When my third (and last) child was born, my husband handed our baby to me and shouted out in total pride, “WE HAVE A DAUGHTER!” It was a moment that I’d been waiting years for, especially after the wild ride of having two boys. It wouldn’t take long, though, before the boxing-in of gender messages would hit us at home.
My daughter’s first gifts were all pink dresses. Piles of them. And her first toys were mostly all dolls, with pink and frilly dresses of their own. It was kind of depressing, to be honest. So much so, that I put most of the hot pink loot into storage and let my daughter hang out with the same toys her brothers played with. Still, the lasting undercurrent of worry that gender stereotypes truly are alive and well gave me pause — and it still does.
Vancouver-based lifestyle blogger Janette Shearer knows exactly what I am talking about here. Shearer, who manages the blog Ava to Zoe, was recently out shopping when she came across a T-shirt for young girls that flipped on her inner mama bear switch; and it didn’t take long before she took to Facebook to vent her frustrations.
In her post, Shearer shared an image of the white T-shirt in question. Shiny gold letters adorn its front, spelling out the message, “I’d rather be late than ugly”. (Yep — you read that right)
“I’m so appalled that this is a message we send to our girls,” wrote Shearer in her caption. “Shame on this brand for even making this shirt!”
She continued on, with a heartfelt reminder to parents — and retailers — everywhere:
“Sometimes we don’t even realize how the things we say affect our kids; so be gentle with our children, not even just the girls but our boys too, for they will grow up to be the men who help shape our world … Let them be strong, smart, independent, motivating, captivating, funny, brave, and all those other words that don’t imply that our worth is in our appearance.”
Amen to that!
The shirt was found at a retail chain called Winners, though Babble’s request for comment has not yet been returned. It’s also worth noting that a quick Google search shows that this particular phrase is plastered all over products everywhere, which is kind of disturbing when you think about it.
Speaking with Babble, Shearer says she hopes the point of her post is heard loud and clear, so that retailers are pushed to be more mindful of the products they sell and the messages those products send.
“As a retail store or clothing designer, you have this incredible superpower to help mold our children into the next generation of kind, powerful, strong humans,” Shearer tells Babble. “The messages you print [and] the styles you share influence our youth. Really think about the audience [and] consider the message you’re sending. Is that truly the footprint you want to leave in this world?”
Shearer’s Facebook post has sparked some pretty rich discussion among parents, who have reacted strongly in the comments. But that’s no surprise to Shearer.
“The Ava to Zoe community has always been about providing people with a safe place to voice themselves,” she tells Babble. ” … the good, the bad and even the crazy knowing they’re never alone. And ultimately sharing this image [and] my message my readers showed me that I too wasn’t alone!”
In the end, Shearer hopes most of all that the good messages we send our kids crowd out the not-so-good ones society often sends.
“Let’s teach them that beauty is not something we put on each day, but something we rock daily without even trying!” she says.
Hmm … now if only someone would put that on a T-shirt.More On