To: Mass Clothing Manufacturers.
Re: Shirts With Douchey Phrases On Them.
Stop being stupid. Please. JC Penney, you stepped in it with your ridiculous “I’m too pretty to do my homework” t-shirt. Forever 21, you managed to offend feminists and mathematicians alike with this poor excuse for fashion. And now, Gymboree is peddling sexist idiocy to babies with onesies that remind us boys are “smart like dad”, while girls are “pretty like mom”. It seriously sucks. My pretty brain implores you — just stop it.
The article exposing Gymboree’s assholery, goes on to reveal other items that are available exclusively for boys. Outfits with messages like “Daddy’s Little MVP” and t-shirts that feature Smart Like Dad Beaver being smart and doing math – pressumably like dad.
As stated in the title of the piece, these items do reveal something about the way Gymboree thinks about girls. Meanwhile, the fact that most people accept these pieces as being exclusively for boys, says something about the way we think about gender.
Clicking through the slideshow of Gymboree’s offending items, you’ll notice that while some of the outfits refer to “Dad”, none of the clothes feature any gendered words that refer to the child itself. The clothes are designed in shades of blue, grey, green and brown, with patterned fabrics like stripes and checks.
Here’s the thing. I kind of like Smart Beaver and his never seen father. They sound like my kind of guys – brainy, mathy and bespectacled. The Green Bean does have a very clever, mathmatically inclinded father. That onsie would have been cute and topical on his baby tushie. But I have to wonder. If I had a daughter – it would have been just as cute, just as topical – but would the presence of green plaid and pants have stopped me from buying it?
Generally speaking, people like gender. And while extreme examples like the ones given here get people rankled, the truth is a lot of people, myself included, feel unsettled when gender isn’t up front, in your face and clearly identifiable.
Most babies are androgynous looking. And the clothing segment of the Baby Industrial Complex responds by designing garments that rely on the most common gender tropes. Everything marketed for girls is pink, purple, patterned with soft, swirling lines and laden with hearts, swirls, flowers. Conversely, clothing for boys is blue, green, dark and covered with trucks, balls and clever, clever rodents. And most caregivers – myself included – rarely switch that up.
When The Green Bean was a few months old, I had him out and about, when I stranger stopped to coo at his wee sweetness. “What an adorable little girl,” she said. It was remarkable because it is the only time, thus far, that someone took my boy for a girl. I thought about correcting her, ultimately decided there was no point in embarassing a stranger who would likely never see The Bean again. A few days later, I told the story to a family membe. They were affronted. “How could anyone think he’s a girl? He so clearly looks like a boy!”
“Maybe it’s only clear to us because we know he’s a boy,” I suggested.
“No. He looks like a boy.”
“He was wearing a pretty frilly outfit at the time,” I explained.
“What colour was it?” my family member demanded.
“Blue. But frilly.”
“That’s a BOY colour!” she concluded.
Meanwhile, the seven-month-old Bean in question could not have cared less about any of this. Babies rarely care about gender. They care about drooling and acquiring gross motor control.
So why do grown ups care so much? Why can’t a baby girl have the words ‘Genuis’ across her chest in dark plaid or wear a bib that says ‘Milk makes me strong’ in blue? Why do we, as adults, need people to know at first glance that this baby is female but that one is male. Is it because ultimately we’re still going treat an infant dressed in pink and hearts differently from decked out in blue and beavers?
For the issue of clothing and negative stereotyping is cut, dried and filed away under “Suckpants”. As for the rest of the laundry pile, there’s a lot more to think about. If you have any thought about children’s clothing and gender stereotypes, I’ll be checking my comment section like an eager beaver!