The popularity of raising children without sharp
gender divides is gaining steam.
This isn't to say that young children should
all be treated the same. Often, little girls and little boys will
develop preferences in what they want to do, how they want to dress
that are well in tune with common stereotypes. But the idea is to
let that happen naturally (or let something else entirely happen)
by raising children without imposing those stereotypes from the
The Telegraph took an in-depth look at
the issues in an article back in December and actually came up with
some fairly shocking observations.
Not only are young boys and girls frequently taught
to prefer different colours, types of clothing, and styles of play,
but it appears that in many cases, parents even treat boys and
girls differently in very fundamental ways.
Read more: Put your best foot forward with these gender
For example, the article suggests that many parents
allow boys to play farther away, off on their own, whereas girls
are kept closer and monitored more diligently. This is an early
sign of boys being encouraged to be more adventurous, whereas
girls, as the article puts it, are taught "to be patient and
Beyond these basic behavioural issues, clothing tends to be
identified as a significant area in which parents (or rather,
clothing designers and distributors) apply gender stereotypes.
Naturally, there are some types of clothing
specifically suited to boys or girls due to differences in body
type. But designs, themes, and colours are all used to segregate
boys and girls in unnecessary ways.
Girls are often put in pinks and purples with polka
dots and floral patterns, whereas boys are in blues, greens and
reds with superhero images and sporty phrases on their shirts.
These are very general examples, but they'll certainly be familiar
to anyone who's spent time around young children.
Fortunately, clothing also represents the area in which some of
the biggest steps are being made to combat gender stereotypes in
The aforementioned Telegraph article recognises Kate
Pietrasik as one of those spearheading the effort to bring about
more gender-neutral clothing for children. Her company, Tootsa, began as a small independent
boutique selling adorable unisex clothing for babies and toddlers,
and it now stocks items in Selfridges and a number of other smaller
stores throughout the UK.
Pietrasik is quoted as making an interesting
observation that one motivation for the gender divide in kids'
clothing is financial gain on the part of designers and retail
stores; essentially, having to buy multiple sets of clothing (and
toys) for boys and girls means spending more money. Now, she's
doing her part to end the trend.
As for Selfridges, they're going well beyond stocking one popular
boutique's collection of gender-neutral clothing. Rather, they're
taking the gender-neutral approach to a higher level, applying the
concept not only to children's items, but to their clothing
selections in general.
DIVA has details on the
project, which has established an "Agender" section
of the store in order to do away with segregated men's and women's
areas. Quoted in the article, Selfridges creative director Linda
Hewson says that the idea isn't necessarily to stock clothing
designed to be unisex, but rather to provide a selection that could
be accessible to people identifying with either
That said, however, there are also clothing lines looking to
design unisex items for male and female consumers, even at the
adult level. While boutiques like Tootsa MacGinty seek to do away
with gender segregation through clothing for children, these other
brands are helping to do away with the pressure and limitations
inflicted even on adults looking for clothing.
One of the most interesting examples that has
surfaced of late is Play
Out, an underwear and boxer briefs company designed for
any and all consumers. As stated in a Buzzfeed article about the company, the
idea is for the boxer briefs to be "for men, women, and anybody who
identifies as in between."
Ultimately, these are very encouraging signs for those who want to
see gender stereotypes reduced across the board. The trend in
identifying and eliminating troubling aspects of kids' clothing is
a very important one, as it seeks to combat the problem at one of
its strongest roots.
But even at the adult level, the idea of
gender-neutral clothing can be very empowering to those who feel
limited, or even slighted by the typically available options.
Monica Lowry is a freelance writer and mother of one. Her work
focuses primarily on education, children's development, and general
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