Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Little Lord Fauntleroy is back in the pink!

Dr. Keith Ablow has written an amazing article over at Fox News, about gender boundaries.  He wrote in response to a J Crew ad showing a mother painting her little boy's toenails pink.

To the surprise of no one, (n=1)^1000 crowd hit their typewriters full force in the comments sections, to decry any attempt to establish and celebrate differences in the sexes.   While most agreed that forces of nature could not be denied, they were perfectly willing to try denial until nature became insurmountable.

So much for celebrating diversity.

The hundreds of commenters who wrote their n=1 hypotheses followed an identical template.  'My mother / sister / aunt / grandmother put makeup / nail polish / dresses / long curls on me and I turned out okay, so what's the big deal?'

Who's right?  The army of Fauntleroy enthusiasts, or the creepy looking friend of Glenn Beck?

"Who" you ask, "is Fauntleroy?"  Before I answer that, I just want to say in fairness (since I liked his article), that the good doctor looks less creepy in other photos.  Just the Fox one is odd.

So.  Little Lord Fauntleroy is a fictional character created by Frances Hodges Burnett of Secret Garden fame.  Fauntleroy was the anti-child, ridiculed, mocked and despised by real children; beloved, uplifted and extolled by parents.

A lad of 5 or 6, he lived with his beloved mother whom he called "Dearest"; waiting lovingly on her with hand and foot.  But most importantly, Fauntleroy was always immaculately garbed in suits and skirts, white kilts and black velvets, all crowned with 'shiny golden love locks that curled about his shoulders'.  As boys go, Faunt was an effeminate fop, who all mothers yearned after.  He was gender neutralized - old school.

In that day and age, foppishness and effeminacy was called "dressing your boy up as a young lord", and as it always has been throughout history, aspiring to wealth and aristocracy meant the adoption of effeminate softness.

Smooth slippery fabrics, powdered wigs, makeup.  Louis XIV's standards of opulent decay are historically cured only when lopped off at the neck.

That, is the point Dr. Ablow is trying to make.

The Faunts' mom didn't promote effeminacy by saying "it doesn't matter to me if he wants to like girls or boys or sheep when he grows up, or has certain body parts amputated like the pet dog.  I'm big enough to love whatever he turns into".  Loudly expansive toleration of the ostentatious  is a modern point of Munchhausen pride.

But pride of the ostentatious, whatever the trappings, has been a constant theme throughout history.   Ostentatiousness promises money, power and influence and attracts all who love those things.

Idle hands, ill gotten gains and the love of money prescribe national failure.

Though Fauntleroy single-handedly popularized the lace cravat in size 5T for a time, America was still young and industrious and in theory at least, opposed to rank and aristocracy.  Trends soon drifted toward a hard bitten masculine fashon, but without the communist abhorrence for wealth.

So is the J Crew mama just a silly woman putting her daughter-yearnings on a good natured, tolerant son?  Or is she consciously promoting the effeminacy that represents class and aristocracy, afforded by wealth and idleness?

I suggest it is in fact irrelevant what Jenna Lyons personal motives were.  What is relevant is that the photo and caption were published by a company trying to sell things.  And that company, which depends on the patronage of the wealthy for survival, is appealing through abject effeminacy. 

That answers the question, don't you think?

Heed Dr. Ablow.  If we are lucky, the worse that will happen is our wealth bubble will pop.  If we are not, well, I hope this time we get some chain mail woven into those lace cravats.

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