Getting Real with Megan Gregory

Brace yourselves; some real talk is coming.

I have always been interested in gender and sexuality; it’s something I actually minored in during college at one point. When I was growing up, I was never ultra-girly. In fact, my mom says wearing frilly things or any garment with lace was rejected by my toddler self. I liked makeup early on, but I wasn’t allowed to wear it publicly until junior high, and it wasn’t really until high school that I had a decent grasp on how to apply it. I’m not saying I didn’t care about my appearance, I just wasn’t the type to wear dresses or pink or glitter. I’ve always taken a fairly laid back approach to how I look.

So, when I got pregnant with my son, I was of course excited to shop for baby clothes. Who isn’t? They’re adorable, tiny, and instant sweetness. But to my dismay, “boy” clothes were plastered with monster trucks, male Disney characters, phrases such as “Tough like Daddy”, and were grouped together with other blue and green options. I felt sad, and a little angry, because I don’t think being a boy means you have to take an interest in cars, mud, or attaining certain levels of dictated strength. Instead, I opted for plain clothes. He wore a lot of solid colors, plaid, stripes, and holiday themed outfits. Let me clarify: I am not trying to tell other people how to dress their children. I simply felt that I did not want to tell my son what characters he is supposed to like, what colors he is supposed to wear, and who he is supposed to be, simply because he was born with a penis. I wanted my son to be more than the stereotypes, and while I recognize at infancy this meant nothing to him, it meant a lot to me. I felt like I was defining him, his gender, and his interests from birth, and that didn’t sit well with me.

Likewise, when I found out we were having our daughter, the same things flashed through my mind. I didn’t want to dress her in ruffled dresses, glittery skirts, female characters, and all of those stereotypical girl things.  Oh, and nothing with any reference to a princess – I do not want to raise a princess. So, she’s worn a lot of solid colors as well and those colors have largely been teal, coral, white, purple, and neutrals.  It was strange trying to shop and avoid the color pink. I don’t understand why being a girl means loving the color pink.

Here’s the thing: I am not opposed to my son liking monster trucks or the color blue. As my son has gotten older he has expressed interest in certain things and so we’ve bought him toys and clothes to reflect that. However, it’s been his choice, not my demand.  And if my daughter decides she loves pink and glitter then that is what I will buy her, but not until it’s her decision and her personality. I just have a real concern with dictating who my children are, what they like, and how they view their genders. As silly as I know some people will find this post, and me, I see gender identity assignment happening so early and in a semi-subconscious way.

For example, this Halloween my little family of four are dressing up as dinosaurs. My husband has one of those giant, inflatable T-Rex skeleton costumes (which, by the way, made my baby girl cry), my son has an awesome velociraptor costume, I have a green inflatable T-Rex costume, and my daughter has just a standard baby dinosaur costume. Finding an infant dinosaur costume was actually more challenging than I anticipated, but I landed on a generic spiked costume from Carters. What was weird, though, was when I was looking online they only had a bright pink dinosaur costume. I didn’t like that my son had an orange costume, my husband had a black costume, mine is green, and because she’s a baby girl her dinosaur costume HAD to be pink?! Why weren’t there any other color options for a girls’ dinosaur costume? So, I checked in the boy’s costumes, and sure enough, there was a green dinosaur costume. It’s exactly the same as the pink one, except it’s green and filed ONLY under the ‘Baby Boys’ tab. It’s annoying that my daughter’s selection of a dinosaur costume was intentionally limited to a pink version. Needless to say, my daughter will be wearing a “boy” dinosaur costume for Halloween.

I am not anti-girls-wearing-pink, nor I am advocating that all boys should wear pink. I simply dislike that, beginning at birth, gender identity stereotypes are ingrained into children. I dislike that there are boy and girl sections of toys. I dislike that boys clothing references being strong and tough like daddy, while girls clothing references being cute and a princess. I dislike that when I buy the same size of shorts for my children, the girls shorts are always well above the knee (even for a baby!), and the boys shorts are at least knee length, if not longer. I dislike that boy’s pants are loose fitting and girl’s pants are tight fitting (because baby girls need to show off their figure?). I don’t like the idea of imposing adult-themed gender stereotypes on little babies and toddlers.

For those as irritated by gender-stereotyping as I am, one clothing brand I am a huge fan of is Cat & Jack. They go beyond the stereotyping I’ve been discussing, selling baby and toddler clothing with really good gender-neutral messages. I love that my children can wear stuff like “Inventor”, “Future President”, and “Smart Like Mom”. That is a message worth sending to my children, that bears no gender assignment.

What do you think about gender stereotyping in baby and toddler clothing?