Thanks to Meg for emailing us about the media debate currently raging over a J. Crew ad showing a designer painting her five-year-old son’s toenails pink. The debate was sparked off by a Fox News columnist freaking out about how this ad is “a dramatic example of the way that our culture is being encouraged to abandon all trappings of gender identity” … but the rest of the media is playing along, with one headline screaming “J. Crew Wants Your Kid To Be Transgendered.”
While I chalk most of this hysteria up to a 24-hour news cycle, a columnist baiting people into debate, and pundits trying to whip people into a froth in the name of more eyeballs (I’m a media cynic), there are larger issues to be discussed here…
The the claim that painting your kids toenails could “turn him gay” or “make him transgender” really points to the larger cultural split between the “born this way” vs. “it’s a choice” schools of thought on sexual orientation and gender identity. If gender identity was something that a parent could influence by, say, painting your kid’s toenails … wouldn’t all the generations of LGBT and genderqueer adults who were forced into standard gender roles as children have turned out nice ‘n’ straight and gender-normative? We all know that doesn’t work, so why is allowing kids to play somehow damaging. The logic baffles me.
My even larger question is this: why is childhood exploration of gender identity so scary? Kids explore all manner of identities, but why is this is the one that terrifies people?
A note on comments: don’t take the original columnist’s bait TOO seriously. He’s definitely just trying to piss people off.