When I had my daughter, I became acutely aware of just how much pink clothing is out there, and how many bows and frills, as well. I admit, I went through a phase of enjoying dressing my new little girl up in classic girly clothes, indulging in an adorable tutu for her first birthday and everything. I quickly grew sick of the saccharine options, though. I found myself drawn more and more to the navy blues, reds, and greys, whenever possible, and it turned out my daughter’s favourite colour was blue anyways.
Then my son was born, and from the moment he was able to express his own opinion, he asserted that he wanted to be like his big sister, in every possible way. That included his fashion choices. Some parents would encourage a little boy to choose the train shirt, or the Lightning McQueen running shoes, but I shrug my shoulders and smile when my son chooses pink sparkly shoes.
I am so tired of gender-specific, gender-stereotyped clothing for kids.
Why do the truck shirts always need to be in primary colours? Why not purple or pink or aqua? Why are all the Avengers shirts in the boys section? And why is there no Iron Man shirt available in the girls’ section?
I have to wonder whether, if left to their own devices, children would choose shirts, pants, skirts, and shoes from all over the colour and style spectrum. I wonder whether, if given the opportunity to design their own clothes, children would put sequins on dinosaur patterned pants. I wonder whether every boy and girl would wear a tutu once a week, if given the chance. Instead we make these choices for them, much of the time, and even those choices are influenced by what’s actually available in stores.
Here’s my thought: why not take your kids shopping with you, and allow them to wander around in both the boys and girls sections, to find what makes them happy? Instead of saying “Oh honey, are you sure you don’t want the skirt instead of those jogging pants?” why not say, “Are those what make you feel most comfortable? Then let’s get them!” Instead of pushing your son toward the truck and monster prints, why not let them choose something pink and sparkly, if that’s what they want?
In my opinion, the only influence you exert as a parent, when you push your child toward a gender-stereotyped way of dressing, is that of limitation. A future artist may be growing inside your child, exploring the role of colour, and by limiting those choices, you’re limiting their perception of the world.
I understand that these are strong statements. I understand that there are plenty of parents out there who will say that “Boys will be boys!” and “Girls love pink!” And don’t get me wrong, there are children out there who fit into those stereotypes. That’s why stereotypes exist, after all. I’m also not advocating that we specifically avoid dressing our kids in gender-specific clothing. My son loves his dinosaur shirt, and my daughter loves her butterfly dress.
Encouraging diversity, though, is a wonderful way to allow your kids to develop their own taste, rather than caving to social and peer pressure. Maybe, just maybe, by encouraging and supporting their instinctual choices in fashion, we can contribute to raising our kids to be secure in their identities.