What follows is a parenting rant. I know, I know. This blog is about sustainability, but I really feel the need to post this. For those of you out there who are wrinkling your noses, I promise to make it all connect in the end.
I’ve never considered myself to be super girly–no eyelash curlers or painted fingernails for me, thank you. But then I found out I was expecting a little girl, and people started giving me all these adorable outfits.
Most of the outfits were pink, which at first I resisted. After Little Bear was born, though, I could see the advantage of having an infant girl wardrobe that had lots of pink: I didn’t have to worry about a diaper leaking poop onto the one pair of pants that matched her little yellow shirt because all of the pink matches. Easy! Even Keith can dress Little Bear in matching outfits when all of her clothes are pink.
But then she started eating solids. And crawling.
Now I get it. There is a gender bias in clothing. I theoretically knew this from various readings in women’s studies, but now I’ve watched it play out, and it’s not just about color associations or stereotypes or emotional responses to certain colors. Allow me to show you.
Figure 1: typical boy’s outfits
(Pictures from Carter’s website, boys section)
Anyone see a theme? These are all the color of grass and dirt. We dress our boys expecting them to get dirty exploring, running, and playing.
Now, compare with Fig. 2: typical girl outfits
(Pictures from Carter’s website, girls’ section)
People, can you imagine what a romper like one pictured here looks like after an 11-month old crawls in it all day?
I realize I’ve selected certain examples–obviously, not ALL boys’ clothes are dark, bold colors, and not ALL girls’ clothes are light colors or white. However, there does, in my experience, seem to be a definite trend.
This isn’t a revolutionary discovery on my part. Of course our gender biases influence our responses to our children, but before I had Little Bear, I didn’t realize how ingrained those responses were…and how much they were based on what she was wearing. I’ve begun to bite my tongue often.
“Don’t grab those raspberries! Momma will feed them to you.” “Don’t go off the sidewalk into the dirt!” “Don’t touch that puddle!” These are all things I’ve wanted to say in the past week, but I have restrained myself…though I know there are times I have let such no’s escape.
Should Little Bear be prevented from tactile exploration of the world just because I know that raspberry stains won’t come out of her light pink onesie? I wonder how often we teach our little girls “don’t touch” and “do worry about what you’re wearing”?
I haven’t stopped dressing Little Bear in cute clothes, but I do have a rule: no clothes are sacred. She shouldn’t miss out on crawling around on the floor with the boys just because her clothes are lighter colors than theirs.
The “no clothes are sacred” rule is helped by the fact that I hardly ever buy her new clothes. Second-hand clothes are abundant, cheaper than new ones, and more environmentally sustainable. Thanks to generous friends who give us hand-me-downs and awesome thrift stores, used clothing fills Little Bear’s drawers. I don’t feel bad or make Little Bear feel bad about stains.
While cute clothing is fun, the utilitarian function is the most important! Moreover, true suburban pioneering is about sharing, community, and preventing waste. It’s a win-win!