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.