Published on The Daily Femme – Friday, April 15, 2011
Contributed by Annamarya
FOX News, in all its FOX News fashion, is at it again and this time, it’s over anad for J. Crew’s online catalogue featuring President and Creative Director Jenna Lyons painting her son Beckett’s toes in his favorite color – pink. It’s accompanied with the caption “Lucky for me, I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon.”
Apparently, wrote FOX News contributor and psychatrist, Dr. Keith Ablow, in an opinion piece on Monday, the ad is “a dramatic example of the way that our culture is being encouraged to abandon all trappings of gender identity.” Lyons’ actions, he claims, will not only cause Beckett to experience gender confusion (he recommended she put aside money for psychotherapy) but also encourage a wave of similar behavior, turning the accepted gender stereotypes on its head.
But are there any facts to support Albow’s disreputable beliefs? According to Dr. Jack Drescher, a psychiatrist in New York and author of the 2010 Archives of Sexual Behavior paper, “Queer Diagnoses,” the answer is no.
Interviewed for an article for ABC News, Dr. Drescher asserts there’s no scientific basis behind the notion that entertaining a child’s preference for “unconventional gender behavior” will sow the seeds of homosexuality or transgenderism, a claim he states with “100 percent certainty.” In fact, he said, while research shows there are certain traits prescribed to each gender, there’s a wide sweep of children who don’t conform to those categorical gender roles. Additionally, research shows that neither gender nor sexual identity is a choice and, according to the doctor, there’s no known “cause” of transgenderism. The tension, instead, lies with others, be it within the family or not, who take issue with the child’s interest. “What we do know is many people feel that it is their role to police gender and tell them what correct behavior is for boys and girls,” Dr. Drescher was quoted as saying.
And that’s what’s problematic with Albow’s piece. It lacks proven evidence to back up the allegations that Lyons’ painting Beckett’s toenails pink will not only cause him to question his gender “identity,” but also “throw our species into real psychological turmoil,” as Albow puts it. Instead, what we are left with is an article riddled with unfounded fears that will only fuel the unfounded fears of those also stuck in the archaic notion that “boys must be boys” and “girls must be girls.”
He also uses forceful rhetoric to drive his point, attacking race identity to illustrate the potential damage this innocent ad could cause. “Why not make race the next frontier?,” he asks. “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?” With these two simple questions, you can read how far Albow is stretching his theories. Does he truly believe a boy’s pink toenails will act as a gateway to a rash of racial trading? Is it really possible in his mind?
It’s this type of extreme wordplay that makes Albow’s feature unsettling. He hides homophobia, misogyny and racism underneath concerns that Lyons’ J. Crew ad will upset long-standing gender normative stereotypes. He attacks sex-positive girls by saying they lack the “typically ‘feminine’ brake” on engaging in early heterosexuality activity. He attacks young men who take care of their looks and bodies–or, rather, who “preen until their abdomens are washboards and their hair is perfect,” as he describes. And he attacks those who choose to live child-free, claiming the aforementioned traits are “no big deal” until neither gender is “comfortable” raising a family, “motivated” to build a family in place of “having great sex forever”, or “motivated to protect the nation” by serving in military combat and “risking their lives.” What’s worse, he curbs his tirade by writing: “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.” If this isn’t blatant disgust with homosexuality and womanhood, I don’t know what is.
While, according to another FOX News article, a majority of FOX News Twitter followers believe critics are overreacting, there’s no doubt that Albow’s words will reach a niche of people who feel exactly the same way, strengthening deep seeded homophobia that can lead to destructive discrimination and oppression of personal expression.
Other critics are also blasting the ad. Media Research Center’s Erin Brown called it “blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children” and exploitation “behind the facade of liberal transgendered identity politics.” But advocacy groups are shooting back, saying that these reactions are “ridiculous” and “blown out of proportion.” Lyons’, nor the J. Crew company, have not commented on this stirred-up controversy.
But for all my sounding off, it’s really singer Adam Lambert who, while defending the ad, responded the most appropriately via Twitter to the “controversy” stirred by Albow and Brown:
“Gender Confusion? I don’t think it’s that deep— children should have full freedom of expression. It’s everyone else who’s confused…If society didn’t work so hard to reinforce gender role stereotypes we would have a much more well-adjusted & open-minded future generation.”