughter (4) and a son (2). Whenever I paint my toes, my daughter comes out of nowhere and asks me to paint hers, too. My son then wants to join in on the fun. He reached for the blue nail polish because blue is his favorite color. I hesitated, and then painted his toes with the clear nail polish. I painted my daughter’s bright pink.

    My husband (and my father) had a fit that I painted his toes at all. I don’t see anything wrong with nail polish or boys liking pink. As I always say, pink ain’t nothing but a lighter shade of red.

    I’m still coming to terms with what a “man” or “manly behaviors” really are, but I know my husband’s definition doesn’t include any nail polish, clear or otherwise. I’m trying to walk that delicate line between allowing my son to express himself, and also guiding him with what he needs to know to thrive in the general (not-as-supportive-as-Mommy) world.

  4. Oh one more thing. Suppose him wanting pink toenails really means that he is the next Max Factor, a straight, married, make-up artist who built a huge empire painting women’s faces, fingers, and toes?

    • Max Factor was not afforded the same opportunities as children today. While my kids are in school at 8 years old, Max was working and was very poor. He ended up working for a wigmaker and comestician at the age of 8 and 9, which got him into cosmetics. His mother wasn’t sitting home painting his toes pink. He was working like a little man to earn money for his family. There’s a difference.
      Thanks for the comment.

      • I’m not sure what his working and being a little man has to do with point that I was making about his affinity toward painted nails possibly pointing to his gifts in life. My son loves the kitchen and all the utensils. Instead of me viewing it as girly, I think to myself that he may want to be a chef, and if he continues playing in my kitchen I will be buying him a play kitchen.

        • Denene@MyBrownBaby

          Brooke: If I read what Kia was saying correctly, I think the takeaway was that Max Factor became a world-renowned make-up/beauty genius because of his circumstances, not necessarily because he had any particular affinity for painting toenails or doing make-up. BUT, I do agree with what you’re saying here: If your children show a genuine interest in something, there’s nothing wrong with encouraging their love for it. I think it’s honorable that you don’t see a difference between a boy’s love of cooking and a boy’s love of getting his own toenails painted pink; some don’t necessarily see that connection—that little kids like to role play in little play kitchens and with pots and pans and that little kids love to dress up like mommy (painted toenails and all). I think there is a large swath of society that simply is uncomfortable with the idea of actively encouraging their little boys to dress up and “act” like girls in the same way they would actively encourage them to play with toys precisely because of your reasoning. It’s “I’m okay giving him the tools to stoke his interest in being a chef—the top chefs in the world are mostly men anyway—but I’m not okay with him giving him the tools to stoke his interest in being a girl.” I don’t necessarily agree with that thought process, but I can understand it.

          • That’s the funny thing about purpose and gifts, we don’t know what action leads to what destiny. Only the destined, can tell you what drove them. In the case of Max Factor, you could argue that his being an apprentice in a wig shop out of necessity led to him later making a career in make artistry, however what if he was naturally drawn to wigs, make-up and the like. I think if he were not naturally drawn to those things, he would have found another apprenticeship. What about dance? We all love to see Savion Glover hoofin’, but I’m sure it was tapping back when he learned it. Imagine what courage his parents must have had to allow their son to be in a dance class, when every other boy was in a “real sport.” Boys weren’t really tapping anymore when he learned it. It wasn’t the 40’s. Same with acting, and sometimes even playing the piano. There is a continuum of Girly activities, that boys are many times restricted from in the name of it not being “all man.” I am aware that pink toes are way on the far end of that continuum, and I’m glad that I don’t have to make a choice like whether to allow it (as a matter of fact I could dodge is b/c the rule in my house is no polish for kids). However, I’m not willing to be the decider on who my child wants to be solely based on me being the parent. That being said I am the parent, so I would definitely put rules and boundaries around how my child can express himself. Ex: Dresses in the house only, etc. You raised an excellent point about the parent allowing the child to be photographed in a catalog. This is allowing a label, and it probably was in the name of her progressivism. I don’t allow any labels for my kids. I don’t let them do it, and we try to strike a balance between knowing them and labeling them.

  5. Mistress_Scorpio

    Upon reflection, I realized what bothered me so much about this piece. The author’s arguments smack of bigotry and ignorance, and you can see how the seeds of such get planted in children. What kind of men are we raising that nail polish rocks the foundation of their masculinity? Think that kind of sensitivity on the parents part will do more to raise a confident and secure man? Or will it set up habits of letting others define him in order to gain acceptance? Yeah, that’s *just* the lesson our brown baby boys need.

    • Mistress Scorpio, an ignorant bigot is what I am not. I think it’s rather ignorant for you to not respect a person’s opinion about raising their family. Many women are out there unmarried, sleeping around with 3 or 4 different baby fathers. Yet i am married, educated and raising my kids in a home, not an apartment and with an educated father and because I don’t want him to wear pink or dresses i’m an awful mom.
      Grow up.
      Kids are not gonna have everything their way. And the fact that you don’t understand and respect that shows your immaturity.
      I guess I should let my son try crack too because it doesn’t mean he’ll become a crack addict, right?
      Let’s respect Denene’s website okay? But feel free to email me.

      • I found this piece incredibly problematic and offensive. After discussing it respectfully with Denene on Twitter, attempting to do the same with a defensive KMS and then seeing KMS’s even-more-defensive responses here, I still feel the same way (if not more so!).

        Although the writer indeed should raise her family exactly the way she wants, expressing these ideas in a public forum invites discussion, right? As I tweeted, there’s a lot to unpack here about the way this piece shallowly addresses gender identity (e.g.: “I want a man to be a man with no remnants of a woman at all”).

        It reads as though she doesn’t have a kid with a nonheteronormative identity. That’s great; it makes things simpler for her. For parents and people who do, though, the answers to these questions can’t be as easy — or as flip.

        • So I shouldn’t defend how I feel? I couldn’t thoroughly respond on twitter and I explained that. And who wouldn’t be defensive when people are name-calling and NOT making valid points. Explain the name calling? What’s the basis for that?

        • Anika,
          Aren’t you the same person who said on your blog it’s “creepy” for 10-yr-old Willow Smith to talk about her career? Hmmm funny that it’s not “creepy” for a boy to wear pink polish… Seems like you will disagree with anything parents stand by and stand for just for the sake of disagreeing.

          • Kia, I stand by my opinion that it’s not creepy for a boy to engage in nonheteronormative activity. You’re treading dangerously close to destroying your own argument that you’re not a homophobe.

            Keep going, BTW. Your responses here are deeply amusing.

      • I may not have agreed with your views, but the part that really irked the heck out of me was that apartment bit. A house is the foundation with four walls, a HOME is where love is spread. You are no better than anyone else because you had a mortgage.

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      I don’t think painting a boy’s toes pink will “crush” a boy’s masculinity, but sending a five-year-old out into a world that still doesn’t understand, accept, or support that kind of progressive parenting is certainly something that I, as a mom, would think long and hard about before I actively supported my son wearing pink toenail polish, princess dresses and sparkles. Of course, we can talk in theory about masculinity all day, but just as I treasure the role of teaching my girls how to be women, I think my husband treasures his role as a man teaching his son how to be a man. I’m 99.9 percent sure that helping his son be comfortable wearing pink toenail polish isn’t anywhere in his lesson plans.

      How do you teach your son how to be confident and secure? And would it involve painting his toes pink?

      • Just another Mom

        I agree with your post. I find this article no more offensive than the ad that sparked it. Everyone is allowed to have their own opinion. I think one of the ways that you teach your son (and daughter) to be confident and secure is to be that yourself and to have a co-parent who is also those things; to encourage them to express themselves and to develop their talents; and to be their biggest cheerleader and advocate.

        I love to see my husband teaching my son and my son trying to imitate him. I teach my son also, but not about wearing make-up and fingernail polish. just like I don’t want my husband to teach my daughter about shaving and hair care. We have created a society where it is o.k. to discuss and support homosexual lifestyles but not o.k. to discuss and support heterosexual lifestyles. I think you have to be able to be confident in who you are and who you want them to be. They have to be confident in your love. They will eventually make their own choices but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have expressed expectations.

