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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.

Comments

( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
dynamicgirl
Apr. 2nd, 2014 02:15 am (UTC)
I'm in the 10%, too.

And I certainly think that dressing in pink (nearly) 100% of the time does impact on 3.

Because it sends a message:

1. You can't be feminine unless you're dressed all girly
2. Clothes matter to public perception
etc

Our girls are often seen in cargo pants and red shirts or jeans and navy blue tshirts. One now has a bob, but the other has short hair, so people always assume she's a boy. But even in pink, people assume she's a boy. And my partner's family, in particular, think we are bad/wrong for not 'girling up the girls'.

With 2 boys and 2 girls, I'm all for gender neutral, but I have noticed that it's easier to be gender neutral with girls than it is for boys. This is in part due to our style (love Buzz Lightyear, or rocket ships, or stars, rather than flowers) and in part because we do worry a little about the sons of lesbian mums wearing 'feminine' clothing. Which is an awful thought and probably makes me as bad as the mums only dressing their daughters in pink!

We do have pink tshirts for both our boys, but they're pink polos and quite masculine polos. My Dad has a pink polo. My butch female friends have pink polos.

But whenever I reflect on this issue, I do feel that 'gender neutral clothing' works well as a mother of a girl. It means putting her in blue and red and not pink and purple and frills.That's my natural inclination, anyway. I need to get more comfortable with it as a parent of a boy. So this would mean putting them in pink, purple and frills, right? Or is there another way around this? Because that's not my natural inclination.

That said, there are NO boy/girls toys in our house. Everyone's playing with the kitchen. Everyone's playing with the dolls. Everyone plays with trucks, cars, computer games, pushing prams and so on.





Edited at 2014-04-02 02:19 am (UTC)
ant_fugue
Apr. 2nd, 2014 02:48 am (UTC)
We buy from both sides of the store, too. Can't get rocket ship pajamas for my future engineer (according to her!) any other way!
smittenbyu
Apr. 2nd, 2014 03:01 am (UTC)
with you on this one too...

I remember shopping for "winter" in India. Apparently girls don't wear pants even when cold out. The store folks actually said, "oh you are looking for boy's pants?" huh?! So, for all my trips I take pants/leggings with me that are not PINK!

D has always shared that she likes ALL the colors. And her clothes reflect that. People do share that stores sell what people want. They use the which came first - chicken or egg explanation.

BUT when D is asked in public what color item she would like, she will fight for the one Pink one available! One store cashier offered her a choice of a pink color receipt or the yellow one, and D went for the pink one and he felt so satisfied that his guess was right! uggh! lol..My friends look at me amused knowing how detached D really is with pink. They pat me on my back and wish me well for teenage years to come! sigh....
astrogeek01
Apr. 2nd, 2014 03:10 am (UTC)
Man, *I* have started shopping in the other side of the store for *me*. Jerks.
mrs_dragon
Apr. 2nd, 2014 03:20 am (UTC)
This terrifies me. I try really hard to understand how other people operate. To be understanding, patient and kind. But I do curate this kind of nonsense right out of my "friends I hang out with" list. So it is so easy to forget just how prevalent this bullshit is. It's always a smack in the face to realize just how stuck most of society is. *buries head in sand*
shutterbug
Apr. 2nd, 2014 03:35 am (UTC)
I just wrote a terrible poem about this.

Yes, I am completely behind you on all this. I can't believe you were called a cunt over it though. Wow.

I will also note that for the last few baby "girl" showers, I have given the gift of nerdy, gender neutral onesies that no one except the parents have appreciated...because I know my friend.
aparecida
Apr. 2nd, 2014 04:35 am (UTC)
Ugh. I couldn't. Just... No. I'm amazed you managed to not, like, explode.
athene
Apr. 2nd, 2014 05:11 am (UTC)
We shop both sides of the store too, but we mostly stay on the boys side. Cause it has cooler clothing that I like and doesn't have silly cuts or puffs on the sleeves. However, we do have a Hello Kitty shirt and two different tutus. And girls pants tend to be cut slimmer which fits our skinny guy.

Also, why are all the cat things on the girls side and the dogs on the boys side? My son loves our cats and he loves the kitty pjs we found for him on the girls side.

