Some of our nation is up in arms over a recent J.Crew ad of a little boy, Beckett, who’s the son of designer Jenna Lyons. In the image, Lyons is painting Beckett’s toenails hot pink, and the two are having a grand old time. Beckett is also sporting a rather Frenchy striped long-sleeved tee, and dark-framed glasses. So, Beckett is stylish, like his mom. This ad has met with shock and horror from Americans who feel that a little boy with painted toenails could destroy the world as we know it.
First there’s a screed from Dr. Keith Ablow of Fox News, who says:
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.
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.
Ablow continues to rant about society’s slippery slope to ruin. Girls will have sex with boys, willy-nilly! They will beat each other up on YouTube! Meanwhile, boys are cultivating washboard abs and styling their hair. Which means no one’s taking care of children, or creating families, or protecting America. Right?
Yet here we have a mom who is treating her little boy in quite a nurturing way, a way that, more than giving him a toy gun and letting him run around shooting it (which Ablow seems to recommend as more appropriate parenting), will likely lead to him having his own family and nurturing them as well someday. Not to mention that there is zero proof that pink toenails (or perfect eyebrows) equal a lack of willingness to support one’s country.
Then there’s a piece called “J.Crew Pushes Transgendered Child Propaganda,” by Erin R. Brown. Brown seems to have rather liked J.Crew, until it did the unthinkable. She writes,
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.
Well…It’s cute. It’s different. And, we’re just guessing, but we’d presume it appeals to moms who marvel worldwide over the quirky personalities of their kids. Also, Brown: Nail polish remover. Buy some.
What’s especially gross about these reactions is the implication that Lyons is going to “make” her son gay, or or “gender confused” or has somehow “ruined” him. If Essie can change sexuality with a swipe of their polish, they should be charging way more a bottle. Beyond that, who cares what this little boy’s sexuality is or will be? He’s having a good time. He seems to have a great relationship with his mom. And we’d rather hang out with him than Dr. Keith Ablow or Erin R. Brown any day of the week, mani-pedis notwithstanding.
Confession: I played with a truck as a kid. It was awesome. I also liked to dress my brother up in an old lady wig and a floral poncho and call him Brenda. One time I babysat a little boy who more than anything wanted to be a mom when he grew up. Little kids don’t give a rat’s ass about gender identification — it’s adults who do. Imagine, adults afraid of pink painted toenails. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so goddamn sad.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 12, 2011