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Jaden Smith 2014 American Music Awards

Source: Jaden Smith 2014 American Music Awards (Photo by: Charley Gallay/AMA2014) / Getty

Last week, 16-year-old Jaden Smith stepped out in Calabasas, California, wearing a little black dress over jean shorts, a netted top, leopard print socks and Nikes, reports Yahoo News.

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On Tuesday, the son of Jada Pinkett-Smith and Will Smith, and brother of Willow Smith, posted a photo of himself on the Gram, with the caption:

“Went To TopShop To Buy Some Girl Clothes, I Mean ‘Clothes.’”

And then on Thursday, the Hollywood teen tweeted a message about his LBD clothing choice saying “That Moment When Your Wearing A Dress With No Pants And You Swerve Way To Hard [sic]”

Now. This makes some folks uncomfortable. Many gave kudos to young Jaden, but more than a few had some nasty things to say about his gender nonconformity.

But the question is why? Who says that boys have to wear pants and girls dresses? Who does this binary notion of gender really serve?

What about it that makes some of us squirm when folks (especially young folks) deviate from gender norms? If you have a visceral response that could be read as negative, ask yourself why.

Is it because it’s always been done this way? Or that it’s “weird?” Let’s unpack that. Don’t white folks use the same (flimsy) arguments about segregation and interracial marriage?

In a recent CNN article on Gender Inclusive schools, Graciela Slesaransky-Poe, dean of Arcadia University’s School of Education in Pennsylvania, and mother to a gender non-conforming child, broke it down about moving past outdated notions of gender:

“This is the reality in which we live: Gender is a continuum, not a box,” she says. Slesaransky-Poe advocates moving towards a more fluid acceptance of gender expression in the year 2015. “We need to be sure we don’t create structures and artifices to reinforce binaries that limit and constrain the ways in which we behave and express ourselves.”

Which is a fancy way of saying that gender as we know and express it now is very confining and can be harmful to children who don’t fall neatly into categories.

But back to Jaden. He reportedly had some interesting things to say about clothing in terms of doing it just for attention. He told Billboard as reported by Yahoo News: “All black is pretty much my go-to look. If somebody is just wearing something for the blogs, that’s really sad because they’re not living for themselves, versus someone wearing a kimono who’s having an awesome time. I really look to see, do you care more about what other people think, or are you having fun?”

Speak on it.

Jaden Smith Dons A Little Black Dress. Does That Make You Uncomfortable? Why?  was originally published on