Thursday, August 30, 2012

Get with it, already!

Earlier this month, Port Macquarie mum, Ana Amini lodged a complaint on Target's Facebook page about their 7-14 year old girl's range making little girls look like tramps. This comment received resounding support from parents on Facebook with tens of thousands of 'likes' and 1000 similar comments. I caught up on the news about this event on ABC's The Drum that evening and was shocked by the responses of the panel of The Drum. They blew this mum's complaint off as 'just another social media beat up'. The consensus was that if parents don't like the clothing offered at Target, they're not forced to buy their children's clothes there (of course, this was said by people who earn 100K per annum and can afford more expensive clothing stores). Parents can vote with their feet by shopping elsewhere (if they can afford to).

The issue with this is there seemed to be an attitude that offering only a restricted choice of items to children which forces them to appear sexualised didn't seem to bother anyone.

I've heard similar complaints from parents regarding colour choices for both boys and girls. The vast majority of girls clothing is pink, or purple. Yes, there are other colours, but they are few and far between. Most stores are the same no matter the price range offered.

For boys, the colours are neutral, or red, navy and green. Occasionally there might be an item in yellow, or orange or even pink - with a stupid and obvious slogan like, 'Tough boys were pink!'... These are often also emblazoned with monsters or skateboarders or superhero characters, in case anyone makes the heinous mistake of confusing the 'little bloke' with a girl - l'horreur!

This morning I saw this article about a German dad who started wearing skirts to show his five year son, who loves to wear dresses, that there is nothing wrong with a boy wearing a dress! Ironically, it is okay in much of the world for men to wear skirts and dresses, it is even national dress in some places.

It's just that in our Western Culture we have this narrow Imperialist view of what is acceptable, and we believe that only women and sexless men (monks and Catholic priests) wear dresses. We're stupid like that (and we're always forgetting the Scots are part of our Western Society).

German dad with his dress loving boy.

Earlier this week Bryn took his amber necklace off and refused to wear it to school anymore.

The amber necklace was a gift for his seventh birthday. He's asked for one for weeks and weeks because he really admired Ari's. After only two weeks of wearing it at school, he'd discovered the hard way that 'boys don't wear beads'. The Grumpy Old Man and I tried to tell him that some kids don't know that everyone can wear whatever they want, but he didn't want to have a bar of it. The shaming he'd received was more powerful than any support we could offer him. It was just an amber necklace for crying out loud!

In the end, all this 'Blue is for boys, and dresses are for girls' seems to me to be about putting gender roles in little, very, very separate boxes - and I think it stems back to homophobia and it makes me sick and sad!

If girls want to wear Ben 10 t-shirts, we have to label them 'tomboys' so people will understand 'she's still a girl, she's just not a girly-girly', things are a little harder for boys, they can't be 'marygirls' and because it's not okay to be a 'girly-boy' - which is both offensive to boys who like dresses and pink and, god forbid, beads and also offensive to girls, because it infers that there is something wrong with being like a girl... Are girls less than boys? Is being a boy who likes 'girly stuff' somehow less of a boy...

Is it okay to be a 'tomboy' if you're a girl because aspiring to 'boyish stuff' is somehow understandable - because boys are the best, right? Actually, I think it is more acceptable, on the whole for girls not to be girly, because, you know, being more androgynous or masculine makes you a tough girl which is, you know, more like a man, and men are what everyone should aspire to be like, right?

No, of course not, I hear you all cry, but just think about the messages we send out children!

It's all so screwed up, really. If a boys wants to wear a dress, let him! If a man wants to wear a dress, LET HIM! Stop labelling things as belonging to 'the feminine' and 'the masculine'. Get that these are human constructs, and as such, they are mutable and can be changed if we want them to change - and I think a lot of us do! Stop shaming little children for not buying this narrow, scared little view of the world!

Get with it, already!


Jayne said...

What an amazing dad!! That's fantastic!! It's about time society dropped ALL of the staid gender stereotypes it likes to perpetuate.

I've always thought its ridiculous that males 'can't' wear dresses and skirts while women can wear anything.

I do have a huge problem with that Facebook comment about the Target clothes making little girls look like 'tramps' though. that sort of language is antiquated and deeply gendered.It's the same old slut shaming rhetoric aimed soloed at females and serves no purpose. Besides, I've looked at the Target clothes and I really like some of them. I was just thinking before that furrow erupted that I'd like to take Miss S shopping there-except she has too many clothes already and I have no money.

Completely agree re the narrow range of boys' clothes though. Boring boring. Why not just have 'kids clothes 7-14'. -stock. Dresses, skirts, shirts, tops, leggings, stockings etc etc and let kids decide what they like without the arbitrary gender constraints being enforced upon them?

Jayne said...

Stupid auto correct * aimed SOLELY at females. *Furore erupted. And include shorts, pants etc in kids range. In ALL colors of the rainbow!

Sif Dal said...

LOL, as I said on Twitter, I haven't looked at Target girls clothes this season - though you're not the first person to say you like them - my purpose in bringing this incident up was to show how quickly parents concerns about stereotyping of children's clothing (girls being sexy, boys being tough) is fobbed off, even when the complaints are in their thousands and very public. The use of the word 'tramp' was unfortunate, but plays accurately into the concept of women being projected as sexually available from childhood, and then being condemned for it, even when society set them up in the first place.

Sif Dal said...

I'm constantly getting compliments on Ari's skinny jeans, and what most people don't realise is that I had to go into the girls section this winter to find those night bright purple and turquoise ones, the boys ones were - surprise, surprise, indigo blue (of course, for summer, boys do have a bigger range... green, mid-blue and red, no candy colours for boys...). When buying the bigger boys skinny jeans (btw, skinny jeans came to be when men started wearing their girlfriends jeans), no one wanted the red, which mean one boy could have mid-blue and the other had to have indigo - both wanted mid-blue, so I took Luey into the girl's (which he was fine with) but all the girls skinny jeans were glittery and he wasn't keen to push the socially acceptable boundaries that far...

Jayne said...

Yeah I wouldn't have been so annoyed by it if she'd been more thoughtful with her wording 'overly sexualised' for example, rather than a derogatory word for females who dress a certain way. I still don't agree in this particular case but still. Yeah it's stupid how they assume boys don't want to wear bright colors :/ Well, mine doesn't really, but then, he's been socialized (by society, his father, peers etc) not to as well...

carmen said...

Very well put hon. I agree wholeheartedly. I try to teach our children to accept people as they are and who they are inside... never on what they wear.

Good Job!