You know what I HATE? The "Mommy's little helper" "Daddy's little princess" "Grandma's little man" sayings on the shirts. Ok, the "Daddy's backseat driver" i liked cause that was funny, but the rest are so extra awfully gendered. UGH ugh ugh.

And now he's in uniforms at school and those are seriously gendered - boys in pants, girls in dresses. I have a post about that for my own blog I keep meaning to write.

PS. When Little Prince was a baby I could have him dressed in blue from head to toe with a blue shirt that had trucks or something else "masculine" and probably a dumb saying on it and people would still tell me what a cute girl I had. Cause he has soft features and long, dark, curly hair. So obviously people totally look past the "this is a boy/girl" clues people dress their kids in.
aryanhwy
Apr. 2nd, 2014 05:51 am (UTC)
My experience has generally been that it's not the clothes people look to, but the hair length. Since Gwen didn't really have much hair at all until 2, and now, and 2.5, still has short wispy hair, she gets "he" quite often regardless of what she's wearing.
easter
Apr. 2nd, 2014 03:49 pm (UTC)
We bought our niece slogan shirts: "Daddy's Little Feminist" and "Future President" and "This Princess Saves Herself!" (complete with old-school Super Mario graphics). I hate those other slogans too though.
browngirl
Apr. 2nd, 2014 05:13 am (UTC)
You have such an excellent attitude. I would have left that group in high dudgeon with a parting shot along the lines of "Have fun raising your daughters to be slaves!"

(Needless to say, I agree with you.)

(also, Richard Pryor was right.)
aryanhwy
Apr. 2nd, 2014 05:51 am (UTC)
I'll admit, I've bought more pretty dresses than I ever expected I would, given that I have a daughter. But to my credit, almost none of them are pink (I wholly heartedly embrace purple, as it's my favorite color!) (but I do wish I could find more clothes in green). My rule for clothes shopping is guided more by "no licensed characters or inane slogans -- in either German or English" than by color/style, as I find that filters out most of the undesirable clothes, style-wise, anyway.

Over the weekend we went to Toys'R'Us to buy Gwen a bike, and we stopped by the shoe section since she's so tough to buy shoes for I figured if we found something that fit, we'd get it. She happily tried on almost all of them, and clearly expressed a preference for a cheap pair of red sandals decorated to look like cars. Yesterday when I dropped her off at daycare, I heard that her shoes were the hit of the room on Monday, that all the kids wanted to see them and try them on!
lepid0ptera
Apr. 2nd, 2014 06:07 am (UTC)
I'm honestly surprised you got backlash for dressing girls in "boy" clothes. Where I am from it's pretty common.

What isn't common, however, is dressing boys in girl clothes. I have a robot shirt that has pink in it for my son, and some slippers with rainbow robots that include a pink robot. And that's it.

It's not because I personally am not willing to dress my son in pink, but rather my husband is against it and... pretty much everyone else. My mother in law is a paediatrician and once told me that cross-dressing children was "pretty much the worst thing you can do to them" (referencing a case where she was called a mother sent her kid to school in a dress). She's already accused me (to my husband) of abusing my kid (because there was a tiny bruise on his face at 9 months where he pulled the vacuum cleaner over on himself) so frankly I'm not willing to risk it, spousal objection aside.
athene
Apr. 2nd, 2014 02:15 pm (UTC)
Wow!

My son had a pink Hello Kitty shirt when he was younger. His dad raised an eyebrow, but came on board as soon as he saw just how our son's eyes lit up when he saw the shirt for the first time.
smittenbyu
Apr. 2nd, 2014 05:51 pm (UTC)
wow really...cross dressing in India (under 4 years old) is so common! Everyone dresses up their kid whether girl or a boy as Krishna (the male Hindu idol). At least back when we were growing up! heck I remember we dressed our 13 year old cousin (boy) in a sari and make up and all. He willingly partook in the fun!

