Archive for April, 2011

April 14, 2011

J. Crew Gets It Right!

by Kelly Clark

Have you seen the ad that is stirring up such “controversy”?  Jenna, the mom in the ad, feels lucky to have a little boy (about 5-years-old) whose favorite color is pink! She has painted his toenails neon pink and they are clearly enjoying a wonderful loving moment over it.

Hooray for J. Crew for daring to cross gender lines. Strict gender expectations are literally killing our children. How many suicides of bullied LGBT teens, mostly boys, hit the news last fall?  How quickly it seems we forget! These young men killed themselves after they were bullied because their personalities, likes, mannerisms, etc. did not fall along established societal norms for boys and men.  The bullying they endured was a form of peer pressure designed to force them to conform to gendered norms or be ostracized from the community.

The Jenna ad creates the perfect opportunity to ask, “Why do we expect the people to change instead of the norms?” Why can’t boys like pink? For that matter why is pink considered a feminine color? It is simply a color on the color-wheel.  Why can’t boys paint their bodies? Any 5-year-old, boy or girl, has got to think that painting your body is super cool!  Why should only girls be allowed to do it?  It is adults who have been conditioned to assign a gendered meaning to these otherwise human activities.  This week I heard one commentator say that having pink toes will no more define this boys gender identity than her digging in the mud when she was a little girl has defined hers.

The truth is all societal norms are arbitrary.  They change and evolve over time. They are different across cultures. They are different across ages and generations.  They are arbitrarily set by us! Or rather by those with the most social power.  We are living in interesting times. Current clashes over gender norms and LGBT rights reflect the socially powerful feeling the encroachment of those long considered socially weak.  The fact that multi-million dollar J. Crew has jumped into the middle of the pool along with its powerful marketing arm and brand recognition to break away from the dominant societal norm has made the socially powerful very uncomfortable.

So I say again – Hooray for J.Crew!

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