Ladies Home Journal

I was happy to see Louise Sloan’s essay Green Nail Polish and Gay Marriage this week in Ladies Home Journal, one of the more conservative women’s lifestyle mags.

Sloan’s son wanted to wear green nail polish, and, with a bit of trepidation and some justification (“It wasn’t a pink tutu.”) she allowed it. She and a conservative male friend were discussing the green nail polish and this year’s extra-joyful Gay Pride weekend in New York (isn’t that the sort of conversation we all want to have with a conservative friend?). The friend, after judging her harshly for allowing her son to wear nail polish, said of NY’s Pride, “All those people in the street, representing their viewpoint. I gotta represent mine.”

My viewpoint is this: if you’re a man who doesn’t like gay marriage, don’t marry a man. If you don’t like green nail polish, don’t paint your nails green. But if you tell other people they can’t marry another person of the same gender, or that they can’t paint their nails green, that’s not expressing a viewpoint. That’s being bigoted.

And I have to ask (and not for the first time), why, really, should a boy not wear nail polish? We know that allowing a girl to wear pants does not make her a lesbian, and most of us know that even a tutu on a boy won’t make him gay. We have many accepted social rules that make a great deal of sense, that prevent people from hurting other people, or themselves, or property. But arbitrary rules based on outmoded bias don’t actually make any sense at all, and, rather than preventing harm, they cause it. It’s hurtful to shame a child for liking what they like, and, big picture, it’s actually bizarre to disallow cross-gender play for boys when it’s acceptable for girls. It’s time to let boys—whether they like trucks or tutus—be boys.

Sloan’s essay was thought-provoking. It was interesting. And it’s terribly exciting that it even appeared at all. I can’t imagine a mainstream magazine like Ladies Home Journal publishing such a thing just a year ago, before Jenna Lyons tore the roof off the mutha’ of the boys-in-nail-polish taboo.

Let’s support this growing national conversation. If you are so moved, please read the essay and comment on it. Let’s get the word out that there are many, many parents who think green nail polish—hell, even pink tutus—are okay for boys.



  1. Kelly says

    So as a mother to a boy who loooves all things pink and currently has pink toenails, you can imagine how much I appreciate your blog. My husband and I were discussing the toenail thing the other day and he made a great point. “he can get his face painted at parties, at preschool they do hound painting but somehow painting his toenails is going to make him gay? How confusing is that for a kid to understand, and who cares of he paints his toenails?”. And to which I added that I care that our son is happy, that he knows he is loved and celebrated, that he is kind and sweet to other people, that he’s an amazing big brother to his sister and brother. It baffles me the things think are wrong and they have absolutely no reason nor have even considered a reason why – because there simply isn’t one.

  2. Cristin says

    A Ladies’ Home Journal article in June 1918 said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”

  3. Tom says

    Not to be pedantic, but although almost every source lists it as such, the pink/blue quote is not from the Ladies Home Journal. It is actually from an obscure trade publication called “The Infants Department”. See “Men and Women, Dressing the Part” by Kidwell and Steele, Smithsonian Press c 1989, p.22. A highly recommended book.

  4. Dawson Ringwald says

    Im a 14-year old and I was googling if it was okay for a boy to paint their nails. I’m a boy and I’m openly gay even to my parents. I’ve wanted to paint my nails and do make up for my entire life and I’m thinking of asking them or possibly just doing it and letting them suck it up. This entry strengthened my topic and my side of the story.

    • shoffman says

      Dawson, that’s awesome that you are able to be openly gay at your age, and that your parents know–and are, I assume, supportive! Since you have family support, I encourage you to ask your parents about the nail polish, and see what they say. The most important factor is safety, so if they feel it’s safe and okay for you to paint your nails, that’s great. If they are against it, then it’s important to listen to why–are they aware of a way that it would be unsafe in your community? Good luck with the discussion, and please keep me posted! -Sarah

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