Saturday, June 16, 2012

What is Happening?

I am just going to say it: shopping for my daughter makes me sick. Any kind of shopping for her takes hours longer than it does for my son. For him, I can avoid the more violent toys and the just plain gross t-shirt slogans easy enough, (His favorite toy is anything to do with the alphabet and the last shirt he picked out was a talking hot dog wearing a hat. He laughs hysterically every time he sees it.)  but what is happening in the girl arena really should be alarming to more people.

I realize that the gender stereotyping in clothing designs and toys goes both ways. Boys are supposed to ascribe to the hyper-masculine, stud genre (last Valentine’s Day, I kept seeing this Casanova shirt pop up, and many of the toys, video games, movies cartoons geared towards boys push violence and dominance)but what is happening to our girls is really troubling.

I have meticulously shopped for my daughter since she was in the womb. Many of the baby clothes I had on hand were just that: baby clothes. Many colors and prints: practical for what she would be doing. I held on to everything from my first child, but they were not born in the same month, so many of the clothes were off seasonally, and we had moved across country by then, so a warmer climate rendered many of the winter clothes useless. I spend hours scouring stores and the internet for not only deals, but clothing that was not just pink. I had no plans to tape a bow to her head so people knew she was a girl. I do not care if someone cannot identify her sex by her clothes. I look for variety. I avoid clothing that is impractical for a baby. Stores are filled with ruffles, glitter, sparkles and shirts that say “daddy’s little princess” or “I’m pretty and I know it”, and it is nearly all pink. Baby rompers for boys have shorts made for crawling and moving and the rompers in the girls section have elastic bands that ride up and hold tight across the thigh. Why do children this age have such different clothing? Babies eat, sleep, and poop. Then they begin to sit and crawl and stand and walk. They fall down and bounce and move. Why do the clothing options for our girls restrict this? It only gets worse. From thongs and string bikinis for toddlers to other increasingly sexualized short shorts, skirts and halter/tube tops as our girls grow, the market is flooded with clothing that puts the focus not on what is comfortable and appropriate for active play, but what “looks good”.  

If you move on to the toy section though, I am not sure anyone thinks girls participate in active play. If you are not sure where to look for the toys I am referring to, the nauseating flood of pink will point the way. There are toys that are for certain considered “for girls”. I see no problem with toys that aid in the development of nurturing skills (for boys and girls alike) but I truly cringe (mini rant coming) at the thought of buying my daughter or son a baby doll. Turn on the TV and flip to any talk show, and you will eventually find an episode where they are talking to a young girl about how she is trying to get pregnant so she can have a baby that will love her unconditionally. Why are baby dolls the only way to teach a child about nurturing? We play with stuffed animals in our home. My son spent a few weeks rocking his tiger when his little sister first came home. I know they are not all bad, I would just prefer to address nurturing in a different way. We also have kitchenettes, Barbies, Monster High, Bratz and the sickening Disney Princess Culture that has infiltrated our daughter’s “choices” at younger and younger ages. These companies are making quite a chunk off this over-sexualization, or it would not be penetrating the market as completely as it has.

So they are telling our kids that violence and dominance is manly, and that babies and beauty are feminine.  Boys are active, girls are pretty. Boys are Casanova and girls are teases. TV and movies reiterate this often. It is pressed upon our children from the earliest of ages. Is it any wonder that rape is so prevalent?

In summary, I ask this: Why are clothes made for girls tight, restrictive and impractical for play when clothes for boys are active wear? Why are the toys marketed to our girls mostly beauty focused and pinkified? Why are colors suddenly not just colors but boy colors and girl colors? What do we do about it?

I use my buying power as a consumer to the best of my ability. I purchase carefully, and I am always on the lookout for better options. Imagine what could happen if more people began to refuse to limit our children? I like options. When we are shopping, I often ask my son to pick out his own items, and you know what? It is a different color every time: red, blue, green, and yes. Sometimes it is even pink.  For now, I am making all of the clothing and toy decisions for my daughter. I know there will come a day when my children might be less agreeable when it comes to clothing choices, but I am thankful that they get their stubbornness from the master. Just ask my mom.

(***Note: I am linking to a few blog posts from the same person/company. No she did not pay me to do this, but I think she raises some really great points in these posts, and the discussions are thought-provoking as well. I am not condoning or agreeing with other posts. The mission of the company is refreshing though.)

1 comment:

  1. If you haven't read it yet, you might be interested in Peggy Orenstein's Cinderella Ate My Daughter. It is a funny and insightful read by a mother/scholar raising a little girl and it digs into marketing, fairytales, Toddlers & Tiaras, and many other issues that surround girlie-girl culture for little girls.


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