      • Well said! Why is it a mom who wants her daughter to wear dresses & be girly is just being a mom, while that same mom wanting her son to NOT be girly is a homophobe? I think it is all summed up well in your line “I think my husband treasures his role as a man teaching his son how to be a man. Im 99.9 percent sure that helping his son be comfortable wearing pink toenail polish isnt anywhere in his lesson plans. ”

        As for the people who were talking about boys in the kitchen… last I checked the kitchen isn’t the ‘woman’s place’, contrary to wait every shovanistic (sp?) pig out there will tell you. Men cook just as much as women & in fact the head chefs in even the most luxourious castles, back in the days of kings & queens, well, they were very often men. So I really don’t see how playing in the kitchen, wearing an apron or wanting to learn how to cook, in any way relates to wearing pink nail polish.

  6. Mistress_Scorpio

    So what? You want a medal? I’m a black woman, married to the hard-working father of my children, educated, own my home… I don’t deserve any accolades for doing what I am *supposed* to be doing. The rewards in that are self-evident. If that is the image you measure yourself against, you go right ahead.

    I respect Denene’s website just fine, but I am unaware of this article being cross-posted on your own site where it can be publicly commented on. That you compare a boy doing “girly” things to trying crack, says more to prove my point than any further argument for me, so for that I thank you.

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      Wooooh! Okay, ladies: I see the insults flying but I don’t see any lessons being shared or learned here. Can we please agree to keep this conversation about the topic at hand and to not turn this into a pissing match? That’s simply not what we do here at MyBrownBaby. I count every last one of the MyBrownBaby writers and readers as “Smart, Confident, Fresh” women who have opinions and the right to have them. This comment space is meant to share those opinions and state our cases for why we parent the way we do. If you don’t agree with what’s written or someone else’s opinion in the comment section, cool. But we’re much more interested in WHY you don’t agree with it, not the name-calling or the insults. Nothing is gained from that. Nothing at all.

  7. I have never attempted to paint the finger- or toenails of my 3-year-old son NOR my 4-year-old daughter, and they’ve never asked. I actually can understand not wanting to encourage your child to grow up too fast by putting too much focus on hair, makeup, hypersexualized dress. However, Mrs. Smith’s column is so full of ridiculous gender stereotypes and prejudices that her opinions are hard to take seriously. Not for nothing, but this right here?

    “Im just glad Ive got a Tim Allen-grunting, Tool Time- type of guy for a husband, and Im glad my son looks up to his dad and likes to walk around trying to tinker and fix things rather than worrying if his butt looks too big in an A-line skirt.”

    …Is bigotry. It’s hilarious to me that she finds it OK to throw insults but can’t handle people calling her out on it.

    In certain environments, children who are articulate and get good grades are picked on — would you discourage that, too? Teens who date outside their race may be ostracized (where have we heard that argument before?) — I guess we should discourage that as well. Masking your biases with the argument that your child might be ostracized for his preferences is an old, fairly weak one that just doesn’t really hold water.

    And P.S.? Left-field comments about unmarried women with baby daddies (WTH?? lol) don’t help your (tired) argument. At all.

    • J. Crawford- So what’s your argument? Have you dressed your son in pink and sent him to school? What was the results? Again, like Denene said, what has YOUR experience been? Do you have anything of value to add? I’m not interested in if you think my comments are left-handed or not or weak. If you could write something better then write it and ask Denene to publish it. If my piece was so called “weak” I don’t think respected author, columnist, editor and writing extraordinaire Denene Millner would have published it, hun. 🙂 Thanks for reading it!

      • @Kia As I stated, I have never attempted to paint the finger- or toenails of my 3-year-old son NOR my 4-year-old daughter, and theyve never asked. As I stated, I actually can understand not wanting to encourage your child to grow up too fast by putting too much focus on hair, makeup, hypersexualized dress, and I dont. However, thats certainly not because “I want a man to be a man with no remnants of a woman at all” (whatever that means? lol). As for your comment, Im sure Mrs. Millner, as a “respected author, columnist, editor and writing extraordinaire,” as you put it, recognizes topics that are going to resonate with readers, whether positively or negatively. As for my thoughts, theyve already been published right here in the comments. Obviously, you DO care or you wouldnt be responding so vehemently. And that may be a good thing; I hope it encourages a more thoughtful discourse in the future. Thank YOU for reading!

  8. I’m going to walk gingerly into this minefield and ask a question regarding the statement about “sending a five-year-old out into a world that still doesnt understand, accept, or support that kind of progressive parenting is certainly something that I, as a mom, would think long and hard about before I actively supported my son wearing pink toenail polish, princess dresses and sparkles.” This is the same argument that was made about the princess boy story. Our kids are born with or develop many characteristics that our society finds fault with and kids will pick on them for…skin color, hair texture, height, eyeglasses, food allergies. So how is preparing them to deal with those taunts from their peers (and hopefully educating them in the process) any different from if they have an “alternative” interest, hobby, or whatever?

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      GREAT question, Teresha!

      Absolutely, kids will pick at other kids for whatever reason—whether it’s skin color, hair texture, height, interests and hobbies, etc. I wouldn’t have a problem breaking down for my child why every child is different and has different opinions and likes and dislikes and wants and needs, and that it is their right to have them. But in my humble opinion, when you’re talking about sending a boychild, at age 5, out onto the playground in a dress or sparkles or a princess crown, you are opening him up to discussions about sexual identity—and, quite frankly, allowing many more who, again, aren’t as progressive as some, label him and tell him who he is. A conversation about sexual identity? At age 5? Because I let him wear a skirt and pink toenails and flip flops to school? That’s not a conversation I want to have with my 5-year-old. It’s not a conversation I want anyone else to frame for my 5-year-old. And it’s not a label I want my 5-year-old to sport, particularly since, at age five, I’m not so sure he/she would know who he/she is attracted to in a sexual way.

      Mind you, I did write about The Princess Boy and while I cheered for the parents for letting their son “be,” I was particularly bothered by their willingness to put him out there and let folk come to the conclusion for him that he must be gay because he likes dressing in skirts. Of course, dressing in a skirt or liking pink doesn’t make you gay. But that’s what everyone thought he was by the time they finished assessing the situation, ignorant as that is. What if, actually, he’s not? What if he just likes pink and dresses? Was it possible at all to let him dress that way in the privacy and SAFETY of his own home, where his family and friends love him, won’t judge, and will let him “be” without assigning labels and pushing him into boxes we all know society pushes men who dress like that into?

      How would you handle it in your house with your kids? Would you encourage your son to wear pink skirts to school? How would you explain to him the criticism and labels that would surely come?

      • That’s a tough hypothetical situation. Honestly, I don’t know how I would coach my son to face the criticism and labels if he wanted to wear a pink skirt to school, but I would have to find a way if that is want he truly wanted even after I explained to him the potential backlash. Also, I don’t think wearing pink or using nail polish would automatically make his peers question his sexuality (based on my experience working in schools it’s always a combination of exhibited traits and sometimes even the most “manly” boys get called the F-word). I think the real issue here is the underlying fear of “gay.” I think a boy in sparkly dress on a playground should transcend our adult biases, prejudices, suspicions. I say “adult”, because the kids learn it from the grown ups. We hold onto to the social values and expectations instilled in us, not realizing that they might run counter to who our kids are.
        That being said, the children are always testing boundaries and breaking new ground on social norms. Our Civil Rights leaders knew that to change closed minds and closed hearts, our children would have to lead the way and that’s why Ruby was sent to integrate that school. She was the face of desegregation at 6-years-old…

  9. Mistress_Scorpio

    I have to step away from the computer to take my boys to the park, but here’s my value added contribution to the thread. It doesn’t address this issue specifically, but generally I found it very helpful in shaping my attitude on subjects like this.

    – At TEDWomen, Tony Porter makes a call to men everywhere: Don’t “act like a man.” Telling powerful stories from his own life, he shows how this mentality, drummed into so many men and boys, can lead men to disrespect, mistreat and abuse women and each other. His solution: Break free of the “man box.”

  10. Recently when I came home from the nail shop, my five year old son and three year old sister wanted their toe nails painted. I told both of them no, b/c I don’t think children should be wearing nail polish, but then my son asked again, this time on behalf of his sister. He had gotten the message that toenail painting was something only girls did. And I was sort of sad about that. It pains me that something as benign as paint on toenails is gendered. It’s silly.

