Is J. Crew confusing kids about their gender identity?

Boys with long hair? Girls wearing boys’ clothes? Boys wearing nail polish?

Did I just cross a line?

Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and Fox News contributor, thinks so and is criticizing J. Crew and parents for confusing their kids about gender identity.

He writes on Fox News.com:

“A recent feature in J. Crew’s online catalogue portrays designer Jenna Lyons painting her son Beckett’s toe nails hot pink. The quote accompanying the image reads, “Lucky for me, I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon.” (Click on the link above to see the ad.)

“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….”

“Well, how about the fact that encouraging the choosing of gender identity, rather than suggesting our children become comfortable with the ones that 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 playact as Caucasians?” …

“The fallout is already being seen. Increasingly, girls show none of the reticence they once did to engage in early sexual relationships with boys. That may be a good thing from the standpoint of gender equality, but it could be a bad thing since there is no longer the same typically “feminine” brake on such behavior. Girls beat up other girls on YouTube. Young men primp and preen until their abdomens are washboards and their hair is perfect. And while that may seem like no big deal, it will be a very big deal if it turns out that neither gender is very comfortable anymore nurturing children above all else, and neither gender is motivated to rank creating a family above having great sex forever and neither gender is motivated to protect the nation by marching into combat against other men and risking their lives.”

So what do you think of Dr. Ablow’s points: Are parents helping to confuse gender identity? Would you let your little girl wear big brother’s clothes? What about vice versa? Is the nail polish carrying it too far or is it just a little boy playing with him mom?

What do you think of the J. Crew ad? Is J. Crew out to de-gender everyone?

What do you verbally or non-verbally teach your kids about gender roles?

– Theresa Walsh Giarrusso, ajc.com Momania

110 comments Add your comment

NoWay

April 12th, 2011
6:20 am

The concept of gender is socially constructed and has changed much throughout the years. I can assure you that what it meant for my grandmother to be “feminine” is quite different from my vision of being feminine.

If someone has a problem with boys wearing nail polish or kids wearing ‘opposite gender’ clothing then the problem lies with that person and NOT the kid.

shaggy

April 12th, 2011
6:22 am

A boy wearing pink toenail polish is just the same as naming him Sue. If he is straight, he will need to be in top notch shape and schooled in the martial arts, because he will face many “challenges”, especially if he continues into adolescence. Also, the father’s opinion of pink boy’s painting is not mentioned in this article. I guess Jenna Lyons is another single mom that likes dressing up her doll…yawn. Celebrities are screwed up anyway, and I really couldn’t care less what they do.
I married a tom boy who still wears Levis mens jeans and looks super smokin hot in them…grrrrr, so in my opinion straight women get the tom boy pass.
If either male or female child is transgender, all bets are off.

gtmom

April 12th, 2011
6:43 am

I agree with NoWay… Used to be men wore wigs (powdered) and make up.. Time changes and style changes.. I see quite of few male teens wearing black nailpolish.. they don’t seem to be gay at all.. just rebelious.. heck, in the 80’s, seemed like male band members wore more hairspray than I did..and some of them wore makeup. And no one questioned their masculinity with their groupies!

motherjanegoose

April 12th, 2011
6:56 am

I have worn nail polish nearly every day of my life, since I was in HS. I do not care for nail polish on men…that’s just me.

Spacey

April 12th, 2011
7:55 am

The concept of gender is not socially constructed as it applies to our bodies. Men are built to be the ones that further the species (in the case of most mammals).
Their bodies are larger and stronger as to protect the species. Women are built to provide life and nurture.
The only thing that is socially constructed about gender is painting a boys toes pink!

catlady

April 12th, 2011
8:02 am

I would suggest folks steer away from letting businesses control their personal ideas. These stores, like the padded bra top, are trying to be “fashionable” and shape people’s thoughts, tastes, and actions. Absent yourself and your family from their grasp! Please!

NoWay

April 12th, 2011
8:31 am

Spacey, I think you are confusing sex and gender. Sex-male or female is different than gender- masculine or feminine. Sex is determined by whether the organism produces sperm cells or egg cells. Gender is determined by society/culture.

