Does gender-specific children's clothing confuse our kids?

Not long ago, I took a knitting class in which I was accompanied by a handful of other women, all 50 years or older. One student, an avid knitter, longingly spoke of knitting pink sweaters and wool headbands for her granddaughter. A pipe dream, it turned out, since the girl’s mother gave her strict orders to not dress the child in powdery, girlie hues.

It’s not uncommon for modern parents to eschew gender stereotypes. While enrolling a son in dance class was once akin to naming him Barbara, we’ve since come a long way. Our culture has become increasingly tolerant, and yet products and marketing geared toward children haven’t. There’s still an aisle of pink plastic at every toy store. As for clothes, someone please tell me why button-downs and sweater vests aren’t manufactured for baby girls, only boys.

While this divide is nothing new, recently, you may have heard of a New Jersey mother who wrote a scathing Facebook comment to Land’s End, an American clothing retailer, for selling science-inspired boys’ clothing. The mom’s daughter, a budding scientist, was left out of the equation. Instead, she was resigned to “sparkly tees with rhinestones, non-realistic stars and a design featuring a dog dressed like a princess wearing a tutu.” We all need to ask why this is the norm.

Thankfully, Land’s End owned up to the faux pas, launching a couple of astronomy-themed shirts for girls, including NASA and solar system long-sleeved tees. Now if only other retailers would follow suit.

Land's End

Sure, I get it. Androgynous clothing, while a fashion statement or personal preference for adult women, can be confusing on babies, who are typically gender-neutral in appearance. Oftentimes, you can’t determine a clothed baby’s sex without a bit of pink or blue, ruffles or a bowtie. And what parent wants to correct onlookers (she, not he) every 10 minutes? But we really need to do better by our kids.

That’s not to say that outlawing pink is the answer. Such a mandate is really only the other side of the same coin. But providing the same options to both genders is a step in the right direction. Kudos, Land’s End!

Photo courtesy Land’s End