    I think young children simply want to do things that look fun. When my son wants to dress up like his sister, I don’t make a big deal out of it. If my daughter wants to play with trucks like my son, I don’t make a big deal out of it. My son loves his Mickey Mouse like he loves a doll. That’s totally fine with me. The vast majority of children will conform to gender roles because it is what is reflected for them out in the world. At home, though, I try to make a safe space for them to explore and feel free to be whomever they want to be.

    Children don’t become transgendered because of anything a parent does or does not do. It’s a quirk of nature. Most transgendered folks will tell you that they knew that they were in the “wrong” gender from a very young age. If their parents repressed it or encouraged it didn’t really matter as to what eventually happened – perhaps it saved some years in therapy, but the ultimate result is the same – they are in the wrong gender.

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      Gradmommy: #heart this comment, especially this part:

      “I think young children simply want to do things that look fun. When my son wants to dress up like his sister, I dont make a big deal out of it. If my daughter wants to play with trucks like my son, I dont make a big deal out of it. My son loves his Mickey Mouse like he loves a doll. Thats totally fine with me. The vast majority of children will conform to gender roles because it is what is reflected for them out in the world. At home, though, I try to make a safe space for them to explore and feel free to be whomever they want to be.”

      This is exactly what I’m talking about—giving kids the space and freedom to explore in a SAFE space. Honestly? I don’t have a problem with the pink toes. What I have a problem with is the response to it. I know I wouldn’t want my child in the middle of that storm at such a young age, and I certainly wouldn’t want people labeling my son, based on an outfit or a color, before he has a chance to decide on his own who, what and how he wants to “be.”

  11. This post saddens me because it reinforces gender stereotypes that I really wish would just go away. I understand why my folks (I’m Black) are so obsessed with ‘manly men’, considering our history in the US, but I think it’s time to let it go, because it’s harming our children.

    Full, disclosure, I am a first time mommy-in-waiting at the moment so I can only guess what I will do when my child is actually home, I have not begun to raise a child yet so I don’t know. I hope that I can find a way to encourage the child in whatever direction they go, whether I have a boyish girl or feminine boy, or if they are so called ‘normal’. I just want to encourage them to be the best person they can be and strong and confident enough to handle it if it turns out they don’t conform to any set gender rules.

  12. @Kia As I stated, I have never attempted to paint the finger- or toenails of my 3-year-old son NOR my 4-year-old daughter, and theyve never asked. As I stated, I actually can understand not wanting to encourage your child to grow up too fast by putting too much focus on hair, makeup, hypersexualized dress, and I don’t. However, that’s certainly not because “I want a man to be a man with no remnants of a woman at all” (whatever that means? lol). As for your comment, I’m sure Mrs. Millner, as a “respected author, columnist, editor and writing extraordinaire,” as you put it, recognizes topics that are going to resonate with readers, whether positively or negatively. As for my thoughts, they’ve already been published right here in the comments. Obviously, you DO care or you wouldn’t be responding so vehemently. And that may be a good thing; I hope it encourages a more thoughtful discourse in the future. Thank YOU for reading!

  13. The J Crew ad has gotten the attention for the advertisers and ultimately when all is said and done isn’t that what marketing and PR are all about. With regards to Abercrombie & Fitch well this is their first time raising eyebrows with their campaigns. However, again same thing.

    The idea of quality time spent between mother and son is buried beneath the image of pink toenails and that’s sad given how precious quality time is in the life of a child. But the J Crew campaign isn’t about selling quality time, or even pink nail polish for that matter, it’s about sales. Innocent. *shoulder shrug* Perhaps. I mean after all this isn’t some random child. This child is pictured with his mom who is widely respected in the fashion industry.

    Then again how many even knew J Crew sold nail polish before this ad? Better yet when’s the last time any of you have shopped at J Crew? Does THIS ad make you wanna shop there? I can’t lie I’ve been shopping there more since First Lady Obama has been hitting the scene sporting J Crew but that’s about it.

    This post is one person’s opinion and kudos to Kia for being honest. It is but one opinion. Kia isn’t raising a transgendered child or a gay child but I wonder if such were the case would this post have a different spin?

    Personally I have painted my sons’ toenails. Hey, what can I say they were twins and I couldn’t tell ’em apart those first few weeks. Would I try it now? No, not unless they asked me too.

  14. Interesting post. My son is a grown man so I don’t have to ponder this at all but I do have a 5 yo girl. I guess to be honest it would have never dawned on me to paint my son’s nails when he young and I don’t know what I would have done if he asked. I like to think I would have been open-minded and just did it but I really don’t know…the fact that I don’t know on some level is troubling.

    I don’t see the author as close minded, I see her as someone speaking her truth for her family. I feel like sometimes in the rush to be open and inclusive we attack folks for speaking their truth when the truth is we need to hear from diverse voices and opinions.

    • Kia Morgan Smith

      Amen and thank you.

    • Mistress_Scorpio

      By all means, folks should speak their truth. But when you do so in a public forum, one should be able to defend one’s truth without declaring the dissenting opinions as “invalid.”

  15. my 9yr old daughter decided to dress her then 3 yr old in her play dress and heals…then she took a picture of him….. he thought it was funny…so did I. But would I allow her to do it again? No. i wont encourage it. But when he gets older and remembers that moment and wants to go back…..what can I do….this is a moment in a parents life when a decision has to be made…..*shrugs*

    I love this blog and I have an award for you. check out
    http://ccskidz.com/2011/04/13/spread-the-love/ to view it.:-)

  16. Wow. I feel like I just stepped into some alternate universe here, where a mother gets attacked for wanting her son to grow up to be a heterosexual man. A “manly” man. The way the responses are reading, it almost feels like the women here regard that as being as desirable as the cooties. I think most of us, if we’re being totally honest with ourselves, would like our kids to be the maximized, ideal version of their particular gender. We want our little girls to grow up to be beautiful and talented and clever and funny and well-rounded and happy. We want our sons to be handsome and talented and clever and funny and well-rounded and happy. We want them to be attractive and desirable to the opposite sex, but also respected and appreciated by the opposite sex. I have been on this Earth for 45 years and I have yet to run into a grown heterosexual woman who says she dreams about finding a man who paints his toenails and tries on dresses—unless maybe she wants a partner for shopping and gossip. But as a life partner? Not hardly. My point here is that you all want to jump on a mother for wanting her son to become a “manly man,” yet that is exactly what the huge majority of women I know have always pined for in a mate—someone who is unapologetically masculine and strong, virile and sexy. No pink toenails anywhere in that picture. So as I’m raising my own son, I’m trying to mold him into the perfect partner for some woman in his future. Of course if he begged me for pink toenails, I’d let him have pink toenails. But it’s certainly NOT going to be my idea, and I’m NOT going to let it be his mother’s idea either. I just see no point to it. If his mom wants to play dress-up, go to the store and buy a baby doll.

    • Kia Morgan Smith

      You brought tears to my eyes. Thank you. That’s all I was trying to say. It’s my son and my decision and that’s my dreams of what I want for him. It’s as simple as that. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

      • Jacqueline Lewis

        Yes, and as you are writing for a blog, you are giving people what others think not just you and I applaud you for it. The ad on the other hand is pretty much trying to make a trend, and that’s too bad. Keep on writing Kia. They are always othersides and your side is just as important as others. Thanks for doing your homework, I have something to talk to my sons about. I always ask what do they think?

    • Mistress_Scorpio

      I know that’s what I always dreamed of… a manly man that wasn’t going to LET me have any ideas that he didn’t agree to.
      /end sarcasm

      I will leave this convo to the link I provided above.

      • Denene@MyBrownBaby

        Okay, watch out there with the sarcasm, Mistress_Scorpio: Nick is my husband. And there won’t be any disrespecting my man on MY site. Watch the tone. Seriously, out of all that Nick had to say, if the only takeaway you had was with the word “let,” well, clearly, you’re not trying to have a conversation; you’re just here to pick. As I stated up top: If you don’t have anything to add to this debate other than sarcasm and insults, you need not comment here.