Big Daddy

April 12th, 2011
8:49 am

If my son started wearing dresses and painting his nails, I would have to seriously wonder if he was gay. Who cares what stupid marketers want you to think. They got issues themselves, no doubt. Straight kids will end up fitting into the gender identities that their society has accepted. Look at David Bowie: straight as an arrow but you wouldn’t know it if you listened to him in the 70’s (okay, there was that ONE incident with Mick Jagger, but….)

A Regular Guy

April 12th, 2011
8:52 am

Take it from a regular guy– Do not (NOT) mess with kids’ minds and gender identity. If you’re a mom who is forcing girlie trapping on your son, you’re doing long-term harm. If you’re a single mom by choice who thinks the absence of a father is ok (”I have a nice guy friend who spends time with little Jason every two weeks–that’s enough role modeling” says the trendy urban mom), think again. Kids have a tough enough time these days without parents making socio-political statements with child. Boys are boys, girls are girls –and yes, some are gay. Don’t try to shape it.

jarvis

April 12th, 2011
9:03 am

Yeah…I’m sure they’re confused.

His comments are crap. Teenage pregnancy is down….not up. If girls are having more sex than they did 20 years ago, they must have gotten a better grasp of birth control. I’m not buying it.

“Studies” with no supporting numbers are opinions, and in this case a ridiculous one.

A Boy Named Tom

April 12th, 2011
9:05 am

How much of this is projection by the parent? “I would’ve liked to do this as a child…”

jarvis

April 12th, 2011
9:06 am

Where my comment at?

shaggy

April 12th, 2011
9:12 am

A Regular Guy,

In your post, you use a term, “trendy urban mom” as a single mom subtype. I have met a couple of these and find them especially abhorrent, in that they seem to reproduce just to have baked one in the oven, so to speak. Some of them seem to just want a better pet than a dog, and end up giving the unfortunate kid the need of therapy for life.

Robin

April 12th, 2011
9:22 am

So because my 4-year-old son likes having purple (his favorite color) toenail polish every once in a while, more teenage girls are going to get pregnant? Huh, talk about a leap of illogic. Kids like to try things on. Deciding what’s meaningless and what’s significant is my job as a parent, not some random wonk’s. There’s a lot more to being a man than what you do or don’t like on your nails or what colors you think are “manly” or not. Mountain out of a molehill. Why am I not surprised he’s on Fox News?

Superman

April 12th, 2011
9:28 am

It is not right, period. Who cares if the little boy likes his nails painted?? Don’t do it! He’d like to eat cookies for every meal too… but you have to do what’s right for them!

Monroe Burbank

April 12th, 2011
9:33 am

Well, this guy is a Fox News contributor so he has to be correct. Here’s the deal – any kid who has been raised to have self confidence and self respect is going to be just fine in this world. Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all. A kid who feels the need to start smoking, drinks, have sex, take drugs, or display anti-social behavior, most likely has low self confidence and self respect and feels the need to behave this way to fit in. And you know what, when our kids display this kind of behavior, it’s always somebody else’s fault, right? Somebody like J Crew, instead of the parents, maybe?

shaggy

April 12th, 2011
9:42 am

Robin,

I’m curious, is there a father figure in that 4 year old’s life, and if so, does he approve of his son having his toenails painted? What else is the 4 year old “trying on” with your blessing?

Wondering Wanda

April 12th, 2011
9:43 am

Do “Urban” male children REALLY need further encouragement to be ON THE DOWN LOW?

Buckheadmom

April 12th, 2011
9:46 am

Shaggy, you are a complete idiot. You find single mothers “abhorrent”? I find ignorant men who generalize a huge group of people, make judgements about them and are obviously intolerant of anyone who is not like them to be pathetic. You must be compensating for some major “short-comings” to feel so threatened by single mothers. I am a single mother and I am also a devoted parent who puts her child first, works hard to provide a wonderful life for her and strives to raise a fabulous little person. Your parents didn’t do such a great job, sounds like to me.

