Several months ago, I was standing in Carter’s, looking at a display of mix-and-match t-shirts and pants for my girl. I was brought to the store because I get the Carter’s e-blasts, and one that particular week featured a very cute spring shirt with insects on it. Glow-in-the-dark graphics of centipedes, beetles, grasshoppers, and a magnifying glass, all on a bright sea glass green shirt. I had to have it.
I was homeschooled through my early school years. My sisters and I attended “enrichment classes” — a co-op with other homeschoolers in which the parents would teach various elective classes like Spanish, choir, animal kingdom, cooking, etc. My mom taught a class about insects, and so she earned herself the nickname “The Bug Lady.” When Stella sees a bug she doesn’t like, we talk about how much DeeDee loves bugs and how there’s not really anything to be scared of.
So back to Carter’s. I want this summer shirt, and I want it in a 2T. But I can’t find it anywhere, wanna know why? Because I discover it’s not on the display for girls. It’s a boys shirt.
Compare the two displays: the girl clothes are all flowers, sparkles, hearts, pets, and little doodles of fashionistas going shopping, while the boys’ feature dinosaurs, transportation, and sports. (Read on about sexist trends in children’s clothing). Why do we insist on telling the youngest, most impressionable members of our society what colors they’re supposed to like, what themes they should be drawn to, even what interests or jobs they could expect to have when they grow up?
I wholeheartedly reject the idea that anything beyond male or female anatomy is “boy stuff” or “girl stuff.”
For the record, I bought Stella that bug shirt (and my sister bought it for her daughter, too). SURPRISE, girls like science! Sometimes girls even have aspirations beyond being a princess. Believe it or not, some want to be entomologists, paleontologists, or astronauts.
You may have heard that recently, Target removed gender-based labeling from its toy, home, and entertainment departments. All that that means is that toys, bedding, etc are no longer labeled as for “boys” or “girls.” So a boy can go choose a nice house cleaning play set, and a girl could buy some Transformers and decorate her room with footballs.
The backlash to this has had me pretty furious. There are a lot of people out there who think this is really, really bad. So many comments declare that people will take their business elsewhere and no longer shop at Target… all because boys could buy a fashion doll and girls could play with cars. Friends, this is not a big deal. It should not scare you that your girl wants to play with tools or your boy wants to enjoy some FurReal Friends. (For the record, the children’s clothing section is still labeled as boys and girls, due to sizing and fit differences between the two.)
As it turns out, my daughter has gone through these phases: tools and fixing, dinosaurs, cars, and now human biology. She is really into STEM. And that’s great. This is not an issue contrary to Biblical principles. Stella is not in some sort of jeopardy if she grows up to be a mechanic or a sports reporter.
My job as Stella’s parent is not to tell her what she should or shouldn’t be interested in. It’s not to tell her “you’re a girl, so here’s some princess toys, some ponies, and pink-and-purple Lego. Knock yourself out.” My job is to create some basic boundaries for kindness, safety, and the like, and then just sit back and watch her as she grows, to see what she’s interested in and nurture it,
whatever it may be.