When I was a kid, I begged my mother for a Barbie doll. I already had about six G.I. Joes. I suppose most little boys just play war with their miniature soldiers, but I was interested in expanding the genres of play. And how, I asked, can you stage anything without a female character?
Unfortunately, while there was no quota imposed upon my G.I. Joes, I was allowed only one Barbie at a time. So there would be no productions of Little Women in my playhouse—but with a little more estrogen in the toy box, I was, for a time, able to stage the occasional love triangle. Until, of course, my father got wind of it and shamed me into throwing Barbie into the trash. From that point on, the most creative I could get was my version of And Then There Were None, in which one G.I. Joe after another died a horrible, mysterious death until the killer was revealed as the last mannequin standing.
Indulgent as she was, my mother never painted my toenails. I got my first pedicure at 43, just before a trip to Hawaii, where I figured a lot of people would be looking at my toes. So when I learned of the controversy over J. Crew’s new ad, in which a woman is shown painting the toenails of her 5-year-old son, I couldn’t imagine such a scene in my own childhood. Not that I wouldn’t have appreciated it.
I know I shouldn’t be surprised that conservative wackos are coming out of the (pardon the expression) closet to condemn the ad for fucking with children’s “gender identity.” News flash, TeaBaggers: Not for one moment has Yours Truly ever questioned his gender identity. And that despite the Barbie dolls, the Faye Dunaway obsession, and—oh yes—the fellatio.
What I find interesting is that the reactionaries are not accusing J. Crew of trying to make kids gay, but of trying to make them confuse their “gender.” Of course, their position is predicated upon the notion that “gender” is a product of genitalia—i.e., feminine people are women, masculine people are men; women wear skirts, men wear pants; women paint their toenails, men paint houses. Who knew that the Y chromosome came with a map to the Home Depot?
It’s pointless to even ask the obvious question: would these morons care if the ad depicted a little girl with a baseball bat? Of course not. Baseball is the American pastime: who wouldn’t want to spend their lives hitting a ball with a piece of wood and running pointlessly around a diamond painted on the grass? Painting your toenails, however—well, that’s so frivolous and so … feminine. Oh, wait … frivolous and feminine are synonyms, aren’t they?
What, exactly, I wonder, is the problem with gender confusion? Would a woman hesitate to fuck a man with neon pink toenails? Would the human population, and hence the world, come to an end? As far as I’m concerned, the more confused we get about gender, the better. I choose to sleep with people on the basis of their genitalia, not their wardrobe.
But maybe that’s just me. All I know is that my toenails looked great in Hawaii. And nobody thought I was a woman. Least of all my boyfriend.