Kat

April 12th, 2011
9:46 am

I don’t think that David Bowie has always been “straight as an arrow.” Also, it is not “…or is it just a little boy playing with him mom?” (his mom)

JOD

April 12th, 2011
9:51 am

All the ‘psycho-babble’ seems a little histrionic to me. It’s ironica, but I was thinking about gender neutralization just yesterday. I saw a pack of tweens walking from the park, and it was difficult to tell the boys from the girls. They all had that same emo hair cut, slouchy walk, tight jeans, and graphic t-shirts. I actually giggled and thought ‘I hope that’s not in style when DD is older.’ It’s not the end of the world – each generation does their own thing (that in hindsight seems goofy), and for the most part we still grow up to be productive citizens. At least so far…

Lori

April 12th, 2011
9:56 am

I think this article blows things way out of proportion. While I don’t paint my son’s toenails, I don’t think that playing a little is going to screw him up and make him turn gay! Get real!!! All preschool kids like to pretend. When my son was in day care, they had dress up costumes. One day he put on a girl costume and pranced around. So freakin’ what!!! It doesn’t mean he has “gender identity” issues, and it doesn’t mean he is going to be gay when he grows up. It was just pretend play. When I was little, I used to play cowboys & indians with the little boy next door. I wasn’t pretending to be a cowGIRL!!! I certainly turned out fine!

Katie

April 12th, 2011
10:08 am

I’m a mother to a young son and an older daughter and I cannot imagine sitting there painting my son’s toenails pink or any other color. How does that even occur to someone? It’s seems clear that the J. Crew designer was using her young son to make a social statement and that’s just wrong. If she’s looking for something to do with her child, there’s a great big world out there and plenty of stimulating activities to share. Mother/son toenail polish time is pathetic and cruel in that, if its indicative of their normal activities together, sets that poor child up for years of being “the weird kid.” Boys should be encouraged to be boys, not girls. Why is it not o.k. to say that? Why is it that we’re constantly subjected to pro-girl propaganda (t-shirts that say “Girl Power” or “Girls Rule”, etc.) but if we say the same thing about boys then we’re sexist or trapped in old fashioned gender stereotypes? I didn’t notice a lot of this before I became a mother to a boy. Now, I have to actively tell my son that it’s great to be a boy and encourage his masculinity because its obvious that we’re living in an increasingly feminized world.

shaggy

April 12th, 2011
10:10 am

Buckheadmom,

Please read the post. I did not generalize. I referenced a subtype “trendy urban mom” as described by “A Regular Guy”.
For your greater understanding, that would be a woman who decides beforehand to have a child, without any, or little, male or father influence and sometimes actually deprives that child of male influence. I know it’s legal, but yes, I find it abhorrent to deprive any child of “either” gender influence. They need a balance of both, even gay ones. Since a man can’t birth a child, (yet) it is largely women (mostly economically stable ones) who do this.

NIcky

April 12th, 2011
10:32 am

I am not concerned about the painting of the toenails as I am her putting her son in an ad like that. It seems like he is merely being used for controversy. Who’s to say that ad won’t cause him embarrassment in the future? I have no issue with transgendered teens or adults or what THEY decide to wear at all but I’m pretty sure this kid wasn’t able to consent to being in this advertisement. It seems like some parents and teens don’t quite understand the photos they post on the Internet are there FOREVER. I’ve seen photos on facebook of people’s kids naked/half naked that I’m not comfortable seeing. Anyway, I’ve already spent enough time on this and now I must get back to work. Have a great day ya’ll!!

middleoftheroader

April 12th, 2011
10:44 am

OMG what a to do over nothing! You are born with your sexuality and gender in your dna and genes. It’s been demonstrated, such as those groups “retraining” gays, that we are born what we are. Children have always dressed up and played as the other gender and grew up just fine. There are some people, like Angelina Jolie who seems to despise her first natural child and insists on pushing her toward male clothing and play, who aren’t happy with what their child was born and try to change it. Usually unsuccessfully and just making the child unhappy. But most of us girls played soldier and cowboy and our brothers loved dressup and house and we turned out just fine.

joe

April 12th, 2011
10:44 am

Right on Katie…as time marches on, more and more “normal” behaviors are deemed “unnatural.” Meaning, traditional values of all kinds are being targeted as being out of touch, sexist, racist, etc. Back in the day, a family was a father, mother, 2.5 kids and a dog. Today, this family is being torn down at every turn by people who don’t fit that mold. However, if you look at the ones doing the tearing down, they mostly struggle to provide for their kids due to a single parent home, raising a child out of wedlock, requiring government assistance to get by, etc.

