Verum ipsum factum convertuntur

Yesterday I saw a link to an essay by America's Psychiatrist, Dr.Keith Albow (I thought it was Charles Krauthammer too), on Fox News about a little boy who likes pink, and who paints his toenails with his mother.  He writes:

A recent feature in J. Crew's online catalogue portrays designer Jenna Lyons painting her son Beckett’s toe nails hot pink. The quote accompanying the image reads, “Lucky for me, I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon.”

Here's the feature.  What's his problem with this?

Yeah, well, it may be fun and games now, Jenna, but at least put some money aside for psychotherapy for the kid—and maybe a little for others who’ll be affected by your “innocent” pleasure.

This is a dramatic example of the way that our culture is being encouraged to abandon all trappings of gender identity—homogenizing males and females when the outcome of such “psychological sterilization” [my word choice] is not known.

In our technology-driven world—fueled by Facebook, split-second Prozac prescriptions and lots of other assaults on genuine emotion and genuine relationships and actual consequences for behavior—almost nothing is now honored as real and true.

As far as I can tell, the little kid happens to like pink–and let's assume for the sake of argument he likes to paint his toenails as well.  Kids do that stuff.  So do grown ups. 

This, Dr.Ablow argues, will lead to psychotherapy for the kid and for others.  Don't know about the latter claim there (which others?).  One reason for this–not the one that Ablow is thinking about presumably–is the rigid enforcement of heteronormativity–boys better act like boys, otherwise someone will have to bully them into doing so.  Bullying will lead to psychotherapy for the pink-loving boy and perhaps for the bully. 

But rather than this obvious side-effect of the rich tapestry of humanity story here, Dr.Ablow goes off on a tangent about the "real and the true." 

As far as I know, there is nothing "real and true" about gender color selection.  That is entirely conventional.  Sure it's real and true that people think there's something real and true about these things.  But that's a different matter. 

And if there's anything homogenizing going on here, it's the idea that boys have to wear blue nailpolish.

6 thoughts on “Verum ipsum factum convertuntur”

  1. Homogenizing gender identity? This certainly seems like the opposite is taking place. And the "others" that Albow claims might need psychotherapy as a result of pink toenails are all those disturbed by a child's preference to paint his toes.

  2. "Almost nothing now is honored as real and true"
    Not yet a complaint, as we must have the presumption that the things not being honored are themselves real and/or true.  Few things deserve that distinction.

    I totally agree that it's silly to make a big deal about a kid's preference in color, but I was curious about the empirical claim of gendered color preference. My quick and superficial search for articles suggests that there could be biological reasons for color preference but I saw nothing related to sexuality and color preference:
    Lee Ellis and Chistopher Fickk (2000) found was no significant difference in color preference between homosexuals and heterosexuals among college students: 
    "Regarding sexual orientation, we found no significant differences between heterosexuals and homosexual/bisexuals of either gender. In other words, male and female homosexuals/bisexuals exhibited essentially the same configuration of color preferences as did their heterosexual counterparts."

    However, Gerianne M. Alexander and Melissa Hines (2002) suggested that there may be biological reasons for color selection: 
    "In sum, our data suggest that sex differences in preferences for object features may contribute to the formation of perceptual categories of sex-typed toys, and these preferences for features or functions appear to generalize across at least some primate species. Moreover, it seems that, like chromatic color vision, sex-related object preferences appeared early in human evolution, prior to the emergence of a distinct hominid lineage."

    Finally, Anya C. Hurlbert and Yazhu Ling (2007) found a consistent biological color preference but noted that culture could affect preference:
    "Our results demonstrate robust sex differences in color preference, which are consistent with the evolution of sex-specific behavioral uses of trichromacy. Yet while these differences may be innate, they may also be modulated by cultural context or individual experience"

    That is just like a parent saying that boys should not play with dolls…and then sends little Timmy to go play with his G.I.Joes (which are dolls).
    It is the same thing as when a man wears a pink shirt at work, and he calls it salmon colored, and not pink, to avoid being called gay, or worse, making the people looking at him seek psychological help, and take up a fund at the office to get the pink shirt wearing man some psychological help, too.
    What is this world coming to believe that pink is taboo?  Plus, no one mentioned what SHADE of pink the little boy’s nails were, or what shade of pink he liked.  Maybe it really was salmon colored, and it has all been blown out of proportion!!!

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