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Seeing Green

Monday, June 17, 2013
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Dear Miriam,

Is there such a thing as gender-neutral baby clothes? I'm trying to buy gifts for friends who are expecting, and everything is either pink or blue, covered with ruffles or covered with phrases like, "Mommy's tough guy." I'm years away from having kids myself, but it freaks me out to think that kids have such gendered expectations put on them from birth.

Signed,
Seeing Green


Dear Green,

When I found out my second child was going to be a boy, I went through all my daughter's clothes to pull out the gender neutral ones. I ended up with a pair of gray pants, a sleeper with owls on it, several white onesies and an orange shirt I later realized had a pink bow on it. It would not be paranoid to suggest that all children's clothing designers got together and made some sort of pact dictating how our children should dress. The exception is newborn clothes where, if you are brazen enough not to find out the sex of your child in advance, you're allowed to prepare for the birth anyway by purchasing yellow or green clothes.

Boys' clothes tend to be more muted, and girls' clothes are often brightly colored to the point of being blinding. Girls get pink, purple and glitter, while boys get a whole lot of navy blue and brown. The gender distinctions go beyond just colors, too. From my very unscientific exploration of this subject, it seems as though the animals featured on clothes are divided by gender, too. Girls' clothes have cats, birds and bunnies. Boys' clothes have whales, tigers and dinosaurs. Ducks, being yellow, and frogs, being green, are prominently featured on newborn gender-neutral items. Butterfly = girls, caterpiller = boys. Monkeys, dogs and teddy bears get equal representation, but some have bows in their hair. Girls' clothes feature cupcakes, boys' feature monsters. Girls get balloons, boy get trucks.

You can, of course, ignore these societal pressures and dress your kid (or your friends' kids) however you want, but it's way more complicated than that. My daughter, when wearing her robot tee shirt, gets mistaken for a boy, but the correction gets laughed off with a tomboy label. When I accidentally left the house with my son covered in a pink blanket, the reactions were much more accusatory and bordering on ridicule. 

Another factor seems to be that the more afforadable, more readily available clothes follow these gender "rules" very diligently, maybe even define the rules, while harder-to-find, more expensive brands break the rules a bit more. One brand that I especially like is Zutano, which has a whole gender neutral section on its website. The stuff is adorable, but it's certainly beyond the Carter's price point. (Full-price Carter's, by the way, is not actually so cheap, but you should never pay full-price, since TJMaxx, Marshall's, Burlington, etc, always have an extensive selection.) If finding gender-neutral clothing is a priority for you, though, and especially if you're giving one or two items as a gift instead of furnishing a kid's wardrobe for an entire childhood, some diligent shopping or googling will yield some good options. Just look for the green teddy bear riding a truck while eating a cupcake.

Be well,
Miriam

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