Crossing the Gender Lines…In Onesies

Take a look at these shirts, and think about whether or not there’s any question as to which gender baby they’re meant for:

For some perspective, these are all onesies that I found in the baby girls department of a major retailer. They’re all available starting in newborn size. Now, I love a funny kid shirt as much as the next parent. My kids have been known to sport such gems as “Boy Genius”, “Charm Courtesy of Dad”, “Peace, Love, and Cookies”, “Kickin’ it Preschool”, etc. What bothers me is the readiness to cast newborns into roles of what we deem desirable for their gender…from birth. The idea of gender roles and gender norms for children is something I’ve been interested since I took my first child psych course as an undergrad. As recently as 100 years ago, there was virtually no distinction between clothing for male and female babies. Babies were all generally dressed in white (easy to bleach!), and all wore gowns (easy to change diapers!) and since having a separate nursery was uncommon, the world of “nursery decor” was pretty much non-existent. The whole idea of casting babies and toddlers into very distinct and rigid gender roles is…new. (As an aside, if you’re interested in reading about this kind of thing, this article is a great start!)

This all makes me wonder why we, as a society, started to differentiate infant genders not only by color, but by literally printing gender-specific traits onto clothing for our babies. And perhaps more specifically, when did we agree to stick our daughters in shirts that proclaim them to be tantrum-throwing, boy-crazy, and materialistic little divas?

All this line-drawing between boys and girls really bothers me as a parent. I happen to have a son who is a fantastic shopping partner. He even carries my bags into the house for me! Where is his “Mommy’s New Shopping Buddy” shirt? Can you imagine the looks I’d get if I put him in the one above? In recent years, the diving line between pink versus blue has seemingly taken over the baby and child world. Why? My theory is that the world of marketing plays a strong role. Since there are almost no gender-neutral baby clothes out there anymore, aside from neutral layette designed for parents who opt to keep their baby’s gender a surprise, parents are practically required to buy two wardrobes if they have both a son and a daughter. Even jeans come in very specific boy and girl “fits” starting in infant sizes. Regardless of the reasoning, it’s getting more intense all the time.  Even my not-quite-three year old can identify “boy things” and “girl things” when we’re out shopping. I’d guess that even younger children could do the same. I do wonder sometimes about the subtle messages we are sending our children in our recent quest to keep the genders separate. Let’s let our kids be kids!

13 thoughts on “Crossing the Gender Lines…In Onesies

  1. Those onesies are horrendous! I complain to Carter’s all the time about the stupid saying on the boys’ shirts ~ but the girl ones are even worse! Ugh…..

    Yes, let’s let clothes be clothes and toys be toys and stop the gender pushing.

    1. Yes! Ohhhh man. Don’t even get me started on all the camouflage on baby boy clothes! I don’t want me infant sons to look like they’re headed out hunting! Yes yes yes.

  2. Great article Sarah. We struggle with this issue, especially since our almost 6-yr old boy wants “fancy” clothes like his 2-yr old sister. Sadly, sparkly pink shoes on a 6-yr old boy are bound to cause some undesirable comments at school. I even had a dad make snarky comments when my son was 3 and we were buying a kid-sized dustpan and broom at a toy store. I try to avoid T- shirts with graphics on them altogether, but it’s a challenge! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject!

    1. They are so similar! Nate is the same way. I personally do not care what he wears (he wanted hot pink crocs haha), but I worry a lot about bullying and comments at school, so I squelch it most of the time…which seems silly and unnecessary, because it’s just a color, for pete’s sake! That’s so upsetting about the dustpan incident. Ugh! Thanks for the comment 🙂

    1. HAHA! That onesie is AWESOME. Adult clothes are separated, but they (fortunately, haha) make women’s clothing in more colors than pink and purple. And though I maaaay have bought myself a tutu for halloween in an adult size (my “friendly witch” costume for work hahahha), it’s not so overtly “look at me! look at me! I’m a girl!” haha.

  3. I can’t figure out if it’s the influence we are exerting on them or if it’s just an innate draw towards all things girlie/boyish… my daughter suffers from having a mom who is a tomboy and a twin brother who is bigger than she is. As a result, ALL of our toys early on used to be boy-focused (trucks, trains, cars, dinosaurs) and she used to wear his hand me downs because by the time he was out of them, she was ready to wear them. However, recently, she has been revolting, telling me she wants princesses, sparkly and frilly things, and all things pink. This is not through my influence; although, if she wants them, of course I will give them to her when the time is appropriate (she asked for a baby doll and sparkly shoes for Christmas, for example). I do believe that some of this is truly just a gender preference that is perpetuated by what society pushes as being “cute.” It’s fascinating.

    1. I have two boys and I still have one of each! One who loves fancy things (re: princessy) and one who is into superheros hahahaa. I have no idea! I think it may be something biological, but also I think it’s seeing what the other kids are up to. I was a tomboy, too hahahaha…

  4. I couldn’t agree with you more. It is sad and disturbing, and truly a set up for our children. Regardless of the values we work to instill at home, there is so much working against us. I love all the new online botique’s working to undermine the strict gender roles in clothes and toys.

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