In my house, the only difference between boys and girls are their genitals. We do not differentiate between “girl toys” and “boy toys.” We do not separate out the “boy shows” from the “girl shows,” and we certainly do not restrict clothing choices based on gender. I mean, we don’t put my son in dresses, but as a general parenting rule we try to let them make their own decisions about which toys to play with, which cartoons they prefer, and what clothes they want to wear.
Both my son and my daughter enjoy things from both sides of the commercially enforced gender spectrum. Edward loves watching Dora the Explorer and Strawberry Shortcake as much as he likes Thomas the Tank Engine and Go Diego Go. Ruby’s current favorite show is Jake and the Neverland Pirates, but last week it was Doc McStuffins. But really, they all just love watching shows.
Ruby has dressed as male characters for the past two Halloweens, and this year she is going to do it again. I do not care about this. Last year she wanted a Super Mario Sluggers backpack for pre-school. This year she picked out a Disney Princess one. She likes both things, so this makes total sense. The problem comes when manufacturers, who I realize are only trying to make money and do not actually care about the consumers, continually pigeonhole characters and themes into gender specific cages. I actually make it a point to buy gender swapped items whenever I see them, just to show my financial support for the concept. Last spring when we saw some pink jammies with pink stripes all over them and Super Mario jumping across the front, I bought them for Ruby strictly out of principle. Ruby also got, without warning, a pink t-shirt with Captain America’s shield on the front. It’s one of her favorites, and you can see it in this post. I want the clothes makers to know that there is a market out there for “girl” clothes featuring Mario, and other “boy” characters.
What this means is that we do some shopping for Ruby in the boys’ section, and Edward wears a lot of hand-me-downs that were made for girls. Yesterday he was wearing pink socks with hearts on them. Who cares?! He liked them, and they kept his feet warm. And he’s two, for goodness sake! Someday he may decide that he doesn’t want to wear them due to social pressure, and that’s his business, but until that day comes, he can wear whatever socks he wants as far as I am concerned.
But now I have come to a problem that I cannot solve. Ruby is very into super heroes right now, and when we were out doing our school shopping, she walked past the boys’ underwear display to see all of the cool super hero briefs available to her male counterparts. Spider-Man, Batman, The Avengers, they were all there, and she begged us to buy her some. Her section was full of lame underwear with stupid cats on them that said things like “I’m sassy,” which I feel is totally inappropriate to print on little girls’ underwear, but that is an entirely different rant. Anywho, the point is, she wanted super hero underwear, and we had to say no.
I would like you to recall the first line of this posting. While there are many “gender differences” that we do not choose to recognize in this house, there is one pretty big one that we do acknowledge, and this issue came right up against it, pun completely intended. The fact of the matter is, boys’ and girls’ underwear is made differently, and wearing boys’ underwear (at least according to my wife) is not that comfortable for girls. It’s not like a shirt or socks; there is different stuff going on down there.
Ruby did not want to believe this, and asked for the underwear anyway, not understanding why she could shop for some boy things but not others. Sadly for her, we did not give in and we came home with no super hero underwear in hand. But I promised her that I would look online. Surely somebody out there makes little girl underwear with super heroes on it, right? Right? Well, if they do, I couldn’t find it. I even checked into “design your own” underwear sites, but none of them offered childrens’ sizes. No matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t find what she so desperately wanted.
That sucks. I hate having to tell my daughter that she can’t have something that she wants simply because she is a girl. And I know all the reasons behind it, and it still sucks. Someday, maybe we will live in a paradise where anyone can get anything they want on their underwear, but until that day comes, I guess I will just keep buying pink Mario pajamas and hoping for a better world.