April 1st, 2014

planet

that time I got into an online fight about gender-neutral clothes

pinterest.com I promised my sis I'd blog about this one, so here goes.

I'm in a birth club for women who had babies the same month I had Olive. Usually, I love them. We're a small-ish, tight knit group on facebook. We're past the honeymoon period, the "getting to know you" bs, we've had fights, we've aired our differences, we got over it and stick together and are totally nice. well, except sometimes.

and one of those times was when I let my bitchy feelings be known about another member who'd been in our birth club since the beginning, but with a mid-april due date which I'd always thought was weird. so when she left because we were just being too dramatic and everyone was falling over themselves to cry over it, I posted one of those entries that starts with "I realize this might make me sound like a BITCH..." (and, well, you know, let it out)

They all let me have it, one person said I was truly a bitch, another one said no I was a cunt, etc etc etc and then finally someone said:

"Oh well as long as we're being honest, don't you have a little GIRL? Why are you always dressing her like a BOY?!"

(Related quote: "Only 3 types of people tell the truth - kids, drunk people, and anyone who is pissed the fuck off." - Richard Pryor)

I hadn't actually posted a pic in a while, so I was shocked that I apparently stuck out in someone's memory as being unable to dress my child "correctly". and she wasn't the only one! several of them jumped on the bandwagon to attack me for being either 1) a bitch or 2) a clueless parent or 3) both, since maybe these things are related?

I let the dust settle a smidgen before explaining that yes, I try to dress my girl in colors besides pink and purple.

They asked why.

I gave three reasons:

1) My style. I like airplanes and space rockets and you just don't find that stuff on the girl side of the stores.

2) Anti-materialism. Salespeople probably love that we buy two of everything... got a pink one? well for a boy that just won't do! When Josie was born we didn't know if the NEXT kid would be a boy or girl, we didn't want to buy all new stuff. Now I have two girls, but it's nice when friends need hand-me-downs I've got something for everybody because I tried to keep things neutral.

3) Feminism. Honestly, I think it's bad for kids to raise them in little "boxes" from birth, to tell the girls that these colors are for them and tell boys these other colors are for them, that we have these distinct roles that should never come together. We ask ourselves why girls don't become engineers... I don't think it's a coincidence. I think it's all connected. We tell them to stick to our comfort zones, to the areas labeled "girls", before they're even born, then wonder why they don't suddenly venture out at the magic age of 18 when it's time to pick a college major? Girls don't naturally love pink, it's a social construct, 90 years ago babies were almost all dressed in white gowns, blue was associated with the Virgin Mary and pink was a light shade of red which was masculine, so you can't tell me girls are wired this way.

I feel like the responses I got reflected a great deal about how the "normal" population feels about this issue. Very few people backed me up, which explains why the stores keep gendered clothes so separate... most people want to dress their babies according to what society deems is normal for their sexes.

Many of the moms were with me on points 1 & 2 but not #3. They didn't think it was pushing an identity to dress your child in one color. They would dress their girls up like princesses, but still give them blocks to play with and if the girl asks for trucks when she's older, she'll get them. What's the big deal. These moms were most likely to ask me why I wanted to "ruffle feathers" by dressing my baby girl in blue sometimes... don't I know that someone in a store will ask "what's his name" and then feel bad if I tell them "her name is..." Why mess with society, they're asking.

On top of that, there were some who disagreed with me on all points. They truly believed that "girls need to be girls" and "boys need to be boys". A LOT of them felt like girls are indeed wired to love pink and baby dolls and hearts and making no money later in life, and we should not be pushing them on some other "agenda". These are the same moms who believe boys should be raised as little leaders, heads of the household, no need to learn to fold laundry or love babies. These strong traditionalists definitely outnumber the feminists. No surprise to me there.

So it seems the population is 90% all for dressing kids very separately, and merchandising departments love this so they're going to encourage it, and that's where we're at.

I know most of you reading this journal are on my side, and wonder why baby clothes have to be so divided up by sex. We role our eyes at "gender reveal" parties that color-code everything and draw wide, harsh assumptions about a baby based on what bits just got picked up on an ultrasound... "princesses or trucks!" "guns or glitter!" "figure skater or linebacker!" we find these things scary.

I put dresses on my baby girl, sure. Almost of our "gift" clothes are traditionally girly, with ruffles and sparkles and no rocket ships. But sometimes we dress her in clothes we found on the other side of the aisle. And we let our older daughter know that when we're buying clothes she can go for whatever fits. She's almost four, and definitely has her days when she wants to be full-on princess sparkly. She's got the dress up clothes for it, we gave in. But I feel slightly better feeling like she might have picked them for herself, not because we brainwashed her from birth to notice what was and was not "for her". Or if she was influenced by friends, at least I'm there on the other side saying it's okay to wear a space shirt that's black. The princess side WILL infiltrate no matter what I do, so I might as well do my best to provide some balance.

I told my birth club moms thanks for the opinions, and apologized to the one I'd bitched about, and I still believe that it's healthy for women to have a little conflict and talk honestly. They're still my ladies. The experience was one I learned from. It certainly gave me some answers about why my store choices were so weird. That's what we get from talking these things out.