Why I buy my son clothes from the "girls section". This is not a feminist rant, this is merely a rant from a feminist.
You wouldn't believe my delight upon hearing that Next were selling baby clothes with Raccoons on. If there is any product that needs anthropomorphism to brighten someone's day then it's baby clothes.
And what with raccoons being natures bandits, this seemed like a conveniently accurate representation of my tiny terror. We already have clothes for him adorned with zebras, lions, whales, bears, dogs, elephants and what seems to be a crocodile dinosaur hybrid. But raccoons was something new. I couldn't resist the dungarees and matching coat. The only problem (other than the fact we spend more on baby clothes a month than our mortgage) was that the clothes were hanging in the girls section, 5 feet away from the boys section. Being the maverick that I am, I bought them anyway, surpassing the camo patterned boy equivalent or the sleepsuits with cars and tractors on. The saleswoman didn't bat an eyelid, we talked about Ozzy and how 'he loves to wear animal clothes'*. Then we were on our way. I posted a picture of these online. Several friends with sons also went and bought them, one even saying she had them for her 2 year old daughter and hadn't thought about getting them for her 2 month son, but wanted to now. Oz is quite the trend setter.
However, simply because these were hanging in the girls section, many boy mums had either not seen them or not considered the fact that buying them was a viable option. When clothes shopping for the baby, I always do the rounds in the penis-free section too incase there are any hidden gems that he might be able to wear without feeling too emasculated (and feeling emasculated is something which of course can be very damaging for small babies, who still can't even hold their own heads up). On a side note - why are the raccoons pink? I feel that this is a great inaccuracy. I'm all for whimsy, and maybe they're embarrassed about their troublesome bandit ways, but it has caused quite the stir. Perhaps had they been sporting cheeks flushed with a more blueish hue, they could have earned a place in the boys section. Let's see what next season has to offer, perhaps yellow elephants just to confuse everyone? **
It made me wonder what thought process we go through when buying clothes for our children who are unable to choose for themselves. Are we attempting to define them by what we dress them in? I certainly don't mean to mould Ozzy to be something I want him to be, rather than who he will naturally become, but someone has to dress him for now and it's feasible that subconsciously we dress our babies in what we think they should wear, rather than what they should actually wear.
I reached out to my wolf pack #teamnovemberbabies on our Facebook group, to discuss this topic. I asked for their general thoughts, how they dress their children and whether shops should have separate boys and girls sections for babies/children. Below are some of the comments I received on my post, and my thoughts on these.
- I bought my daughters outfits from the boys section because they were more fun. I wouldn't put a boy in a frilly dress, but there is nothing I wouldn't put a girl in. I would definitely support an all in one section.
Agreed, generally so called girls clothes are more flowery and 'pretty' with the occasional cat or gentle animal, whereas those labelled as boys clothes tend to have the more ferocious animals and the symbols indicative of adventures.
-I let my daughter wear Spiderman wellies but I wouldn't feel as comfortable with my son wearing Cinderella ones. It is an issue, I wish it wasn't and I wish we didn't pay attention to it, but I think we do.
Great honesty here. First step to breaking down barriers is to recognise that they are there in the first place. It most certainly is an issue, next step is to work out why.
-I think we as parents are probably trying to avoid baby boys being singled out, we might not mind them being head to toe in pink, and neither will they, but other people may not be so enlightened and so we try to protect our little ones from them.
So, I think this goes two ways. Of course our maternal urge is to protect our babies from the comments of close-minded idiots. Especially when the babies are old enough to understand, be upset or God forbid be influenced by these comments. But I think I have the other maternal urge, the feisty fearless one. I love a bit of an argy bargy with a stranger, and I would happily dress Ozzy in pink if I wanted to, take him out into the world and be ready with my rude retorts when people comment "oh a boy? I thought he was a girl because of the pink you see. You might try dressing him in blue next time to make it easier". I don't dress my baby so that people can identify what sex he is without removing his nappy. I dress him to make myself happy. Or on some days just to keep him warm. Why do strangers need to know what sex he is? It's still the same comments and questions regardless. 'What beautiful big eyes". "What a big baby, I bet that hurt". "Does he sleep through the night?". Or my absolute favourite, "Is he well behaved?". He hasn't robbed any banks just yet (although he could help to fund my clothes shopping addiction if he did). Regardless of a P or a V, all strangers really want to know is how he is fed and how he sleeps. There are many qualities I have myself that I hope he doesn't inherit, but something I absolutely want him to be is feisty and strong. He will dress however he wants, not give two shits what others think and be prepared to tear anyone to shreds with his razor sharp wit if he needs to (assuming he doesn't instead develop his dad's sense of humour which is mainly centred around puns and dog memes).
-I think children should wear comfy, practical clothes.
Simple enough really, and should possibly be more of a priority than choosing nice looking outfits. I am definitely guilty of dressing Ozzy in impractical footless rompers and needing to find socks and therefore sock-ons, when it would have been far easier to stick him in a plain sleep suit, especially as he will ruin it with sick or shit before lunchtime.
-My nephew's favourite colour is pink, which shows that it is society that drills those gender stereotypes into us.
Yup. Sadly, it might not be his favourite colour in ten years because he may well be conditioned to think that it shouldn't be. Things might have changed by then, we can only hope. Or his tastes might just change on their own. I used to despise the colour orange until last year, and now I desperately want the orange coloured Bugaboo Buffalo.
-Children should not be gendered by clothing, toys or any other material items.
This says it all. I won't bore you with the story of the pram purchase, but the saleswoman was most intrigued as to why we didn't want blue for a boy. I would have thought the colour choice is more for the one who pushes the pram, not the one bundled up inside it. We ultimately chose a practical grey but it has since broken and as above, I now desire an orange one.
-I just like what I like, more personal taste than gender related.
This. Why don't we all just live by this. Then when the babies are old enough to decide what they like, then they can use their personal taste instead. I am sure that when I buy for Ozzy it's my own personality coming through, especially as I can't buy myself nice clothes anymore because most things aren't breastfeeding friendly, and if they are, they probably don't fit my strange new shape. I felt my hips spread in labour and they never went back, so until I pluck up the courage to buy a whole new raccoon patterned wardrobe for myself in a slightly different size and fit than before, I will be channelling my desire for bright animal patterns through my mini-me instead.
So that is what I did, I bought the raccoon outfits because I just really fucking love raccoons.
I would absolutely love to know your thoughts on this in the comments below, how do you choose your childrens clothes? Do you shop in both sections?
*I know that he doesn't know what he wants yet, granted, but I thought I'd make an educated guess...
**Apparently Next do yellow elephant sleepsuits in their unisex range. Well I'll be damned.