When I first heard about the J Crew controversy I rolled my eyes, but I didn’t say anything here. It didn’t seem so relevant to our lives. Yes Alder would be the first to tell you that he really rather shop girl sections of stores, but he’s boy’s boy, sure he’s sensitive and loves playing “Mom and Dad” with his best friend but he really love playing construction, trains, and firefighters. He just likes doing it in pink, or glitter, or blue, what ever color strikes him that day. Though I am aware of my son’s choices of colors I also try never to make a big deal of it to him. We’ve gotten so used to it that I didn’t really think in terms of him.
Then a few weeks ago we were at an open house for the enrichment program he’s going to next year. I don’t remember what he wore, though I’m sure his pink and silver sneakers were part of the outfit (and that he wanted to look good for the day). A lot of his friends were there too so for most of the tour and get to know you we were just talking among friends. At one point the director invited the kids to go play out on the playground. As they wandered outside I watched and started talking to another mother. At one point in the conversation she commented “Well homeschooling will make things easier for him.” I didn’t know how to react. Actually I wasn’t even sure what she was talking about.
I looked over to Alder and saw him climbing and playing some sort of rescue game with a few other boys. It took a moment for me to realize that she meant that he would probably get teased in school if he came dressed the way he was. I was annoyed, not that it might be true, but that the woman assumed that was a big reason why we were homeschooling. Still I didn’t feel the need to say anything here.
Finally this past week I took Alder to a clothes store to use a gift card he had. As usual it was a long trip, and he walked away with a “mix” of clothing, pink flip flops, a green striped shirt, a kitten and rhinestone t-shirt, and a blue and green shirt. A few times the other customers looked twice at him as he carefully went through the sparkly shirts. One woman even suggested the other side of the store might have more clothing for him. “Oh he knows what he wants” was all I could say.
The thing with the big deal being made about that ad is that it equates painting the boys toenails pink to a lot of gender assumptions. (Did I mention that Alder has pink toenails at the moment). Not only does this assume that gender itself is a simple binary system but it also assumes that everything in a persons life is a statement of their gender. We all have personalities and tastes, I’m not sure that being an individual is always a statement of your gender. And certainly I don’t think that gender and sexuality are the same thing.
In fact I would say that when talking about a four year old sexuality has no place. Who ever my son turns out to be, in the future I am not will to sexualize him now. Right now he is a child who likes trains and construction and rock climbing and glittery shoes. He doesn’t like scary stories (Peter Rabbit is too much) but he loves Chico Bon-Bon, The Magic School Bus and Charlie & Lola. It is what it is, nothing more.
When I first heard of all of this my initial thought was “J Crew didn’t even think about the picture when they took it, it wasn’t some movement, they are a big business with more important things to think about.” If these people who are spouting off these attacks are so concerned about children’s identities than there efforts would be better spent looking at the clothing at stores like Justice where they are sticking pre-pubescent girls in sexy clothing.
That there are people out there wasting their time and platforms to attack this one photo upsets me. Every time I hear of another instance like this I want to scream at the people to go take that energy and help someone who needs it, build a playground, cook at a soup kitchen, tutor someone and stop using their energy for hatefulness.