        • Mistress_Scorpio

          My apologies for insulting your husband, Denene. No excuses. I am not so familiar with the site that I was aware of the relationship, but no matter because it did cross the line. Nonetheless, I hope everyone gets something out of the video.

          • Denene@MyBrownBaby

            No worries, love. I’m going to watch the video then come back with my thoughts. Thanks for sharing it; it’s appreciated.

    • Thank you SOOOO much, Nick. From some of these responses, I am wondering if our children will grow up genderless. Why has it all of a sudden become a bad thing for a boy to be a boy? I don’t understand. As a married mother of four girls and one boy, I and my husband would be very upset if we caught our son putting on makeup or nail polish. Why? Because I am raising four girls and one SON. When did it become a bad thing for a male child to raised to do things boys would do? I don’t understand. And yes, I am married. I don’t understand the concept of parents wanting/raising their boy to be masculine or a boy being masculine being wrong in some way. This world would really be out of balance if we did not have male/female energy – but I guess some effort is going on to feminize boys – which I just don’t understand…

    • Amen, here here and standing ovation!

  17. The thing that bugs me about this piece is not the author’s point of view so much as the tone. It does smack of bigotry to me. Try substituting “black” for “boy” and “white” for “girl” (or the other way around if you like), and see whether it pushes a few buttons differently.

  18. PS — I’m not trying to suggest that there are racial overtones to the J Crew ad AT ALL, or to toenail polish (the way there are for hairstyles). Just stating that if you pick a different dichotomy (race or cultural expectations, rather than gender expectations), the bigotry I perceive here comes into sharper focus.

  19. So if I’m a heterosexual male and I want my kid to be like me, to have a life like mine, that means I’m a bigot—in the same inglorious mindset as Bull Connor and David Duke, Adolf Hitler and D.W. Griffith? That is just insane! You really need to find another word for “normal” fathers like me because bigot just doesn’t sit right. Makes me very upset, in fact.

  20. And of course Mistress Scorpion I would never LET a woman have any ideas of her own. Because we all know that’s what a “manly” man is, right? Just ask my wife, Denene Millner. Clearly she doesn’t have any real thoughts of her own.

  21. Kia u r awesome!!! I certainly support your view!!! One of my worst fears is tht my son will be effemine all because he follows his older sister….so yes I try to encourage all of rhe male gravado around the house, since he nor a tough rambuctious type and more of a laid back pretty boy he has gotten teased at school for being a “faggot” and “gay” (by classmates) hence the schoolyard fights!!!! So i’ll be damned if im going to allow my son ro wear pink nail polish or anything associated with girly things which would totally make him seem feminine…..now to each his own, im not homophobic and i’m as openminded as they come..maybe not as much when it comes to girls being boys and vice versus

    • Kia Morgan Smith

      MUCH appreciated Raina. I’m sorry to hear your child suffered those kinds of problems at school, the one place we can not protect our kids. I FEEL you. Thanks for sharing.

      • you are certainly welcome…thanks but the school year isn’t over and constantly my son has to prove his masculinity by fighting these little boys back, could you imagine if he actually wanted to do something like wear pink nail polish? Some of these responses are ridiculous,but I’m quite sure you are not going to loose any sleep lol keep doing what you are doing, I will continue to support

  22. Thank you Denene for the #heart.

    Re: Nick’s comment. I don’t think anyone can affect another person’s sexual orientation, but I get what you are saying. I can’t say that I “want” my children to grow up heterosexual, or gender-conforming, but I can say that I will be *grateful* if they do. Why? Because it will most likely be an easier road to travel. That’s what I hear coming from Kia, Nick, Denene, and others. I think when we hear that people “want” their kids to grow up heterosexual, and also strictly gender-conformed, it sounds bigoted. But there is a difference between wanting your children to be “normal” out of a sense of their well-being and wanting them to be “normal” coming from a heterosexist position that thinks heterosexuality and gender conformity is *better.* I don’t hear heterosexism coming from these folks. In fact, I heard them say that if their children asked them for the nail polish, they would do it.

    I can see why those who were offended by the original post feel the way they did; some of the language seemed to be from a heterosexist viewpoint rather than simply because the author wanted her child to be “normal” for his own sake. But the overall point of the piece seemed to be that the author was *thankful* that her son didn’t put her in the position to have to make the decision about the nail polish. And I think most of us would be similarly thankful, no matter what our politics. Who wants to be on the harder road? Just like as parents of color we sometimes wish we didn’t have to teach our children about race, discrimination, bigotry, slavery, etc., I know I am grateful that my children do “naturally” conform to gender roles so I’m not in the position to make hard choices. It’s similar to not wanting your children to have disabilities – of course not saying that being non-gender conformed or being gay is a disability – but the social stigma the comes along with the labels can be just as damaging. To be honest and say that you are grateful to not be in that position – isn’t that what parenting blogs are all about?

  23. I’m with you on this one. I sat there shaking my head at the ad. It’s one thing for an adult male (or female) to make the choice to dress in male or female clothing, it’s quite another for the parents to allow/encourage it. As parents, we are the position to have to make the hard choices and if it hurts the kid’s feelings, well, that’s part of life. They’re not always going to be able to get/have everything they want. And I am by no means saying that dressing a boy in girls clothing will make him gay, but why subject your child to that type of ridicule?

  24. A lot of talk of discussions on this, but I want my voice. To be heard so*shrugs*. I’m not a mom and don’t plan on being one for a very very long time (im in high school). I’ve read the post and a few of the comments and I understand what he author was trying to say. I don’t consider her to be a bigot nor close minded at all. She is mother who chooses to raise her children the way that she sees fit, and if that means not painting her son’s nails, then so be it. My baby brother once asked me to paint his nails when he saw me painting his and I consented but gave him clear polish and not the color i was using. Wouldn’t you be offended too if people attacked you and your views instead of trying to discuss it and explain what exactly they did not agree with? Do you really think she’s an unfit mother for raising her child the way that she wants to raise him? Of course it is only nail polish but I doubt if I would let my child wear nail pink nail polish, or dresses. It is only clothes but these images send messages to the world. It also shapes his image of himself.
    Everyone made a good argument, mostly anyway. I really enjoy this site even if i can’t relate to some of the posts.

  25. Omg why are people aggressively attacking this woman for not wanting to influence her son to wear and do some of the same things her daughter’s do?? If anything we should be applauding the fact tht she’s trying to instill that line between masculinity and feminity!! Theres nothing wrong with what shes saying because this same bantor would not have been going on years ago…what we need to look at is “are we becoming such a new age generation where anything is acceptable” …in that case we might as well be in sodom and gomorah…yea I said it I want to hear all the people opposed to Kia’s rearing of JoJo to honestly say they would date a man with pink toes or marry a guy so in touch with his feminine side you’d go to the family reunion with him wearing “your” sparkly dress…we all want our children to embrace who they are but at what cost?? My worst fear is my son being too feminine like his sister, too much swing in hips or being gay …..now if thats who he is then so be it…but im not about to lead him down that road, and u can call it what you want

    Kia it’s an interesting piece, not everyone will agree and thats all fine and dandy but let all the name callers and ones who are attacking your character go to ____ in a handbasket

    • @Raina: A man that wears dresses and pink nail polish most likely will not want to marry a woman. So I don’t think heterosexual women need to worry about that. If anything, they need to worry about gay men who, because our society remains largely homophobic, feel unable to be who they are and instead live a lie as a heterosexual man. Why do you *fear* that your son will be gay, or effeminate, IF he is happy and proud of who he is? It is a harder road to travel, no doubt, but not an impossible one.

      (And as a side note: not all Christians agree with your take on Sodom and Gomorrah. Me being one of them.)

  26. This is just an opinion of mine. I and my husband talked about the j. crew ad and even he said the ad went too far. I am a mother and I would not paint my son’s toes for no reason. My husband said it was simply out of the question. Psychology says that a lot of behavior is learned through observation. So we as parents do have a big out look on our children. If my daughter wanted to paint her toes and then my son wanted to paint his, then I would find something for all of us to do as a family or give him another thing to do that doesn’t involve painting of toenails, playing with dolls, etc. While I honor the mother or father would spends time with their kids, the cultural norms are what they are. So yes, a boy can paint his nails, toes and go out into the world, however they will face scrutiny by doing so because of our society’s norms. When I see men who are and look feminine, a lot of them tell me that they were raised by females and never saw a manly man around. I’m no longer a single mother but if I was and I had a son, I’d put my son in a big brother program or have an uncle, a pastor or some male role model to show him how to be a man because guess what? I can’t. Maybe there is a woman that did it but I am a woman so I don’t know but again this is my opinion. Every parent and household is different so I say if you like it, then i love it lol.

