Is Shiloh Too Butch?

I’m standing in line at the grocery store where I eyeball a headline blaring reports of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt turning their three-year-old into a “cross-dresser.”

Because a person’s sexuality is enough to incite a national uproar these days, it’s hard to take even the most absurd comment lightly. So when a fashion “expert” calls Shiloh Jolie-Pitt’s look a “complete shocking transformation,” accusing her of “pushing the boundaries of a tomboy look and crossing over to cross-dresser territory,” just because she wears cargo pants with a toy sword stuck in her belt, it begs for further investigation. I find that some pundits are wondering if dressing Shiloh this way confuses her gender identity.

Um, the kid is three years old.

“The neckties just put it a bit over the edge, mostly because boys themselves rarely sport ties," a statement regarding this story reads.

So a necktie is “over the edge” for a girl? No one mentioned Diane Keaton, the respected actress who manages to look stylish in pants and tie. I’ve never heard anyone refer to her as a cross-dresser; same for Demi Moore (Charlie’s Angels) and Keira Knightly (Pirates of the Caribbean).

Tatum O’Neil was 10-years-old when she defiantly wore a tuxedo and “boyish” haircut to receive her Oscar for Paper Moon in 1974. She’s had problems since, but gender identity doesn’t appear to be one of them.

There are lots of explanations for Shiloh’s “look.” My brother, a hair stylist, says the Jolie-Pitts’ choice of haircuts for Shiloh means, “they’re letting the kid be a kid.”

“It’s an easy do,” he adds, and with six kids, it’s just practical.

Also, kids follow people they admire. Look at pictures of Brad wearing a fedora, doesn’t it follow that his little girl might want to wear a hat too, like her daddy?

And not that the Jolie-Pitt kids wear hand-me-downs, but I found evidence that Shiloh and Zahara share their clothes, so it’s plausible that the girls also might wear pants that their older brothers have grown out of, since kids grow so fast at that age.

But at age three, going on four, don’t kids know what they like? Is Zahara usually in frilly dresses because her parents are trying to make her “the girl,” as some speculate, or is it because that’s what she likes to wear?

When shopping for my niece, I noticed that the boys’ department is full of clothes for running, jumping and playingpants, shorts, jackets, vests, long and short-sleeved shirts, a variety of sturdy hill-climbing shoes. Meanwhile, over in the girls department, there are five styles of dresses and no sensible shoes. Where are the cool play clothes for girls?

Personally, I saw at an early age that my brother got to go see the Detroit Tigers play because baseball was “for boys.” And the girls had to do the dishes while the boys watched football on TV.

Kids wise up quickly, so maybe this “tomboy” reaction in girls is more about wanting the privileges of being male rather than actually wanting to be male?

Some have mentioned Chaz Bono in this discussion and how as a child she was dressed for appearances on The Sonny and Cher Show. A quick search reveals that Chaz had more than her fair share of lace and sequins. I don’t see the “clues” that say she would be transitioning to a man today.

Making this out to be a gender/sexuality issue is merely tainting what is normal behavior for little kids by instilling fear in their parents. I suppose that if parents believe they have that much influence over a child’s sexual preference or gender identity, they might worry about doing the “wrong” thing; if you believe that genetics play a bigger part, none of this makes sense.

The “controversy” is probably more about the high-profile parents and finding ways to sell magazines. But unfortunately there are enough people who buy into the scare tactics that this will set off the fear-the-queer alarm.

As for what Shiloh thinks, only time will tell.


Blogger Bio: For more than a decade Laurie Schenden has covered the entertainment industry for Curve, the Los Angeles Times and Germany’s Spotlight magazine. Her cover stories for Curve magazine have included Sharon Stone, Melissa Etheridge, and the cast of The L Word. She’s also an award winning documentary filmmaker and one of the co-creators of the Laughing Matters film series, seen on Logo.