Last week, Fox News manufactured a controversy on Monday the 11th to punish J. Crew for gracing a newsletter with a photo showing J. Crew president and creative director Jenna Lyons painting her son’s toenails pink. As Jon Stewart would later observe, this was clearly intended to be a fun bonding moment between mother and son. But Fox’s columnist Keith Ablow, MD saw it — no, I’m not kidding — as a “clear attack on masculinity.” Abelow claimed young Mr. Lyons’s pink nail polish just goes to show what happens when you let the whippersnappers social-network and stuff. Said Ablow:
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.
Ablow, incidentally, is a psychiatrist — so he knows all about the genuine emotion and genuine relationships, I’m sure, not to mention the Prozac prescriptions. Ablow further claimed it’s attitudes like this that are to blame for rampant teen sex, girls dressing slutty, and…um…guys doing crunches, I guess. And a bunch of other stuff, like the imminent end of war:
[T]o the extent that you take flights of fancy into masquerading through life, life will exact a psychological penalty.
The fallout is already being seen. Increasingly, girls show none of the reticence they once did to engage in early sexual relationships with boys. That may be a good thing from the standpoint of gender equality, but it could be a bad thing since there is no longer the same typically “feminine” brake on such behavior. Girls beat up other girls on YouTube. Young men primp and preen until their abdomens are washboards and their hair is perfect. And while that may seem like no big deal, it will be a very big deal if it turns out that neither gender is very comfortable anymore nurturing children above all else, and neither gender is motivated to rank creating a family above having great sex forever and neither gender is motivated to protect the nation by marching into combat against other men and risking their lives.
(Wait, I can have great sex forever if I paint my toenails and don’t have children? It’s really that easy?)
(And…what the hell was that about girls beating other girls up on YouTube? How did that get in there? Um…okay, let’s just move along…)
Maybe we’ll all have shiny, colored lips, though, and pierced ears and perfect eyebrows and mommies who get applause from their J. Crew friends at the park for parading their sons through the streets in costume.
Jenna Lyons and J. Crew seem to know exactly what they’re up to. That’s why the photograph of Jenna’s son so prominently displays his hot pink, neon toe nails. These folks are hostile to the gender distinctions that actually are part of the magnificent synergy that creates and sustains the human race. They respect their own creative notions a whole lot more than any creative Force in the universe.
Now, may I state, that while I and my slam-dancing, pigtail-wearing, nose-piercing-orgy-holding San Francisco cronies may or may not be “hostile to the gender distinctions that actually are part of the magnificent synergy that creates and sustains the human race,” Keith Abelow is the one who just said that dressing boys like girls is going to end war. I mean…personally, I wasn’t going to take it that far. But if Dr. Abelow thinks it might work…
Also, it was Dr. Keith Abelow, not me, and not George Lucas, who just capitalized the word Force.
And for the record…yeah, I sure hope my lips are colored in this mythic war-free future Fox has planned for me. My lips tend to run sort of an off-pink color or sometimes a bit of a pinky-grey, depending on whether I’m on deadline. If they suddenly turn either white or black, that’s somewhat unlikely to be a good sign. (Blue is also, I’m told, not great news.)
Speaking of improbable fashion choices, this:
…[M]ommies who get applause from their J. Crew friends at the park for parading their sons through the streets in costume…
…sounds like something I read about once on Alt Sex Stories — except the “mommies” weren’t wearing J. Crew, they were wearing patent leather and six-inch heels, the “son” was forty-six and the costume was that of a pony. The moral of the story? When phantom futures created by right-wing pundits begin to resemble the bizarre, elaborate and improbable sex fantasies of my fellow straight white men, that’s a clue that the pundits might be letting their imaginations get away with them for more reasons than their commitment to quality journalism. Anyway…
Insofar as there was any controversy to be discussed, its discussion did provide plenty LOLZ within the pink-positive community, which subsequently circulated on Facebook an amazing Smithsonian photo gallery coincidentally published a few days before titled “When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink?” The Smithsonian gallery led with this adorable image of a golden-tressed two-year-old Franklin Delano Roosevelt, circa 1884, wearing a pretty white dress and holding a floofy hat. I was personally left wondering if maybe Hitler’s onesie could be held responsible for at least some of the twentieth century’s most grievous ills, or if this suave seven-year-old might be sporting a bit of the pink beneath those sporty sea boots.
Should it surprise anyone that on the same day Ablow published his claim that J. Crew was destroying the world, Fox attempted to turn its own paid pundit’s confused, jumbled and incoherent outrage into a “controversy” in order to get attention for itself and its bizarre fixations?
No, but Fox itself acknowledged that the majority of its Twitter followers found the “controversy” to be a tempest in a teapot. In a world where bullshit controversies crop up almost daily, this one seemed to strike the vast number of commenters — particularly the mothers of young or young(ish) boys — as one of the silliest things Fox has ever gotten itself worked up about…which is saying something.
In attempting to incite the Nailgate controversy, Fox did what it always does when it wants to force a retrograde social change: In response to one of its openly right-wing pundits expressing a “controversial” opinion, it publishes a “straight news” article in which it allows that pundit and other hand-picked experts to yell an anti-pluralist message a little bit louder than — and get quoted before — the rational voices of pluralist America. In this case, the Fox Sock was Erin Brown of the right-wing Media Research Center, a right-wing think tank, who is the source of the amazing quote calling J. Crew’s newsletter “blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children.”
For the record, there is no evidence whatsoever that the young Mr. Lyons has any questions about his gender, and absolutely no social sciences studies whatsoever suggesting that he ever will. Ablow, however — did I mention he’s a psychiatrist? — doesn’t know that, and neither does Erin Brown. Both stated explicitly, with no facts whatsoever to back up their views, that young Mr. Lyons will be horribly scarred by his experience. Hey, could he maybe be scarred enough to become a four-term Democratic President?
In its “news” about the “controversy,” Fox furthered its Outrage Agenda — while sticking just barely on the not-quite-a-lie side — by insisting on repeatedly calling the photo an “ad.” In fact, it was an image in a newsletter sent to online customers — so calling it an “ad,” while technically accurate, is misleading. That fudge shows a fairly blatant attempt to portray the thing as more than it was.
In expressing his bewilderment that NBC, ABC, CNN and Fox had all covered this story with manufactured outrage, Jon Stewart called it “Toemageddon 2011” and observed: “You make it sound like it’s a story about incest or cannibalism…You’re all acting like this lady gave her son an ‘I Love Cock’ tattoo.” We’ll forgive Stewart for mixing up gender and orientation, because…well, you know, he’s on our side. He wants to end war using nothing but nose piercings and lip gloss, too.