Blurring the lines of gender identity

A recent J. Crew catalogue included a picture that is causing controversy. The president of the company, Jenna Lyons, is shown painting her son’s toenails pink. Beckett, the five-year-old, is laughing and modeling a J. Crew shirt.

Critics, including psychiatrist and Fox News contributor Keith Ablow, claim that Lyons’ actions will result in her son needing “psychotherapy.” He said such actions will result in “psychological sterilization” and loss of gender identity.

We, at The Butler Collegian, object to the concept of rigid gender identity. In today’s day and age, gender roles are more flexible than they were in the past—and that is something our staff applauds.

One of the repeated problems critics have with the advertisement is the idea that Lyons is turning her son gay by painting his toenails hot pink.  The implication is that transgendered identity and homosexuality are unhealthy and are caused by one’s environment and upbringing.

Biological research in the 1980s showed correlations between size of structures in the brains of males and homosexuality. Individual testimony says some transsexuals identify as such as early as three or four years old.

If the advertisement had shown a young girl wearing flannel and playing football in the mud, the outcry would be nonexistent. It would have been considered an advertisement advocating “girl power.” Being a tomboy is completely acceptable for young women in our society. But the sight of pink on a little boy, the gender police start whistle blowing.

It’s worth mentioning that Speaker John Boehner has a penchant for pink ties and has been married for 37 years. Wearing a color, regardless of its gender association, do not make one gay or straight. Nor can they change one’s gender association.

However, we do feel featuring her son’s painted toenails in the ad had to make either Lyons or her marketing staff consider the media response.

Lyons should probably have been more careful about exposing her son to this kind of media circus. If anything in this debacle will damage Beckett, its likely going to be the public outcry about the advertisement.

Regardless, we feel the response should not be nearly as widespread as it has become. In fact, most of us engaged in “gender bending” as children. Several of the men on staff were dressed up by older female relatives when they were around Beckett’s age; some of the women were tomboys.

Children are naturally curious. Lyons presumably encourages Beckett to pursue his individuality, regardless of what society says. It’s ridiculous that a single picture like this causes people across the country to question her ability as a parent.

We recognize that Lyons, possibly deliberately, stirred up a hornet’s nest. However, gender roles are not inherent. They are social constructs. These stereotypes are part of our American heritage, but that doesn’t mean  we have to preserve them or that they have any relevance today.

Individuality is one of the defining values of our society. It is time we as a nation respected that—in all aspects.

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