Until I became a parent almost eight years ago, I had never thought much about gender in children clothes and toys.
I grew up in the early-80s burst of bright solids and stripes for everybody, of dolls marketed at boys, and of that awesome Lego ad that assumed girls build stuff too. Fast-forward a few decades and we’e in a different reality. Like so many parents of my generation, I was genuinely surprised by how gendered simple things like clothing options, toy packaging, and book marketing are now. The world of children seems to be more openly sexist than it was twenty years ago. Popular blog Sociological Images has a whole collection of exy toy makeovers and the world of kids clothes is distinctly divided into pink and blue.
Adults support that difference by claiming it just atural little girls naturally want to be fancy princesses and pretend to clean the house, while little boys naturally want to ram their trucks into other people heads while definitely not wearing nail polish. Many adults also think the small-people exaggerated gender performances are cute. The result is that my husband can wear a pink shirt to work and think butterflies are neat without anyone batting an eye, but our preschool-aged child quickly learned that he wasn’s supposed to like r wear ink, purple, aqua, flowers, butterflies, ruffles, or anything else bright or pretty.
Products manufactured for children today are typically either for girls or for boys. This is overwhelmingly true of clothes. Shopping online at Old Navy, I quickly learned that you cannot simply view all the available pajamas. You must choose irl or oy before you can see any products at all. This pink vs. blue divide is reinforced by surreal irl versions of what seem like totally gender-neutral objects: a pink Scrabble set, for instance, or a sparkly globe. That way, if you have both daughters and sons, you get to buy two of everything! Capitalism hates a hand-me-down.
Shopping across the oy irl aisle helps, but it an imperfect solution. At least in my family, we aren’s any more enthusiastic about our sons wearing Too Pretty to Do Homework, So My Brother Has to Do It for Me or 淧retty Like Mommy t-shirts than we would be if we had daughters….