Turns out it’s hard to buy a boy a pink shirt

Quite a while back, I wrote about the importance of pink shirts.  Actually, that post is about how I don’t want “gender equality” to mean “girls can be like boys, but not vice versa.”  Pink shirts for boys are just one of the more obvious examples; still, it became important to me that Little Boy have one.  He’s too young to care about his wardrobe—why not offer him a wide selection?

It should’ve been so easy.  Walk into store.  Buy pink shirt.  Dress baby.  But it turned out to be a lot harder than that.

In the store, I got whacked in the face with my own ingrained gender biases.  I couldn’t bring myself to buy my Little Boy a ruffly purple shirt or a sweater with pink sparkles.  I don’t like that, I thought.  And it’s true, I don’t tend to wear sparkly ruffly things myself.  But if my child were a girl, would I have bought it?  How much was my conception of “boy” getting in the way of me purchasing some cute stuff for my kid?

It wasn’t entirely my fault.  A plain ol’ pink T-shirt, it turns out, is a surprisingly rare commodity.  The toddler boys’ section of the department store is filled with staples—T-shirts, jeans, thermals—in a good set of basic colors.  Toddler girls, on the other hand, get to choose from the aforementioned sparkly ruffly things.  “Basics” don’t seem to be a part of girls’ clothing.

After putting it off for far too long, I ordered a couple of shirts for Little Boy from Primary.com, a website promising basic children’s clothing in a variety of colors.  I still had to order from the “girls” section of the website—as if 18-month-old children didn’t all have the same body type!  And the girls’ clothes, of course, run small, so we had to order a size up.

On Monday, Little Boy wore one of his new shirts, in a pleasant lavender, to daycare.  The other new shirt is a jewel-toned pink.  They’re not the most outrageous colors in his dresser drawer; that honor belongs to the blinding plaids given by a well-meaning relative.  Nevertheless, I found myself rather unreasonably nervous.  Would anyone notice?  Would anyone care?

If anyone did notice, they didn’t care.

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7 thoughts on “Turns out it’s hard to buy a boy a pink shirt

  1. Parenting done RIGHT! I am the same way with my little guy. I’m not a ruffles and sparkle kind of girl, and I honestly don’t think that I’d dress my daughter in them either, unless they were gifted items or something. I like simple!

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  2. This actually reminds me of the story several years back that went crazy viral, about a couple who had a child, and for 7 years or so, they told no one the child’s gender. I think they named them Sam or something non-gender specific, and tried to show how forward thinking they were to not forced gender on their child. But they did it all wrong. They talked about how they wouldn’t let them wear anything “hyper-masculine”, like skulls or skater shoes, yet they let them wear pink tu-tu dresses and sparkly flats… considered to be pretty hyper-feminine. I always thought that if they were really trying to not gender their child, they could rock a pink tu-tu skirt with a skull t-shirt and have no problem. The child ended up being a female if I remember correctly, and they received criticism because they definitely favored “female” clothing on her.

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    • Interesting! I’d love to live in a world where we offered all children the full range of choices, “masculine” and “feminine” and in-between, and then let them choose how they want to present themselves as they get older.

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      • Same here! Can you imagine if women were only limited to “feminine” colors like pink and yellow? Yet we wear greens and reds and blues with no problem. Why can’t men wear pink? Or yellow? Or tangerine with flowers! It’s so dumb.

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  3. I work as a dental hygienist and we give out toothbrushes, some of which are pink – with women I just grab a bag and don’t look, but of course with the men I have to make sure they’re not pink. :/

    On another note, our twins are boy/girl and a lot of the hand-me-down clothes we’ve received are “boys” clothes, which our daughter sometimes wears. At grocery stores and other places we get a lot of questions “Are they….both boys??”

    I don’t know, I also live in the Midwest in a rural area so in my opinion it’s harder for boys to break out of their gender roles, there’s a lot of pressure from adult men especially to not show a feminine side. Aside from clothing I am also worried about teaching my son to be able to express his emotions effectively too. I’m sure it will be a battle when we encounter old-fashioned opinions/advice.

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  4. found your blog through nicoleandmaggie’s link. TOTALLY had this issue when my son, around age 3-4, had pink as his favorite color and begged me for pink shirts/pajamas/etc… and he refused to wear shirts with collars/buttons, so the light pink polo wasn’t what he was after—he wanted pink T shirts. I ended up findings random Hanes colored shirts on amazon (being sold to make group printed shirts) and I got him a light & dark pink one. It was terrible quality, not nice and soft like most kids’ tees. But the girls section shirts all had cap-sleeves or ruffles on the bottom—impossible to find a regular t-shirt in the girls section—I never realized it would be an issue until I looked.
    For all the progress we’ve made in letting girls in on traditionally “boy” stuff, I have been really disappointed with how little we’ve changed our stance on expanding the sphere of what is culturally/socially acceptable for boys. As the mother of 2 young boys, its become strikingly clear that anything outside the norm of masculine behavior starts, at a very early age, resulting in ridicule, shaming, and basically teaching our sons that their natural interests and preferences are not OK.

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