Last week, a big issue erupted about J.Crew’s creative director Jenna Lyons. Her ascent to the top of the design ladder at the company has been well documented and praised, especially since she is responsible for J.Crew’s new found ascension in trendiness. The controversy is about a J.Crew ad that depicts Lyons’ life on a weekend, “Saturday with Jenna”, in which she is photographed with her son. In one of the photographs, she is shown painting his toenails pink. This detail is what the media, specifically Fox News contributor Dr. Keith Ablow, has chosen to emphasize.
The outrage is based on close-minded and narrow perceptions of gender identity. Ablow believes that pink nail polish will have an adverse affect on the child’s development into his ‘proper’ gender role and will result in psychological trauma as an adult:
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 […] If you have no problem with the J. Crew ad, how about one in which a little boy models a sundress? What could possibly be the problem with that?
The fact that a supposed doctor is making these comments is most disturbing. He actually believes that nail painting is a serious enough act to affect this boy’s life in such a strong way.
The attack on Lyons is completely ridiculous and unfounded. Her son’s favorite color is pink and so she paints his toenails. Big deal. I’m confused about the media’s ability to interpret and pick at anyone and anything, especially when this ad was not supposed to be about Jenna’s choices as a parent, but simply the time she spends with her son despite her incredibly busy professional life.
Unfortunately, if Lyons’ son is gay, all these witch hunters will put that in their file as the reason why he is gay and say his mother made him that way. Gender roles are constructed, and many times force individuals to adhere to codes that do not fit them. Having a son who wears nail polish or likes to wear dresses is not the end of the world; equivalent to the way plenty of little girls do not like dolls or dresses. These things do not determine a child’s identity, but their parents’ attempts to change and correct them might. I’ve always respected Lyons for her career and talent, and now I also respect her for being a busy parent who actually spends time and knows her child.