J. Crew controversy brings out the bigots

Last week, the nation erupted in outrage over an incident that had liberals and conservatives engaged in vicious mudslinging. Was it the United States’ involvement with the war in Libya? No. Was it the disturbingly partisan nature of the recent budget crisis? No. It was something much worse. Popular clothing line J. Crew, heaven forbid, recently ran an ad featuring a small boy with bright pink polish on his toenails.

The ad was part of a feature in J. Crew’s catalogue titled “Saturday with Jenna” that gave a peek into the life of its president and creative director Jenna Lyons. In the photo Lyons is grinning from ear to ear at her laughing son while holding his foot, which sports hot pink toenails. Touching moment between mother and son captured on film? NO. Intentional assault on gender norms and family values everywhere!

As one Fox News contributor Dr. Keith Ablow asked, “If you have no problem with the J. Crew ad, how about one in which a little boy models a sundress?” Nope — sorry, Fox News, no problem with that either. The controversy about this ad centers around the concept that there are things that belong to boys and things that belong to girls, and anything that blurs the line will undoubtedly end with gender confusion and ultimately sex-change surgery, or, as Ablow calls it, “procedures to grotesquely amputate body parts.”

Aren’t we supposed to be past gender stereotyping? As one commentator on the story pointed out, the world would pass over an ad featuring a young girl wearing jeans and playing in the dirt with a Tonka truck without a second glance. And why? Because her crossing of gender norms makes her an empowered woman!

As a matter of fact, the general public would reject a requirement that a female child be forced to wear a pink dress and play with dolls for the purpose of advertising, so why should this little boy be forced to do likewise? We can’t pick and choose which gender norms we reject and which ones we follow.

More important, Lyons is being backhandedly accused of bad parenting as a result of this ad. Bad parenting, really? As pointed out by a columnist on RVAnews.com, a New York mother recently killed herself and her three children, but we’re concerned about a mother painting her son’s toenails. Parents abuse, neglect and abandon their children daily.

A mother who does not conform to gender norms is not a bad mother. A gay couple who I know very well recently adopted three beautiful children after years of unsuccessful ventures with adoption agencies around the world. Their birth mother has five children under the age of six, and all of them have been taken away from her. Are we really supposed to believe that these children would be better off with their biological mother because now they have two loving daddies who aren’t likely to enforce strict gender roles? Somehow I think not.



Comments on this opinion can be sent to [email protected]