  27. Here’s a thought. If you don’t want comments to have a ‘tone’ or ‘sarcasm,’ don’t post articles or comments that have the same tone. Hilarious how people who are commenting about the ‘attack’ on the writer’s ‘personal truths’ ignore the ‘attack’ on certain boys’ ‘truth’ in the original post. When those bigoted (yes, bigoted) attitudes trickle outside of your homes (and they likely will), through you in the workplace, or through your children at school and in the world when they become adults, it affects us all. Your ‘personal truth’ becomes everyone else’s mess.

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      Yo, hol’ up: Who you talking to? Don’t get it twisted: THIS IS MY SPACE. It’s is NOT yours. Like I said, watch your tone and keep your sarcasm to yourself. You can make your point without insulting the writers, the commenters, the audience and especially me. I not about to say it again, hear?

      Now if you can’t figure out ANYTHING ELSE TO SAY besides “she’s a bigot” and “you’re hilarious for not thinking like me” then yo, go take your comments to a blog that deals in insults. Bossip awaits you. But we’re not about do that here at MyBrownBaby.

      Care to try again?

  28. LMAO. Really?? ‘Yo,’ my bad, I didn’t realize only the commenters who support the posts are allowed to speak the ‘truth.’ Try WHAT again?? What you want, me to repeat myself?? The initial post dealt in insults, sarcasm, bias and bigotry that we as a people need to check more often. But that was cool, right? Unless I’m on your payroll or one of your kids, I’m pretty sure my thoughts haven’t changed because you used a couple of apostrophes and a ‘Yo.’ Nice forum for a ‘discussion that we need to have.’ Love how it devolved, but I guess that’s a direct result of how negatively it opened. You have a great day.

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      You know what? I added a “Yo” for the ignorant mofos who refuse to hear me. Don’t bother leaving any more comments here. Whatever ax you have to grind, whatever point you’re trying to make, whatever issue you’re trying to work out with yourself, is officially LOST in your sarcasm, tone, insults and disrespect for me and the readers on this site. If you have any more comments for MBB, you better leave them in the middle of the night while my ass is sleep because the second I see you, you will be deleted. I don’t give a damn what you have to say from here on out. Ass.

  29. Mistress_Scorpio

    Denene, I still hope you watch the video, but I haven’t seen one response from yourself or the author addressing criticism other than to a) not address it, or b) to take offense and say that it’s out of line. What criticism would be considered acceptable? I genuinely would like to know.

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      Mistress_Scorpio: I implore you to read through the thread. I’ve read through it several times this morning and most of what I see are comments calling the writer names and saying her opinions are biased and hateful. You asked earlier in the thread, “What kind of men are we raising that nail polish rocks the foundation of their masculinity?” and I answered you. Both you and Kia started arguing and insulting each other, and I politely asked the two of you to stay on topic and stick to stating your case without being mean to one another, because “nothing is gained from it. Nothing at all.” You posted a link to a video and I told you that I would watch it. (Sorry, but life happened yesterday and I didn’t have a chance to watch it. But if I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it.) You argued that people have the right to “speak their truth” but that you have to be able to defend it without considering everyone else’s opinion “invalid.” Then you went on to insult the crap out of my husband by insinuating that he’s some neanderthal with a weak wife. Nowhere in your comments, save for a link to a video, do you say how you parent and why you choose to do it the way that you do. Nowhere. Pull your comments out on their own and all you do is insult, criticize, and, in the end, go for the jugular.

      Like I stated in the beginning when the comments got out of pocket: MyBrownBaby’s comment section is NOT about criticism; it’s a space meant to share opinions and state our cases for why we parent the way we do. If you dont agree with whats written or someone elses opinion in the comment section, cool. But were much more interested in WHY you dont agree with it, not the name-calling or the insults.

      Clearly, you missed it the first time, so I’ll ask the question of you again: How do you teach your son how to be confident and secure? And would it involve painting his toes pink?

      • Mistress_Scorpio

        Life is happening at my house, so I haven’t had time to do more than zip through some of the new commentary. Double ear infections in both boys, so it’s a party.
        Clearly all is not forgiven, “love” notwithstanding. I meant the apology nonetheless, given the relationship. Put out your opinion
        Hopefully the conversation will continue with Brandee below. Closest example to my parenting philosophy as I’ve seen here. Liking what she has to say and hey, cooler heads prevailing and all that. So good luck.

        • Denene@MyBrownBaby

          Mistress_Scorpio: Again, you asked a question—I answered. I followed up with a question, and you responded not with an answer, but by insisting you know what’s in my heart (“clearly, all is not forgiven, “love” notwithstanding…”). I accepted your apology and said all is cool. What in any of that makes you think I’m holding some kind of grudge? I don’t know you. I don’t have any problems with you. I really do think we should move on from this tit-for-tat.

          As promised, I watched the video. Tony Porter is amazing. I was particularly moved by his story about the gang rape and his participation in it and especially what he said after the story—something to the effect of the liberation of men is linked to the liberation of women. That’s a powerful statement—one with which I wholeheartedly agree. The Man Box is a powerful thing—constricting, for sure. Which is precisely why, as I stated throughout this thread, I wouldn’t have my son out on the playground with pink toe nail polish and skirts on. To do so would be at his peril, much like Tony Porter explained in why he pretended to have sex with Sheila, even though he was deeply disturbed by what was happening to her. I wish that he’d given some solid tips for how to go about helping boys out of “the Man Box” while letting them embrace their inherent gender difference. But I did appreciate his story. Thanks for sharing it.

  30. Good for you!! Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child. I’m glad you are standing up as a parent to lead and guide your child!

  31. I am not surprised by the tone that the discussion has taken. Historically, issues of gender, perceived sexuality and race have often become contentious. What I would like to offer is that parents are people, too. We are a summary of all of our past experiences–good, bad or otherwise. What I believe the writer was trying to posit was her viewpoint based on her own experiences. To invalidate her voice because one differs in opinion is disrespectful and limits conversation. If I wanted to persuade someone to a different way of thinking, I would try to understand where he/she is coming from and then build my rhetorical strategy from there.

    As a mother of three sons and a daughter, I recognize how society views gender identity. Try, as we might, to construct a world where all people are treated equally and are given full space to develop and grow, the fact remains that we are not there yet. What I find problematic about the J. Crew ad is that it is an ad. I believe that J. Crew wants to manipulate controversy as a marketing ploy to drum up interest in its product. Kudos to their marketing execs.

    Although I pride myself on being a mother who allows her children a space for creative and personally defined self-expression, I would be irresponsible if I raised them to believe that there was no judgement in the world. What I deem acceptable in my household may not be valued by the rest of society and I have to prepare all of my brown babies for the truth of the world. Perhaps my children will test the boundaries of what is deemed socially acceptable and they will have my full support to become who they need to be.

    I am not sure how comfortable I would feel if my sons wanted to wear nail polish because it has never happened. The open minded Mama in me would want to support their curiosity. However, the truth is probably closer to the fact that I would be nervous (about gender identity, sexual preference–even though I KNOW better). Once again, parents are people and we struggle to develop and grow in the ways that would best support our children’s growth.

    My final point is that if we wish to build character in our children and help them become open minded and supportive, we at least try to respect each other. Somewhere in our differences lies our truth…and that makes us all beautifully made.

    Denene, thanks for posting this article and thanks for taking up for your husband because I believe that we need to protect our men as we ask them to protect us. And with that gesture, you showed that gender roles are simply that…roles. The truth of how we are is apparent in our actions <3 #runtelldat

  32. Very thought-provoking article. My thoughts are this I have 2 boys currently (almost 5 and almost 2) and for me I’m of the school of thought that I am their parent, I’m not the their friends. I love them unconditionally! It will not be MY idea to paint toenails (I don’t even paint my toenails or wear wigs etc…) They will go into the BOY/MEN’s bathroom when they are of age (and I will be waiting outside with one door propped making sure they are OK 😉 I understand the controversy behind this J Crew, but really to each their own. Live your own truth. Life is hard enough as is! Peace

  33. Excellent post and I agree totally. I really appreciate you being brave enough to say that boys should be boys and girls should be girls in a world that claims gender doesn’t matter. I have no plans to feminize my son either although he will have a healthy respect for women as well as himself. One does not preclude the other although it seems like so many people believe that to be true. Thanks for writing it, Kia and for posting it, Denene.