your story is so sad though. :(
tabloidscully
Apr. 2nd, 2014 09:21 am (UTC)
A little conflict and honest talking is one thing. Going to the level of attacking how you dress your kid, calling you a bitch and a cunt? That's something else entirely. I'm glad you learned from it, but when slurs get thrown, I check out, personally. I wouldn't expect a person of color to engage me if I slurred them over a difference of opinion in decorum.
sailorgarnet
Apr. 2nd, 2014 01:09 pm (UTC)
My girl refuses to wear anything that isn't a dress, refuses. That being said, it's her choice, not mine (although I was the same way as a little girl, still would be if circumstances were a bit different, I find I am not taken as seriously if I'm in a dress....so sad) , and she prefers blue and green to pink and purple. I say let her be as girly as she wants now, cause she probably won't have the luxury of choice in the matter as an adult. (Again with the not being taken seriously in something soft and floaty). I do draw the line as another commenter said at characters and slogans. (She can wear character jammies but that's it) I have several reasons for that though: I hate paying a premium to give anyone free advertising, those clothes tend to be cheap feeling and look tacky, and I want my daughter's personality to shine, not that of some writer who thinks they're clever or some pre-fab character.

If she goes through a stage where she wants "Boy" clothes, that's fine with me too (maybe even better, cause with this winter, it's been rough keeping her warm enough in tights/leggings under said dresses).

I am so glad I didn't find out her sex before she was born, cause now I have gender neutral things, no re-buying for #2. I found even my friends who begged for non-gendered showers...once that cat was out of the bag, EVERYTHING they got was pink or blue.

easter
Apr. 2nd, 2014 03:46 pm (UTC)
It's "Ruffling Feathers" to dress a girl-child in gender neutral clothing?

Oh Jesus Christ. Some people are just too stupid to exist. And I'm a "BITCH" (which is passive-aggressive code for ohmygodisawomanwithanopinion) because I will never in a hundred thousand million years fit in with the Facebook Mom/Women crowd who comments "Sobbing" or "Tears" on every emotional link posted or otherwise finds a way to show off just how much more emotional/sensitive/compassionate and in touch with their feelings they are, who jumps on every mindless, pointless bandwagon to "raise awareness" by wearing arbitrary colors that no one understands because so many people will be wearing green or blue or pink that day/month anyway without it meaning anything special to them, and dressing my child the way people who can't tell the difference between your and you're are instructing me too and on and on and on.

People are weird. I have a core group of super smart friends who don't stand for this nonsense any more than I would but on the whole there's a reason I'd rather chill with my husband and pets.

Edited at 2014-04-02 03:51 pm (UTC)
altamira16
Apr. 2nd, 2014 06:40 pm (UTC)
Boys want sparkly shoes.
(Deleted comment)
jackiechloe
Apr. 3rd, 2014 02:20 am (UTC)
A waiter once scolded me for dressing my 5 month old in blue. He was offended that I was "confusing her." (No, dude, that's just you.) Funnily enough, the blue she was wearing was one of her few "actual girl outfits": pastel with sparkles, ruffles, and a bow.

That baby will be four this week. She now wears pink probably five days of seven, usually in clashing shades and patterns. But the waiter was kinda right: she is a little confused about gender. Yesterday while we were getting ready for a shower she told me, "When [baby sister]'s naked she looks like a boy. Except without a penis. Like somebody cut it off."</p>

So see! If it's not wearing pink, how can you tell?!?!

meemo506
Apr. 7th, 2014 12:14 am (UTC)
I was never told my clothes were too boyish and I kinda just wore whatever we found at garage sales growing up. Same with my brother, though as he went to school and was bullied by teachers and students for being sensitive and sweet (ie not manly enough..at 6 yrs old), my mom was more careful about putting him in "boy" clothes.

The only exception was girly clothing with butt ruffles. Show my mom a onesie or a dress or pants or whatever with ruffles on the backside and she will lose her shit over how cute it is. Babies should get fashion cues from flamenco dancers in her book.
aliki
Apr. 10th, 2014 01:40 am (UTC)
This post resonates with me today, because I took Amelia to the grocery store today, and despite me using the terms "SHE" and "AMELIA" and "HER", because she was dressed in navy blue and is in a blue infant carseat, the cashier repeatedly said "HE" and ended our conversation with "best of luck with your son!"

Erika is now 4 years old (tomorrow) and picks her own clothes, and it has decidedly swung very "princess girly" though I suspect it's environmental/cultural rather than biological because she does say annoying things that I correct like "boys dont like pink"
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )

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