Is your child wearing the uniform?

By kate on November 7th, 2007

Today I was at a local community center with Ruby and noticed something. There were 12-15 children playing in the room, and every single girl except Ruby was wearing pink (at least some pink – most had a whole top or bottom that was pink). Every boy was wearing a blue top or bottom (even if you overlooked jeans), except one boy who was wearing green and grey.

My aversion to pink is nothing new. I don’t wear the color myself, and Ruby rarely does. I realize that’s an extreme position for something as basic as a color, and wouldn’t fault someone for including pink as part of a balanced wardrobe.

And that’s where the trouble starts. It isn’t balanced when 90% of children are wearing a single gender-appropriate color. Many girls have a wardrobe with pink on every outfit. Boys get slightly more freedom, being allowed some greens and greys with their blue. It’s as if, when a child is born, he or she is assigned a uniform that must be worn at least until adolescence (and beyond, for many). Take a moment to consider how you’d feel if some larger power insisted on a uniform for your child, one that every other child would also be wearing. I bet you’d feel angry and want to resist.

Anger is just how I feel about a society that not only thinks this system is OK, but actively encourages it in every way. I won’t even get into what the girl outfits and boy outfits could symbolize; I’m just mad about the conformity, the mindless acceptance of the blue/pink hegemony. About sending your kid the message that it’s desirable to be exactly like everyone else.

The good news is that, while it’s hard to avoid, the blue/pinkness is not yet mandatory. It is possible to shop for your child on the girl and the boy sides of the store. I’d say at least half of Ruby’s clothes are boy clothes (although I avoid the irritatingly masculine as I do the irritatingly feminine). There are a few enlightened clothing brands (Zutano is an example) that use all colors and don’t force everything into girl/boy categories. I have also had great luck at consignment stores finding items that are interesting and colorful.

If you have any kids, please take a minute and just think about whether you are unquestioningly pushing them toward conformity. There’s nothing (much) wrong with a frilly pink princess dress. But there is definitely something wrong when every dress is pink, or when every outfit features some kind of sports equipment or large vehicle. Mix it up a bit. Do it for my sake, so that when Ruby is old enough to want to conform, it won’t all look so pink.

Here’s a great article
from The Guardian this week about the pink phenomenon. My favorite quote: “If pink is understood to be the colour of the female genitalia, then maybe hooray for it, but the male genitalia are even pinker and the rectum pinker still.”

Filed under: consumerism, parenting, pop culture
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8 Responses to “Is your child wearing the uniform?”

  1. Laurel Says:

    Just for this I’m going to wear my blue and red t-shirt with angry bear on it (found in the boy’s section of course) tomorrow.

  2. Eric's Mommy Says:

    You are so right!
    I think it is much easier with boys because their clothes are pretty normal, Eric’s are all long sleeve t-shirts and jeans, which is what I wear most of the time too.
    I can see how girl clothes are much different. I have a friend with a little girl and she was angry because she went to get her jeans and all they had were flared hip huggers with sparkles or flowers all over them, for a baby!! She was under a year at the time!

  3. Jessica Says:

    You will be so excited to hear that I have a friend with a four year old daughter that wants to wear nothing but black. Her parents completely support it but are perplexed by a sudden change from pink being number one to her now favorite: black.

  4. kate Says:

    Cool! Ruby actually looks really good in black (since her eyes are so dark).

  5. imaginary dana Says:

    Great article, Kate. As someone who hearts wearing pink and red who is about to have a baby daughter, this issue is particularly amusing, as I find myself thinking… no, not THIS kind of pink stuff, phooey! But THIS pink stuff? Awesome!

    And definitely lots of stuff like THIS.

    But certainly not pink — or anything else — every day. How stifling. At least till she can start choosing on her own. Then all bets are off.

  6. megan Says:

    a friend gave us baby gap jeans – while they are in no other way particularly irritating, they are actually labeled “skinny”. size 12 – 18 months. skinny jeans. natch, they do not even approach fitting our luscious lovely.

    and as for pink… (“but she looks lovely in pink!” my mom says) – I have made many of her clothes from our cast-off favorites. and everyone compliments us on our cute little boy; I guess my hand-me-downs are kind of butch. I usually say something about preferring gender ambiguous clothing and they scuttle away, fearful for my child’s future.

  7. kate Says:

    Everyone seems so terrified that people will mis-identify the gender of their child. And when people called Ruby a boy, they were VERY apologetic when I told them otherwise. I don’t understand the big deal here…

  8. LauraMac Says:

    Random meanderings on the topic of pink and blue: My monkey, at 2, now has enough hair that she needs a clip to keep the hair out of her eyes. At the Gym today she was tumbling with the best of them in her long-sleeved truck t-shirt and a clip in her hair. The funniest conversation happened between the instructor and another little kid. The instructor was saying “did you see Ryan do that great roll? He’s working his muscles” and the kid says “uh…there are clips in her hair. I think she’s a girl.” followed by the instructor saying “but he’s wearing blue and he has a boy’s name.” The little kid walked off saying “no no, it’s a SHE. She’s a girl! She’s NOT A BOY” Ryan was sitting right there and no-one thought to ask her. I wonder what she would have said. I think she would have said “I RYAN!” Which is fine by me. I love that my baby is a little girl. But I *really* love that she’s Ryan.

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