  34. Wow…got a little heated in here huh!?!? But I do think Kia the proverbial nail on the head when she said,

    “From the looks of it, the little boy in the picture above seems to like pink polish on his little piggies. And if he does, then good for him and his mom. What works for them is for them.”

    EXACTLY! I’m not saying that I agree or disagree with what you do in YOUR home, but eh-hem, it’s YOUR home and you can raise your children anyway you see fit (without breaking any laws mind you 🙂 In my humble opinion, as a married father of two children, this is exactly the attitude to have. Fine for YOUR family, but not necessarily for mine. I will respect you do make the decisions for your home, and I demand the same respect. I’m quite sure the end of civilization is not apon us because we are having some “gender bending” issues/discussions these days.

    Very nice article Kia, and while I don’t agree with everything you said, I respect you for your views and for having the “guts” to put it out there and take some of this nastiness going around. Keep your head up and keep making some of us (even me 🙂 stop and think a bit….


  35. Wow…the comments but I come to add my two cents. I like to think of myself as a progressive mother and I try to break barriers and rules as long as my children are not hurt or it affects them in the long run.I do this while being strict about certain things (I refuse to let my 6 and 8 year old wear two pieces..i almost DIED when my husband recommended we get them one with the back cut out) but anywho..

    I am the same mother who will let her son play with his sister’s dolls and let the girls play with his trucks. Why? because society tries to groom our children at very young ages…the girls play with the kitchens and the babies because you’re gonna be a mom one day. Boys get to smash ’em crash ’em because they’ve got to be tough. I don’t mind the fact that my 3 yr old son knows how to hold a baby and I want my girls to be tough and not allow anyone to pigeon hole them at a young age and tell them “clean,cook be a mother”.

    in regards to this nail polish issue…this may be where I draw the line. My husband may give me a deep blank stare followed by “take that damn polish off my son!!” Because there are three females in our home, there have been times where my son wants to polish his nails with the girls.At that time, I usually put the light pink away and put the clear on him. Although I am in support of blurring lines out of fun, there may be a time where we may have to evaluate what we are communicating to our children. I do want a masculine son and prissy daughters but damn it, if my daughter has to fix a broken sink, lets do it. If my son decides to be a hair dresser go ahead. Its a touchy situation.

  36. Btw, Nick and Denene, I have loved ya’ll and your union since I picked up “what brothers think,what sisters know” years ago as a teenager.Now I’m all old with a haggle of children.Ok, carry on.

  37. Wow.. the comments got heated!
    I agree with gradmommy.
    I believe I am relatively progressive, and have accepted that my son could be gay. I’ve always operated on a platform that no matter his sexuality, that he would be able to do/wear “traditionally” masculine things. In my house, wearing nail polish is not one of them.
    That being said, if he grows up to be a nail polish wearing man (no matter his sexuality, because I have a nephew who wears nail polish and is happily married), I would not be supporting it, but I will love my child regardless. Are we going out for mani pedis? Nope. But for all the moms our there who would, more power to them.
    Like I always say: I ain’t mad at it… I just ain’t got no plans for it.

  38. I saw the ad, read this post, and honestly, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Kia is a mom. Of HER child. She is raising him with HER values. She is stating HER opinion. Now, while we all have the right to respectfully disagree, the stone throwing and name calling has got to stop. Why can’t we as parents respect another parent’s right to raise their child as they see fit? Why can’t we respect each other’s opinions and have an honest dialog here about society and it’s rules?
    While I wouldn’t let my son paint his toenails pink at this age, that’s ME. If some other mom decides it’s OK and not that big of a deal, that’s HER.
    Respect folks. Your children are watching. And learning.

  39. Kia, an absolutely wonderful post. But I was blown away for the negative responses that I just stopped reading.
    If I understood your post you
    1) stated who your son was — a rough and tumble little boy. Many of the negative post appear to look over this point.
    2)You said the picture of the boy and the mom seemed to work for them and if it worked for them cool.
    3) Then you were transparent with your position, that you were not quite that open-minded.
    4) I recall you saying that all though you aren’t quite that open-minded that you would let your children be whomever they desire to be – this reveal, at least to me, that you’re not close-minded.
    5) You spoke on parents giving guidance and setting boundaries. Did Christ not instruct us to lead our children?
    6) You also stated you would accept your child no matter what choices he made. I wondering what more do your naysayers want. I think it is absolutely an amazing person to boldly support someone and do so with love when they are making a choice that is contrary to your position.
    7) Finally you said you were glad that your son wouldn’t let you paint his toenails.

    I’m just finding it difficult to understand why folks were so vehemently oppose to your position. And even in opposition, why do they believe being as rude as they were to be right.

    Great post

    • Kia Morgan Smith

      Reginald, you summed it up so perfectly. Just Perfectly! I don’t know why people were so heated either. I have no intentions on commenting anymore but just had to say thanks to you for your on-point observation.

  40. This post is full of gross generalizations. How can you compare a mother painting her son’s toe nails to a child getting behind the wheel of a car? Then you mention transgendered people so, a man painting his toe nails makes him transgendered?
    Keeping these types of stereo-types going is exactly why we live in the type of world we live in. Children can not even be children for fear of not fitting into the correct gender role, it’s sad.

  41. I’m not a mom of color, nor of a boy yet. But I am a lesbian. Can I just bring the point that it doesn’t matter to a gay kid *why* being gay makes her parents sad. You can say “it’s just because your life is going to be so hard”, and it’s still heard as “I wish you were someone different”.

    Honestly it’s insulting, acting like my life is some kind of tragic struggle. There are problems – mostly caused by genuinely concerned people who aren’t thinking something through clearly. But it’s just my life, and I am proud of who I am.

    This post is cowardly, because this mom refuses to be part of the solution and instead will teach the same old ridiculous gender stereotypes in the hopes that her son will be pleasing to women someday. That’s ok. Not everyone can be part of the solution. But it’s not something to celebrate.

    • May I ask what the solution is? I didn’t get from the post that the author wants her son to grow up to be pleasing to women. I also don’t see it as cowardly.

      I’m not being snarky, I’m genuinely interested in your perspective. We all read through our own filters. Your are different from mine so I’m trying to understand.

    • Thank you, Karen, for your honesty and point of view.
      As a mom of a rough and tumble boy who can’t sit still long enough for me to cut his toe nails (or even paint my own these days), Kia’s post bothered me. What works for her family works for her family. But the messages kids hear when we say things like “manly man” and the rest of the hostile gendered binary language found in the comments leads to the school house bullying that Raina talked about her son enduring. It leads to kids being ashamed of who they are. It leads to BGLT kids committing suicide. It may be our truths and it may be what works for our families but it is dangerous and, yes, bigoted. It scares me that my son, as rough and tumble as he is, will be in school with little boys who are taught (by words and deeds) that they must/musn’t do specific things in order to be “real” boys, to grow up into “real” men. That level of normativity stifles their personalities, their interests and the diversity that’s inherent in all of us. It’s harmful – if not to your child, then to the children your child encounters.
      As for how I parent… my kid is who he is. He is who God has created him to be. I don’t get a say in that now or as he grows. All I can do is teach him right from wrong, teach him to accept the created nature of those around him and – especially these days – teach him there is a time and place for everything. He has limits, he has structure but he is who he is and I don’t get to change that. You can plant a seed, you can tie a sapling to the ground so that the wind won’t blow it down but you have no say in what that tree will be or look like in 50 years.
      And, frankly, as a single mom (with more decency to tout my credentials), I was highly offended at the many attacks on single parents. We can – and do – raise decent people. Gay, straight, or bi.

