J.Crew, the preppy fashion retailer known for selling countless racks of clothes with anchors and sailboats, has a new online catalog out. It features designs by Jenna Lyons, and one of the pages shows Jenna with her son, Beckett, touching his feet, which sport a freshly painted set of hot-pink toenails. The text below the photo reads, “Lucky for me, I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon.”
We’ve already seen how much controversy can be caused by a boy in pink—remember the Pink Boy or the Princess Boy? So does it surprise you that J.Crew, Jenna, and Beckett caused a stir with their venture into pink toenail styling?
This time, however, the gender-role traditionalists took it a step further, arguing that the J.Crew ad has dangerous undertones of transgender propaganda. Yes: According to these groups, the pink toenail polish could be the first step in Beckett’s gender-transitioning process.
Earlier this week, more than one conservative media outlet voiced these concerns. Most notably, on Friday, the Culture and Media Institute published a piece denouncing the campaign as transgender propaganda and claiming that it is “celebrating transgendered children.” The report reads:
Not only is Beckett likely to change his favorite color as early as tomorrow, Jenna’s indulgence (or encouragement) could make life hard for the boy in the future. J.CREW, known for its tasteful and modest clothing, apparently does not mind exploiting Beckett behind the façade of liberal, transgendered identity politics. One has to wonder what young boys in pink nail polish has to do with selling women’s clothing.
On Monday, a psychiatrist over at the Fox News website warned of imminent psychological ramifications for Beckett because of his mother “encouraging” the pink toes.
Some of the sentiments expressed in those two articles seem so obviously flawed that I feel silly even working to discredit them. But let’s look at one of the most egregious, outlandish statements by the Fox News contributor, Keith Ablow. He wrote:
Encouraging the choosing of gender identity, rather than suggesting our children become comfortable with the ones they got at birth, can throw our species into real psychological turmoil—not to mention crowding operating rooms with procedures to grotesquely amputate body parts? Why not make race the next frontier? What would be so wrong with people deciding to tattoo themselves dark brown and claim African-American heritage? Why not bleach the skin of others so they can play-act as Caucasians?
With this statement, Ablow asserts that we shouldn’t be encouraging any gender roles—except for the ones that society has already created and that these kids were “born into.” These are gender roles that cannot even be peripherally supported by the “biology” argument about women being able to raise children. They’re ideas as silly as the notion that only girls can wear dresses or like baking and that only boys can like blue and play sports. He’s also clearly implying that any divergence from these traditional gender roles will lead to a sex change operation. And the race extrapolation merits no intellectual response or discussion, so let’s not even talk about how offensively off-base the comparison is.
When I look at this “controversy” (and boy am I looking forward to a day when we won’t have to defend Pink Boys or their parents for the color they like or the interests they have), only one really valid conclusion pops out at me. I guess you could argue that Beckett is exhibiting “queer” behavior, insomuch that he’s transgressing the list of society’s guidelines for what is traditionally male and entering into the list of society’s guidelines for what is traditionally female.
But that says nothing about his sexual orientation or identity. It doesn’t make him gay. And it doesn’t mean that Beckett wants to be a girl or that his mom is goading on a sex change operation. Beckett may just like paint, and he may just like pink, and he may have just wanted some pink nail polish on his toes. If, in wanting that, he made us question what it means for a little boy to be “normal” in our country, more power to him.