“I can’t wear this to school, it’s a boy shirt!” my daughter Violet whined. We were in the middle of the usual morning madness that is our routine these days and I had picked out a blue dinosaur T-shirt for her to wear.
“What? BOY shirt? That’s ridiculous! How is this a boy shirt?” I asked, knowing full well what her answer would be.
“It’s blue and it has dinosaurs,” my daughter swiftly replied.
“But, you love dinosaurs … ” My voice fell silent as she tossed the shirt on the floor and began rifling through her drawer for something else to wear.
She’s only in the first grade and she’s already sorting colors and interests by gender despite all my best efforts. I partially attribute it to all the trips to McDonalds when I’m exhausted and desperate and the bored cashier asks, “girl toy or boy toy?” (C’mon McDonald’s, get with the program already!)
The burger giant should take a cue from Target, who recently removed gender labels from toy and bedding sections, as well as issued a statement saying, “suggesting products by gender is unnecessary.”
Still, one look at the kid clothing sections of Target (and other similar retailers) shows an abundance of extremely gender-specific clothing.
“If it’s not pink, then it’s not for a girl,” Courtney Hartman tells Mashable about the children’s clothes she sees when shopping for her children. But Hartman isn’t just complaining. The mom took action, starting the gender-neutral baby and toddler brand, Jessy & Jack.
“We are trying to be a resource for parents to find clothes that don’t fit the mold,” Hartman tells Mashable. “We get inquiries saying ‘I can’t find a dinosaur shirt for my daughter or I can’t find something pink for my son.'”
With the success of Jessy & Jack, Hartman turned her attention to older kids as well, launching Free to be Kids, which sells T-shirts that “balance out what is in boys and girls clothing sections.”
Hartman has also joined forces with eight other mom-owned small businesses to launch the #ClothesWithoutLimits campaign which makes clothes that “defy gender cliches,” Hartman told Babble.
“We believe the clothing options children see send them messages about what they are allowed to like, and who they are allowed to become. And we think kids should have clothing options that reflect their wide range of interests,” Hartman continued.
Not only that, but Jessy & Jack is also a proud participant in the Changing the Face of Beauty campaign, “which advocates for equal representation of kids of all abilities in advertising and media,” according to Hartman.
Right on! Empowering kids of all abilities while showing children vastly different ideas of beauty. It’s time to break away from marketing kids’ stuff with ad campaigns seemingly straight from the office of Don Draper circa 1957. There’s nothing wrong with pink clothes for girls or blue for boys, but continuing to feature stereotypical boy things in stereotypical boy colors will only reinforce those old gender clichés, instead of recognizing and inspiring our children to maintain their personal interests — regardless of gender. All stores have to start offering toys and clothes that reflect things that children like without filtering it through gender.
“Kids should be able to like whatever they want,” Hartman told Mashable. “They should be empowered to express themselves in whatever way feels right to them.”
Yes! A million high fives, girlfriend! My daughter shouldn’t feel discouraged from liking robots and dinosaurs because the color of clothing options available tell her these are boy things.