A J. Crew ad featuring Jenna Lyons — a fashion designer, president, and executive creative director at the company who is also a huge deal in the business sector of the fashion industry— painting her 5-year-old son’s toenails pink is stirring up controversy in the media.
The subtitle under the image reads “Lucky for me, I ended up with a boy whose favourite colour is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon.”
Morning shows discussed the issue. Various news sites posted op-eds over the last two days. It is easy to get folks riled up around children and gender identity. Lyons probably expected a controversy, but at this level?
The most offensive opinion piece published on a nationally recognised journalism outlet appeared on Fox News’ website.
Dr. Keith Ablow, a television psychiatrist and Glenn Beck associate, penned the story. (He also recently co-authored a book called The 7, a combination of Beck memoir and Ablow’s self-help techniques.)
Nothing about the piece is helpful, informative, or even true.
The “Body & Mind” subverticle in the “Health” section of Fox News ran the article. In it, Ablow spouts polarising, simplified rhetoric about gender. Practically every argument in this piece references push-button issues that have no relation to the supposed gender identity of 5-year olds. It is an embarrassing attempt at journalism.
Ablow claims that the culture is “being encouraged to abandon all trappings of gender identity.” He then suggests that such “psychological sterilization” — a vague term he invented for his article — may have unknown consequences.
Such as? Ablow’s silence demonstrates the emptiness of his content.
He equates the sexualization of young girls wearing inappropriate, too-adult clothing — halter tops and short-shorts with messages written across the haunches — with the pink nail polish, stating the “truth” that it’s “unwise to encourage little boys to playact like little girls.”
Stop right here.
Social conservatives who are ultimately homophobic — in this case, transphobic — will always suggest that any non-heteronormative behaviour is somehow the result of nurture, and never that it can happen as a result of natural human biology. They consider nontraditional gender identity as perverted as pedophilia.
To any individual, queer or otherwise, this should be offensive.
Coming from a psychiatrist, it is offensive and unprofessional.
There has never been proof that dressing up a little boy in women’s clothing will somehow make him transgendered. Not only is it uninformed in terms of our understanding of gender identity in the modern day, Ablow completely ignores Western history.
Specifically, he ignores the period from the mid-16th century until the early 20th during which boys aged 2-8 generally wore dresses and gowns and were treated, more or less, as gender-neutral until they reached a certain level of maturity. At some point in their development, usually around the time of preadolescence, boys were “breeched“; essentially, they were allowed to start wearing pants.
Getting your pants was a big deal back then. Yet, not wearing them early on didn’t bring about whole generations of gender-confused European men. In addition, until the 1940s, society considered pink to be a more masculine and virile colour, while blue was more feminine. Based on these two historical facts alone, all of Ablow’s judgments are rendered meaningless.
Ablow’s insulting rhetoric continues by arguing, implicitly, that real transgenderism essentially doesn’t exist, or is some kind of perversion. He refers to gender reassignment surgery as “grotesquely amputate[ing] body parts,” and compares “the choosing of gender identity” with using tattoos to change skin pigmentation to “claim African-American heritage.”
He then sinks into a deep non sequitur:
“And while that may seem like no big deal, it will be a very big deal if it turns out that neither gender is very comfortable anymore nurturing children above all else…”
Dr. Ablow, what does raising children have to do with wearing nail polish? The logical fallacy of grouping these things together allows you to ignore the real issue, and instead highlight the conservative ‘s political call to “save the American family,” whatever that means. It’s like the Westboro Baptist Church rhetoric, just without the offensive words.
“…and neither gender is motivated to rank creating a family above having great sex forever…”
Again, what does pink nail polish have to do with having great sex all the time? As if you can’t have both?
The close association on Dr. Ablow’s part between gender identity and sexual activity is completely uninformed. For an average heterosexual American, unfamiliar with the plethora of alternatives in society, this error is a understandable. But Dr. Ablow is a psychiatrist. He is using this factual error to spread misinformation and, yes, hate.
“These folks are hostile to the gender distinctions that actually are part of the magnificent synergy that creates and sustains the human race,” Ablow writes. “They respect their own creative notions a whole lot more than any creative Force in the universe.”
Finally. This is always what it comes down to: The doctor’s religious beliefs, which have absolutely nothing to do with psychiatric analysis and a scientific understanding of the human experience.
Grouping an oversexualized minor with a little boy wearing pink nail polish is a gross misunderstanding of human sexuality and gender. The medical expertise in the piece is a joke.
For a psychiatrist to confuse gender and sexual conduct would be just fine, if this were the 19th century. You know, that time period before electricity was widespread when little boys wore dresses until about age 7.
For this to happen now is simply unprofessional.
Dr. Ablow should be ashamed to have his name on the story, and Fox News should be ashamed for publishing it.
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