Now that I’ve got a daughter, my latent feminism has once more shifted to the forefront of my thoughts, and today I’ve got a bone to pick with the messages that get slapped on wee ones. I’m not talking about the classic pink and blue divide, because don’t get me wrong, I love pink: my bedroom growing up looked like a bottle of Pepto had exploded all over the walls, complete with a frilly canopy bed and rosebud wallpaper trimmed in kittens. (Give me a break; my parents let me redecorate in the middle of my 11-year-old hopeless romantic phase, and they wouldn’t let me change the walls the rest of the time I lived at home…which could explain my obsession for painting every place I’ve lived as an adult…) Sure, we could go on and on about the way the color coding of kids’ products reinforces gender stereotyping (“girl” toys, anyone?), but what’s really on my mind today are the messages that children are covered in from birth.
When shopping for clothes for my ever-growing girl, I’ve found shirts and onesies printed with the words “adorable”, “little princess”, daddy’s little girl”, and “sweet”, just to offer a small sample. And yet when I skim the offerings that are for “boys” (what, because they’re blue??), I get messages like “little genius” and “here comes trouble”.
So, what the clothing companies seem to be saying is that girls really are sugar and spice and everything nice, while boys are both brilliant and holy terrors.
Yes, I know there’s no law that says my daughter has to wear clothes labeled as “girl” (and I was totally going to buy the “little genius”, but it was sold out in her size), but the fact that we slap these labels on our kids from birth has got me thinking about gender expectations and creation. I don’t want my daughter to grow up to hate pink (I have to admit, she looks pretty good in it, given her coloring), but I also don’t want her to think that only boys can bring trouble or be geniuses. She’s going to be who she’s going to be, but I’m trying to be aware of how I might unintentionally send a message to her that I expect her to be a certain way. Sure, she can’t read yet, but in our house, that’s not far away, and when she notices the words on her clothes, I want her to feel limitless and empowered, not tucked into a cute little box.