      • Denene@MyBrownBaby


        This is beautiful: “You can plant a seed, you can tie a sapling to the ground so that the wind won’t blow it down but you have no say in what that tree will be or look like in 50 years.” I couldn’t agree more. And I really appreciate what you’ve said in your comment—lots of food for thought there.

        Is it possible, though, to teach a boy right from wrong, to respect others, to have compassion, to accept the creative nature of those around him and to be open-minded to the fact that the world is full of all types of people who may think, live and act differently from you, without actively pulling out a bottle of nail polish and painting his toe nails pink, or encouraging him to wear dresses? I’m genuinely perplexed by the notion that encouraging your boy to be, well, a boy somehow will turn him into a bully who stalks the playground, terrorizing all the boys who aren’t “manly.”

        For the record, I helped to raise my now-18-year-old stepson, and while I’m not really quite sure what you mean by “that level of normativity,” I can say that Mazi was surrounded by trucks and action figures, played football, ran rough and tumble with friends who were mostly boys, etc., and he’s managed to have a great personality, a diversity of interests, and a deep and abiding respect for the differences of others. It IS possible to be a man raised with “that level of normativity” and be a good person. I’m genuinely perplexed by this thought process that suggests that refusal to push nail polish and skirts on your boy = screwed up, dysfunctional, horrible man.

        • Denene,


          There is a marketable difference between simply “not encouraging” and “refusal”. Just as there is a difference between the language of a parent that says, for instance, “Baby, whoever you are, you are. I will support that. If you want pink/blue/purple with glitter toenails, so be it” and “Lil dude, you’re a boy. Boys don’t paint their nails. Boys don’t wear dresses. Boys play with trucks. Boys don’t play with dolls, etc.” The language of the latter is dangerous because it inhibits both the child of that parent and the children that child encounters. Teaching a child those generalizations means that they don’t make room for – and cannot tolerate – the boys who play with dolls, the boys who love getting their toenails painted. That’s a problem – and we’re seeing the backlash of it now.

          Is it possible to raise a healthy, decent child who is a good citizen of the world without gender norms directing their behavior? Yep. My lil dude is surrounded by cars/trucks and trains. His choice. He also begged for a doll for Christmas. He got it. He plays with it (I say it because sometimes it’s a little girl, sometimes it’s a boy, sometime’s it’s a car). In the last month or so, he’s developed an affinity for bracelets – mine and his own. I have no problem with it (as long as he doesn’t stretch my bracelet over his head). He is who he is.

          It is possible to raise a healthy, decent child who is a good citizen of the world with gender norms instilled in order to dictate their behavior. It is also possible to damage that child and other children because of those gender norms – male and female. I err on the side of caution. No, it is not necessarily true that refusing to polish a boys nails, refusing to put him in a dress will cause him to be ashamed of himself, to bully other children and to be damaged. It is also not necessarily true that painting a little boys’ nails will cause him to be effeminate. And if the refusal is created by that fear, it creates in that child an inability to accept effeminate men. While not dysfunctional, it is certainly dangerous. Hyper-masculinity – the kind that is threatened by any semblance of femininity in men – is dangerous because it is fueled by fear and is maintained through rage. It’s scary. And it is outside of the norm. I’m arguing that saying to a child, “I refuse to polish your nails because I want my son to be a son, my boy to be a boy, without any semblance of femininity in him” creates a hyper-masculine man without the ability to tolerate men – gay and straight – that have feminine sides.

          Why not encourage a little boy to be precisely who he is? Why place the label of “normal boy” or “abnormal boy” into his mind? Why not teach him that you are who you are and other little boys are who they are – some wear nail polish, some will make a baby out of an action figure and others will turn anything into a car? Would we be having this same discussion if a magazine included an ad of a little girl in overalls with a play-drill in her hands, trotting behind her father for their quality time? Why do we insist on traditional gender roles for men but not for girls? The “girls can be/do anything they want but boys have to be boys” mentality is limiting and constricting for the boys.

          And, to be frank, I prefer a man who can give me a pedicure to one who is too manly to approach the make-up section at Target to buy a bottle of nail polish. Maybe it’s me. *kanyeshrug*

          • Denene@MyBrownBaby


            My God—thank you. Thank you for taking the time to explain your position, and helping those who might not understand why folk got so bent out of shape by the post. I get what you’re saying. I don’t necessarily agree with it all, but I understand. When Mel, A Dramatic Mommy asked a question of Karen (above), she mentioned that we all read the post and the comments with a “filter,” but, like Mel, I think there are some here who are genuinely interested in the discourse and understanding and evaluating different points of view. So again, I thank you for taking the time to express your truth.

            You asked, “Why not teach him that you are who you are and other little boys are who they are – some wear nail polish, some will make a baby out of an action figure and others will turn anything into a car?” In thinking about our experience with Mazi, I promise you that to this day, we have and still DO teach him these things—that what we do, how we move, what we believe in our house isn’t necessarily how everyone else does it. Doesn’t make it wrong. Just different from the way we do it. And, as I stated somewhere in this thread (as did my husband), if the boy asked to wear nail polish, he would have gotten his nails polished. But he also would have gotten the, “You can wear this nail polish for 10 minutes, but after that, we’re taking it off because USUALLY girls and moms wear it, not boys.” And that’s that. Would that have scarred him for life? Made him pick on a little boy who does wear nail polish or has an affinity for skirts? I’d like to think not. But if it did and we found out about it, certainly, he’d get called to the carpet for it.

            Would we be having this same discussion if the ad involved a little girl in overalls, handling a toy drill with her dad? Of course not. Because we women want our daughters to be independent, strong, smart, capable, girls who grow into independent, strong, smart capable women, and letting her do things traditionally reserved for boys/men helps her toward that goal. And we mothers work overtime to help our daughters achieve that goal. To that end, I’m going to defer to my husband to teach my son how to be a man. And if he sees absolutely no point to helping our son into a skirt and pink nail polish to help mold an independent, strong, smart, capable man, then I’m not going to get in the way of that. But that’s just the way we choose to parent in our household.

  42. It really is sad how often people are attacked for stating how *they* parent. I have a son, no daughter. He plays hockey, skateboards, surfs, loves his Legos and Star Wars. Do those things make him ‘manly?’ No. Plenty of girls like the same things.

    So far, he’s shown zero interest in dolls, pink, nail polish or dresses. I’ve simply been following his lead. If one day all that changes, we’ll adjust as needed. What works for me, in my home, in my family, may not work for you. I’ll be respectful of you and your choices if you’ll allow me the same courtesy.

    • Kia Morgan Smith

      I believe the same Melanie. What works for one is fine for them but may not be fine for me. I agree. Thanks for your comment.

  43. i’ve been reading the comments to this post since yesterday and the first thing that popped into my mind was, that ish would never go down in my house. never.

    parents allow their children to do all sorts of things, but that doesn’t make it right for my child. will & jada allowed willow to shave one side of her hair, does it make me close minded because i wouldn’t allow my daughter to creatively express herself by doing the same? if it does, i’ll be that.

    it’s not my job to grant my son his every wish. it’s my job to parent him in the way that i and my husband feel is right for our child, and that doesn’t include pink polish or dresses, skinny jeans that sag off his butt, or bleached streaked hair like a 3-year-old boy i saw in the mall a while ago. my child, my house, my rules.

    denene’s comment hits the nail on the head for me:

    “Is it possible, though, to teach a boy right from wrong, to respect others, to have compassion, to accept the creative nature of those around him and to be open-minded to the fact that the world is full of all types of people who may think, live and act differently from you, without actively pulling out a bottle of nail polish and painting his toe nails pink, or encouraging him to wear dresses? Im genuinely perplexed by the notion that encouraging your boy to be, well, a boy somehow will turn him into a bully who stalks the playground, terrorizing all the boys who arent “manly.”

    great post, kia. denene, thanks for posting it. and nick, your comments truly rocked!

  44. @Denene,
    This: “what we do, how we move, what we believe in our house isnt necessarily how everyone else does it. [and especially THIS] Doesnt make it wrong. Just different from the way we do it.” is healthy. And is precisely what keeps kids from bullying other kids. I wasn’t reading that same sentiment in the original article or the previous post.