Heck, in Chicago, the government will actually pay for all child care for single mothers, who cannot afford their kids. The scam works like this…the 20 y.o. mother will have 5 kids with no job and no husband and file paperwork with the govt saying she cannot afford to raise her kids. The 40 y.o. Grandmother then files for custody of the kids and Chicago govt will grant her request and send her $1500 a month per child. So basically, the govt of Chicago is doing the job that a father should do…provide for his kids…so in a sense, the government is encouraging this behavior.

So next time you ask what in the world is happening to our country, remember this example. The “great society” has done nothing to make our country great…just the opposite. As a side note, back in the 50’s, 7% of AA family’s did not include a father. Today, that figure is over 50%. For whites it was 2% then and today 23%. Once again, government is not the solution, its the problem.

JJ

April 12th, 2011
10:48 am

JOD, that’s exactly what they said back in the 60’s and 70’s……this is NOTHING new…..

My grandfather was so upset that my brother’s hair was past his ears when he was about 10-12 years old……and that I wore jeans (horrors). He thought my brother should have a buzz hair cut, military style and that I should be in dresses, playing with dolls……NO THANK YOU!!! I ran with the boys, played football, climbed trees, hiked and kept up with all the boys, and that didn’t make me ‘masculine”. It gave me a great appreciation for the opposite sex. There was no way I was going to sit around and play dolls…..I hated dolls. I wanted to be outside……..

@Munroe Burbank – KUDOS!!!! I agree 100%

Jeff

April 12th, 2011
10:48 am

I grew up in a small town in SC and was around all the stereotypes that go with that. That being said, the type of woman I find attractive is an instinct. I’m attracted to southern blonde girls. It’s an instinct. I don’t think gender identity can be influenced by commercials. You can put all the Asian women you want in a Victoria secret commercial but that doesnt mean I’m going to find them more attractive.

RJ

April 12th, 2011
11:07 am

Hmmmm….this one is too much for me. I cannot imagine painting my son’s toenails and my husband going along with it. Heck, he freaked out when I gave the boy his sister’s pink bicycle helmet to wear as a football helmet! Whatever! As I told him, wearing pink will not make him gay, his genetic make-up will.

I personally don’t get doing feminine things with boys. My daughter and I painted nails together many times. My son and I did other things together. However, in the end it’s the parents that will make a kid feel confident about who they are. J. Crew has as much influence in my house as Abercrombie and Fitch; zilch!

JJ

April 12th, 2011
11:17 am

I just read Cobb county is NOT closing down the libraries!!!!!!

JJ

April 12th, 2011
11:19 am

Hey Jeff – I’m a blonde southern woman!!!! (ok, with a touch of gray….but mostly still blonde)

A Regular Guy

April 12th, 2011
11:23 am

Hey guys — This is funny. I just discovered that Jay Bookman is writing his silly columns. Serious. Do a search, you’ll find.

Mr. R

April 12th, 2011
11:35 am

Shape your children’s character, but as far as gender identity goes, they will tell you who they are and it can’t be changed… So don’t stress over it. Your job is to mold their character – the rest is what they were born with.

some people shouldnt be parents

April 12th, 2011
12:07 pm

Hey Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole turned out ok right???? I mean their mothers totally messed with their gender identities and it didnt seem to effect them that much right? If you dont think that things like that will affect your child….give it a shot and see what happens.

Kat

April 12th, 2011
12:07 pm

Ah yes, Buckhead mom, the ultimate insult – if a man complains then he must have a “shortcoming.” Welcome to 2011!

mental floss

April 12th, 2011
12:25 pm

… and we dare to question that being gay, lesbian and/or bi IS a lifestyle choice?

