Star Trek uniforms for everyone
When I was a young idealistic mother, pregnant with my first kid, I had this crazy idea that I’d dress my kids in gender neutral clothing, like they have on Star Trek. In fact my actual goal was to get them Star Trek uniforms, but I knew that might be slightly difficult. It was 1999 and we were all worried about Y2K.
Little did I realize, until after the kiddo was born, how difficult it would be to get anything remotely gender neutral. Especially because I was rarely willing to spend lots of money on clothes I knew would be immediately outgrown, I ended up shopping at places like Toys R Us and similar, and man oh man are those clothes gendered. There’s a pink section and a royal blue and red section. Nothing in between, and no overlap.
Well, things have changed in the past 16 years, and nowadays there are clothing companies deliberately creating kids clothing that doesn’t have the awful princess/superhero dichotomy embedded into every garment. According to this Bloomberg article, there are now pink and purple clothes for boys and dinosaur, pirate, and science clothes for girls. Svaha, for example, sets itself up as a place that makes “clothes that empower your children.” Here’s an example of a girls’ shirt:
There’s also a boys’ shirt, also pink, with flowers and test tubes. That would have been great for my first son, whose favorite color was, as he described it at the time, “light red.”
A couple of things. First, these shirts are $25. That’s approximately 4 times more than these shirts that are standard issue “boy” clothes. Partly that’s just because it’s not a concept that’s really taken off, so we don’t have huge factories in Bangladesh churning out these shirts at ridiculous rates. But even so, it means that, like organic food, open-ended gender categorical clothing is firmly within the realm of the well-off parent.
Second, I don’t think it’s all that reasonable to say a shirt “empowers” a kid. Most times, when a kid is defined externally, through a shirt or a social convention or an adult’s comment, or even another kid’s comment, it’s an exercise in limiting that kid, not expanding him or her. Kids assume they can do anything until we tell them otherwise. When you say to a young girl, “You can be a scientist too, you know!” she thinks, “I never thought I couldn’t. Wait, why should I think I couldn’t?”. It’s not until they’re teenagers that they get this stuff, and can have a critical mindset about it.
In other words, I’m going back to Star Trek uniforms for everyone. The great thing about them is how utterly vapid they are of style or message. If you had to pin a message on to them, it would be an awesome (but distant) future.