    I think this is a wonderfully valuable conversation for parents to have so that we can understand what’s driving our gendered parenting choices. I take no issue with the choice. The way it’s presented to the child has long-lasting consequences – good and bad. As parents, I think, we all need to be aware of that. So, I’m grateful for the opportunity to engage in this discussion.

  45. Jacqueline Lewis

    Well if someone broke into my house, I want my man to go and fight, not go and run under the bed with me. So I have two boys, and they have all the boy parts, so they should act like boys. Now if either one of my sons said they thought they were gay. I would not disown either of them I would love them of course, I’m ther mom. But as per the idea that you would color a boys toe nails pink, really, we are having this discussion.. that it is acceptable to show this as a trend. She knew what she was doing, giving a license for parents who just want to live out there foolishness. No, children are very smart, and we as parents are who are confusing them. My sons will say that’s for girls, well there are some things that they know instinctly that should be right or wrong. That mechanism is internal, we on the other hand are confusing our children to believe that you can do anything, there are no bounderies. I dont have to be a man to respect him, we are not alike, and that is fine. My husband will never understand what it is to be a women, and that is fine, but he can respect my feelings. I will never understand what it feels like to be a man, but I must respect him as he is. We need to stop thinking that we need to be all alike to respect. There is a seperation of gender and that is the way it should be. I can respect you, but don’t tell me I need to be you, because like the song says, God made me “phunky” and I’m glad he made me that way.

  46. I have read the article and all of the comments. I can see both sides of this issue and most of the comments on both sides make some very valid points. Having said that, I think something a lot of people on both sides haven’t mentioned is talking to our brown babies. Why are you asking me to paint your nails? Is it because you see me or your sister doing it? Do you just like the color of the nail polish?

    The moms on the no side should discuss why they are not going to do it. No I am not going to because you will be teased, not everyone will understand, its something that is for girls only or whatever.

    The moms that would should explain to their sons the possible ramifications or the limitations of being able to wear it (not out of the house, ect.)

    One mom stated that children not being able to do everything they want is a part of life. That is very true but part of life is also being listened to. If we completely shut our kids down without even giving them an oppportunity to explain themselves then we are setting a very dangerous precedence for later issues. If they feel they cannot express themselves about the small stuff then why would they feel they can talk to us about bigger issues like drugs, sex or relationships?

  47. I am so thankful there are smart, respectful, progressive black women who have responded to this polemic. I am outdone that a 2011 black woman could be so rigid and have such a lack of understanding and compassion, while seeming to have understanding! Ms. Smith, you certainly don’t have to defend the way you feel, and you don’t have to respond to every response here! But I’m not sure why people are frightened by actions of others that are so clearly benign, have no negative impact on any group or individual, and so obviously come from, and have to do with, love and joy.

    Toddlers love dress up and play and even nail polish! Some don’t, many boys might not and many girls might.

    A boy be a boy? What’s that? It’s however your child is and how you raise him and what he learns from his peers and his and your community, which you can affect. Anger over this tiny event is one way blacks have seemed – and I mean have seemed – to ‘fight’ racist b.s. and other harmful inequalities in the U.S. and the world: defend (with very little historical understanding) stereotypes of gender, though Africans were once not as rigid as Europeans with gender roles.

    I am grateful for Ms. Smith’s calling out of the ways in which companies are sexualizing kids. They don’t care about how, they care about money. Sexualizing sells, period. We don’t have to buy it, literally and psychologically. But I think Ms. Smith confuses that corporate (and fashion) strategy with the intent behind publishing the J. Crew photo. You have to at least imagine that the mother might have wondered what people would think seeing that photo. He’s her child, she’s successful, wealthy, educated and her son will have many privileges.

    I’m also grateful Ms. Smith understands the perception of boys and men, especially black ones. But black parents can choose to stay in a past or live in the present and prepare for a stronger future. That means honoring yourself and your children in many ways. If you have a deep problem (as opposed to generally not being interested in it or not liking it but not caring) with something that trivial – and it IS trivial – then that might be an internal insecurity. I do not mean to be disrespectful. I do try to keep perspective, though, which can be difficult for anyone.

    Thanks for allowing posts.

  48. It’s interesting. At face value, Mrs. Smith’s opinions sound reasonable, yet, there are hints of unreasonableness, though she is perfectly entitled to those feelings. I refer to the superiority of being a homeowner over an apartment owner, for one; that makes no rational sense.

    I do think she is normative in expressing her desire for a Tim Allen type husband and father, and Tim Taylor was a good father to his kids in the show…he was also aware of emotionally responding to his boys, and being called on the carpet by Wilson or Jill when he wasn’t.

    Personally when I first saw the ad, I didn’t think that mom painted the nails, I saw it as she was admiring his paintjob and the comment could be read that way. I consider responding to the ad very dependent upon the viewer’s mindset and not based on the image per se.

    Finally, Mrs. Smith is happy with her Tim Taylor husband, but I am a little concerned that her comments stop there and her statement implies that that is the ne plus ultra of male spousal behavior. I assume that she likely does not feel that way, but she could have made an effort to be more open to a slightly wider view of ‘acceptable’ male behavior patterns.

    The discussion overall about this image and the results of actually painting a little boys toenails pink shows that western culture views masculine behavior as something that is not inherent and must be ‘created’ and that it is fragile and easily altered by parental or external inputs. It is interesting that females are ‘allowed’ and encouraged even to demonstrate reaching out for gender expression that is ‘out of the norm’, but for men, in the West, not so much. Oh, as for men wearing dresses, I guess the double standard is demonstrated by the ‘allowance’ of Scots to wear kilts and is underscored by the hypermasculine mythos of just what a Scotsman wears under his kilt. For a titillating experience, check out http://www.utilikilts.com. Very questionably masculine men there….

  49. I definitely think parents have the right to raise their kids as they see fit but here’s my take on the issue.

    Why in 2011 is it such a big problem for a little boy (or a grown man) to wear nail polish? It’s his body. It’s his choice. I know kids have to learn they can’t always get what they want, but when the request is so harmless and so innocent and only out of curiousity and fun (and hopefully he won’t spill it on the carpet), why do we worry so much? Why do we say no? What scares us? I think it’s important to understand why we feel the way we do, whether we agree to paint his nails or not.

    I have no problem with little boys not wanting to paint their nails pink. If he’s a rough and tumble boy, that’s fine. I have no problem with rough and tumble girls either. To each his or her own.

    I’m Kevin. I’m not “brown” nor am I a parent, but I am a straight 29-year-old cross-dresser. Yes, we exist. I paint my toenails pink. I wear dresses. I wear heels. I shave my legs. I love my Urban Decay Naked palette. And you know what? I’m not a bad person. I graduated from college. I have a job (and it requires me to carry a gun). I pay my bills. I’m independent. Sure, I get looks sometimes–I stand out; I look different– but more often than not I get compliments for having the balls to be who I am without hiding and without apologies. I’ve learned more about myself and what I’m capable of than I ever thought possible before I started dressing up 5 years ago. That’s right…I started cross-dressing in my mid twenties. As a little boy I wanted nothing to do with nail polish or eyeshadow. I had my action figures and Legos, my toy cars and my plastic guns. I crashed my action heroes into piles of toys too. Giving a little boy a loud action figure doesn’t guarantee you or him anything. He’s going to become who he’s going to become.

    Most young boys who paint their nails will not grow up to be cross-dressers and most are not transgender. Most will not turn out to be gay. They’re just curious. Most will turn out to be well-adjusted people–straight, gay or anything inbetween or outside– who want the same things out of life as anyone else. Sure they’ll get teased. Who wasn’t teased? I got teased for being short. I got teased for being Hispanic. My sister got teased for her frizzy hair. She got teased for being a tomboy. I’m sure we were both called “gay” somewhere along the line, but we got over it. People can criticize me and my life choices all they want. I can take it. I might even listen if I think they have a good point, but at the end of the day I march to my own beat, heels and all.

  50. True, bright pink on a guys toes may not fit the normal male model, but consider that as we mature, everyone looks for creative ways to be unique and their own person. Is gushing, wearing tattoos or dreadlocks any better or worse than wearing one’s toenails polished?
    I guess I have a different view on this since I have worn my toenails polished for a number of years now. No, I don’t wear pink, but I do wear more masculine colors that I feel compliment my overall look. And guess who got me started? My wife!

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