Julie R. Camp

April 12th, 2011
12:46 pm

Normal women are not attracted to men with nail polish. It’s very unsettling to those looking for a suitable mate. This little boy will grow up and will only be able to attract women that like his or his mommy’s money. Unless, of course, his mother allows him to grow up and act like a man.

JJ

April 12th, 2011
1:25 pm

The term Metrosexual comes into mind…..men getting manicures, and pedicures, in the high end salons to get a “hair cut” that costs $60.00.

Denise

April 12th, 2011
1:38 pm

@JJ – I don’t think Metrosexuals can be confused with women, though. Sure they may be a little bit fussy about their appearance (but what’s wrong with nice nails and a nice hair cut?) but they are nowhere near gender neutral, IMO. The ones I have issue with are the ones that I can’t readily identify as female or male.

J Crew Shopper

April 12th, 2011
1:41 pm

My wife gets regular J Crew mailings and I admit I had the same reaction to the boy getting his toe nails painted that Dr. Ablow did. I thought “Poor kid…what will he be thinking in 10 years when all his friends see this.”

Mildred Hayes

April 12th, 2011
1:58 pm

BEAUTY BEAUTY’ BEAUTY’ LOVE’ LOVE’ LOVE’ Everyone wants one or the other, or one..Lusipher, was Pretty acordenly to The Bible.. We know him as satan, the Devil…And today we Uses Beauty in everything to make a Living, to be Excepted, no One wants to Be, Feel or Wear Ugly….Don’t miss take me….Boys should be Boys and Girls should be Girls…And we should be able to tell the differents….But who’s fought is it realy, for the way our children are today?. HUM!!! Spearing the ROD was one way to make one know his or hers Idenity…Today it’s different….So don’t blame the Children,blame the system…And be Parents.. And let Children be children, give them Chores, make them work for Your Love and for Beauty….Theirs nothing wrong with Cutting grass, Washing Dishes, Putting Trash out, Going Fishing, Cleaning their Rooms as they grow up, that’s were it starts Love and Beauty and give them time together and not so much time alone..To do as One please!!..No Work and all Play can cause one to lose His or Her’s Idenity…….

The Dad

April 12th, 2011
2:10 pm

This is a case of a parent wanting to be the “cool” parent and thier kid’s best friend. Deep down, kids hate the cool parents and use them as oftern as possible while laughing at them behind their back. And kids don’t need you to be their best friend. They need you to be their @#$% parents. Watch over them, guide them, and take care of them. Don’t use them as an odd statement in a fashion mag. As a mom, she gets an F.

Black and White Smiley Faces ☺☻

April 12th, 2011
2:12 pm

“transgender” is a made up word. There is really no such thing.

You’re either one or the other. And you either play for one team or the other, if you know what I mean.

miss marta

April 12th, 2011
2:15 pm

is it possible that the boy wanted to be in the ad? and that he is well adjusted? why do you people have to project all these negative thoughts on this woman and her child?

in other words: what is wrong with YOU?

woodrow

April 12th, 2011
2:21 pm

I think you can teach a child bad values. I see it all the time. This gender issue is another one on the list. If a parent truly cares about their children, they will try show them normal, socially accepted values.

Mr. R

April 12th, 2011
2:27 pm

Black and White Smiley Faces is an example of the problem… “I’m not transgendered, so I don’t see how anyone else could be.”

That type of intolerance is why teenagers are committing suicide.

Enough!

April 12th, 2011
2:34 pm

Boys are not born blue, and girls are not born pink. “Gender roles” are nothing more than the same old game of trying to pidgeon-hole and label everything and everyone so that the bigots and homophobes can feel safe in their small-minded world. People are as individual as the colors on the spectrum… there is a unique color for each of us, and the possibilities are limitless. Free your mind, and the rest will follow.

JJ

April 12th, 2011
2:35 pm

Mildred – honey that was the hardest post I have ever tried to read……seriously. Did you not proof your post before you posted it? I don’t even know where to start…….

Decatur Taliban

April 12th, 2011
2:38 pm

Fortunately despite what these twisted parents do to their children Life, per se, is the big corrector. Pink toenails won’t be accepted in the college frat-house, nor should they ever be.