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April 14, 2011  | by: Vanessa Douglas

The controversial J.Crew ad featuring Jenna Lyons and her son, Beckett

In many societies, it is typical to categorize children into specific gender roles. From birth, one is either a boy or a girl, and anything in between is usually seen as abnormal.

This is exactly the case over a recent J.Crew ad, where the company’s president and creative director, Jenna Lyons, is seen painting her nails hot pink- with her son, Beckett.

The ad pictures the president laughing with her son, with a caption that reads, ““Lucky for me I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon.” The two actually look cute together, but it seems like this mother-son bonding session is causing a national stir.

According to a recent Fox News piece, many are outraged over the ad. Quoted in the story was  Dr. Keith Albow, who, in a “health” article, wrote,

Yeah, well, it may be fun and games now, Jenna, but at least put some money aside for psychotherapy for the kid—and maybe a little for others who’ll be affected by your “innocent” pleasure.

This is a dramatic example of the way that our culture is being encouraged to abandon all trappings of gender identity—homogenizing males and females when the outcome of such “psychological sterilization” [my word choice] is not known.

Whether she was or was not “abandon[ing] all trappings of gender identity”, Beckett is her son, and as long as she is not harming him (and, last time I checked, nail polishing was not necessarily fatal), then what is the big deal? She was having a good time with her son (note the smiles), and maybe it just so happens that he does like the color pink. What is wrong with that?

This type of critical language  is problematic because it actually reinforces gender stereotypes. There is nothing wrong with identifying as a female, and there is nothing wrong with identifying as a male. There is also nothing wrong with identifying as whatever gender you want, regardless of how you were born. Gender identity is not some static biological state that can never change, and it is wrong to give Jenna Lyons slack for purportedly blurring the gender lines.

Gender is a fluid, amorphous category, contrary to popular belief. In Southeast Asia, for example, there is a third gender, hijra, which is being considered as neither a man nor a woman. Gender identity, and identity in general, is all about choice, and it is not up to critics, or even Jenna Lyons, what gender Beckett will decide to be. It is his.

It seems as though this whole issue was blown out of proportion. People are not used to seeing boys paint their nails, but…it happens! Guys wear make-up and like pink AND purple (Cam’Ron?)! Girls wear pants and ties (Janelle Monae!)! Maybe Beckett just wanted to have a good time with his mom, so why don’t we just leave the two to their (fun-looking) nail polishing adventures?

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