Have you heard about the latest parenting kerfuffle that has everyone talking?
Jenna Lyons, President of J.Crew, was last month photographed painting her 5 year-old child’s toenails fluro pink for a promotion by the retailer. All sounds pretty harmless, right? Well it would be if her child wasn’t a boy.
Unwittingly, Lyons and her son opened a Pandora’s Box of gender stereotypes. Protests came loudly and swiftly. Fox News called the ad, ‘blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered confusion’ while from groups like One Million Moms urged followers to write protest letters to J Crew stating, ‘to carry our nontraditional activities with a boy …can be destructive and damaging to a child’s identity and and self-esteem.’
It’s an unfortunate cutural reality that our stereotypes for boys are more narrow and inflexible than for girls. A girl who likes to play with trucks or try football is seen has having a bit of spunk. Whereas a boy who wants to take dance classes or aspires to be a nurse is seen as a sissy boy or gender confused.
Dr William Pollack, a professor in the Psychiatry Department at Harvard University, has spent nearly two decades doing clinical research on boys and what he calls, “the crisis in boyhood in America today.”
“If a boy wants to dress up now and then in his mother’s clothes, what he’s doing is identifying with one of the most loved people in his life – he is not dis-identifying with being a boy,” says Pollack.
The other night, our two year old stood on a step and watched me do my makeup. When I had finished, he rummaged around a drawer, produced my blush and asked that I put it on him. He also likes to occassionaly stack as many of my bangles up his arm as possible. And somedays when we got to playgroup he prefers to push a dolly around in a stroller rather than push the toy lawnmower.
Does this make him any less of a boy? Does it make me concerned? Absolutely not.
The greatest gift I can give Alfie is the opportunity to explore, learn and just ‘have a crack’ at new things. I want him to grow into an interesting person, and the only way that will happen is by giving him the freedom to try things out regardless of whether they fall into pink or blue stereotypes.
While are all too happy to champion equal rights for both sexes, it seems retrograde to that we take such a rigid view of our boys and masculinity.
Over to you – Does this ad bother you? How do you see your children explore gender?