I recently had a baby. Derek and I named our girl Samantha. Ohmygoodness, we’ve loved getting to know her over the past few months. It’s been such a wild ride.
When we outgrew all of the baby clothing that was gifted to us early on, I started shopping for new clothes. It’s a little overwhelming to pick out clothing for a baby that grows this quickly! (Maybe that’s all babies?) How do you pick out something for the spring when you have no clue what size clothes she’ll be wearing?
But I digress. I’ve noticed a lot of gender stereotypes since I started shopping for baby clothes. It’s absolutely fascinating.
Here’s what I’ve noticed: baby girl clothing is almost exclusively various shades of pink. The clothes come with sayings like “sweet” or “precious” or “cute”. The animals on them are fairly docile or feminine, like a cat or unicorn.
Clothing for baby boys is usually in more powerful colors like reds, blues, and greens. Words on the front are much more empowering, such as “brave” or “hero”. (Although, they often reinforce antiquated ideas of masculinity.) The clothes also usually have masculine things like trucks or dinosaurs on them.
Look, I’ve got nothing against pink. I actually adore ribbons, bows, and girly things. I was a tomboy, yes, but I do love to relish in girlish stuff.
It’s just … I don’t want my baby girl to have such a binary experience – especially starting at such a young age. I think it’s dangerous to continue passing along gender stereotypes. For both boys and girls.
I feel that it’s equally dangerous to tell a girl that her only value is being sweet or cute, or a boy that his only value is being adventurous or brave.
We exist outside our stereotypes, whether they’re gender-related or not. It’s weird to me that we reinforce these ideas for babies who are so new to the world. I hope to continue researching this to find more on the subject.
In the meantime, you know what I’ve been doing?
Shopping for relatively gender-neutral clothing, especially in the boy’s clothes section. I’m not afraid to put that in writing, either. I’m a little annoyed and fed up with the stereotypical stuff available for girls.
I hope that by exploring gender norms – and how dangerous they may be – that the people in my life will learn to love and accept any expression of one’s identity. It’s time we learn to love someone for who they are, not just the gender the person chooses to represent. That’s really important to me because I pick out my baby’s clothes and I want options that are empowering, not limiting – even if she’s too young to appreciate it. That way, when she’s old enough to pick out her own clothes she can do so with confidence and not feel like she’s limited a single expression of femininity.
When I put her in these relatively gender-neutral clothes, people comment on them in the funniest ways:
- “What is she wearing?!”
- “Why is she wearing boy’s clothes!?”
- “People are going to think she’s a boy!”
I honestly can’t stop laughing.
The clothes are not boyish. If anything, they’re gender neutral. They’re just not pink and maybe that’s what makes them appear masculine?
Plus, what does it really matter if she’s mistaken as a boy? She’s a baby. Everyone that knows and loves us also knows that she’s a girl. Who cares if a stranger thinks she’s a boy? They’re strangers. (Besides, people don’t look too closely, anyway. My dog was always mistaken for a girl because I put him in a preppy pink collar. And you could actually see his genitalia.)
The whole thing is entertaining. Although, I imagine that’s a position of privilege. I don’t really worry about looking like one gender or another, or fear for my life because of it.
If you want to see someone who explores gender you should follow @raindovemodel on Instagram. We met during HB2 legislation (aka: the “bathroom bill”) in North Carolina. I was so grateful to have a drink together.
What do you think?
I’d love to hear about your experiences dressing your kids, where you shop, and what reactions those clothes have gotten. I’m really not dead-set against anything pink or girly. But I do keep an eye out for more gender-neutral and empowering clothes for kids.
Would love to hear from you. Use the comments to share what’s on your mind.