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LifestyleColumnistsBeth Whitehouse

Much ado about J. Crew

Q. What's all the fuss about a mom painting her young son's toes pink in an advertisement in the latest J. Crew catalog?

A. J. Crew president and creative director Jenna Lyons posed with her 5-year-old son, showing her painting his toenails pink, which she says is his favorite color. Critics have lambasted Lyons, predicting her son will need "psychotherapy" and saying that the ad wrongly supports "transgendered identity."

Laurie Zelinger, a psychologist in the Oceanside School District, doesn't see it that way. "I don't have an objection to something like that if it's coming from the child and it's fun," she says. "It's very important for children to experiment with a lot of different roles, costumes and imagination."

She says the boy is probably interested in the pink polish in the same way that children love to get their faces painted at carnivals. "It's really decorative, and it's a shared activity between mother and child," she says. "I think that to assume it's going to create gender confusion is really naive and overgeneralizing. He's not saying he wants to be a girl. Would those people feel better if she were using blue nail polish instead of pink?"

She says parents should allow their child to grow emotionally by permitting activities that interest them and aren't going to harm them, even if they don't fit along rigid gender lines.

"It's not a political statement," Zelinger says. "Men now wear pink ties or lavender shirts. Does that mean they are less of a man?"

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