I was deliberating over what to write about this month when I went out with a friend this week and got myself caught up in a 20 minute rant (lucky her) on the state of the children’s fashion industry. Transpires it is this, and this alone, that I have the strongest of opinions on when it comes to parenting. I know there are atrocities all over the world that arguably deserve stronger reaction from me than the amount of pink in the girls section of Next, but I am genuinely concerned about what we are dressing our children in! Well that isn’t entirely true. We can dress our children however we like. If a parent wants to dress their little girl in pink tutus and glittery t-shirts covered in butterflies of course that is fine. If your little boy loves cars then of course you want the jumper with Lightening McQueen on. But where are the blue t-shirts with kittens on, and the pink pjs with trains?
I have written, and rewritten, this entry a couple of times now and rather than sending in a the scribblings of a crazed person – which is how it started out – I have tried to break it down. For me it comes down to this…
1. Choice. Or remarkable lack of. What if your little boy loves the colour purple? What if your little girl wants to be a pirate rather than a mermaid? Then you are left with three options. Saying no and dealing with the disappointment. There are so many times we have to say no to our children why are we adding this to the already extensive list? You could dress your child in clothes for the opposite sex (Heaven forbid) and look like you are making a political point – or intentionally make the political point of course. Or, you can pay through the nose for ‘alternative’ unisex clothes – even this only goes as far as dinosaurs on dresses or a London bus on a pastel blue background. Unisex clothes really means putting girls in trousers or darker colours, never boys in dresses and pastel pink.
2. Division and stereotypes. Animals should be unisex yes? Kids of all ages love animals, but even here there is a gender divide. I want to meet the person who decided which animals were suitable for girls and which were more suited for boys. From what I can see it comes down to predator/prey. I find this very concerning. Is this really the distinction we want to place on our children? Aggressive animals; sharks, dinosaurs, tigers, bears, lions, dragons hang on the rails of the country’s boys’ section. Can I be the only one who finds this concerning? Girls’ clothes comprise mainly of woodland creatures, or baby animals – nothing with too many teeth, unless it is a leopard. Leopards are fine. Mermaids, princesses, fairies, unicorns are all acceptable too. I have even seen a cactus patterns minus the spikes, and we even have a top with a rounded off hedgehog. It would be a terrible thing for our girls to even know what a spike is lest they prick themselves and fall into a fitful slumber only to be jolted awake by a slobbery kiss from a man she’s never met…
3. Sexualisation of our children. Babygrows with the words ‘look out ladies I have arrived’ and swim suits with deep v-necks for two-year-olds. No. Why oh why does stuff like this exist? People may argue it’s harmless fun, but one day our children will be adults. One day the harmless fun will not be fun. One day these attitudes could have a sexual element. I am uncomfortable exposing my little girl to this side of life before she can even talk.
4. Perpetual cycle. Is it parents who crave these clothing styles so the clothes companies and their marketing teams just give us what we want? Or do we buy these things BECAUSE THERE IS NOTHING ELSE ON THE GODDAMN SHELVES? We all fall into the trap, I have been in toy departments and heard the sad phrase ‘no you can’t have that, that’s for boys’. The offending article? A green scooter. Why wasn’t that little girl allowed to roll around on that? Shop assistants can also make it harder for parents to break down the barriers. When my daughter starting walking I got very excited. First pair of shoes. A parenting rite of passage. Yes! I went to Clark’s and was dismayed at the glitter and pink. Again, I don’t have anything against glitter and pink – just when it is the only option. So, I sauntered over to a cute-as-a-button pair of plain navy Doodles when the shop assistant came rushing over to inform me I was in the boys’ section. ‘Oh,’ I said, ‘do girls and boys feet develop differently?’ She looked at me incredulously, like I was the one who was mad. ‘No,’ she said. Of course they fucking don’t! Wearing blue shoes makes my daughter no less of a girl, just like a boy wearing a pair of shoes with ice creams on is still a boy. Needless to say I didn’t buy anything from the shop.
Please don’t think I am against pink, or dresses, I am writing this with a pink jumper on. The difference is I chose this jumper for the fit, the geometric stag head on the front, and the dusky pink suits my skin tone. I chose this jumper from a rack of many other jumpers. It wasn’t my only option. Every time we go shopping for our kiddiwinks we are barraged with options that only seem to separate them from the very second they are out of the womb. If we were less divisive with our children so early on in their lives maybe it would be easier for teens and adults to make up their own ideas about their identities rather than being told what was feminine or masculine by the material they are told to put on their bodies. Maybe.