Not long ago I wrote a post about non-gender specific clothes for girls and boys. I like to buy things that could work for either sex. In particularly I would like to buy boys clothes in a wider range of colours than blue and navy, maroon, forest and grey – such as pink and other lighter brighter colours. For young girls I would prefer motifs on them that are not obviously “girly” and in more subtle colours such as sand, deep green, or rust. I think it is time that shops started to stock useful, wearable children’s clothes that are genuinely unisex. Tops and trousers that are not obviously for girls OR boys. This is partly so that they can be passed on through the family (I admit my boys wore pink pyjamas for years as they had an older sister). But also because I think colour coding the under fives is pathetic and unnecessary. Sure they have to learn about gender roles at some point but if you can’t relax the rules for little ones I don’t know what.
Some people believe that dressing girls in pink and telling them they are pretty can be limiting. I believe that girls and boys should have the opportunity to consider different careers, sexualities and ways of dressing, talking, acting. The limited range of options in high street shops is particularly disappointing and I wish that designers and buyers would offer more choice.
I was pleased to see Princess Awesome launched as an idea. They want to create specific textiles with science and engineering content. And then make little dresses out of them. In my view the styles are a little dreary, and the textiles somewhat dated. They are apparently looking for funds to set up a company to make the garments and have been very sucessful with their “crowd sourcing”. Perhaps a high street chain with its access to the best designers, market information and fabric suppliers might have a go at dresses with trains on them, or pink boys clothes, or shorts for all in bright shades without obvious (and very repetitive) boy motifs – tractors, trains, dinosaurs. Yawn. Coincidentally my friend Stephanie has covered this topic today. Please give her a shout, especially if you are from Canada.
This week another cottage industry caught my eye. This time a Tasmanian mother “rescues” Bratz dolls from charity shops and gives them a “make-under”, dresses them in non-sexy clothes and flat shoes, and sells them online. A charming video of Sonia Singh removing the made up eyes and lips, and hand knitting little cardis has been doing the rounds on Facebook. And good luck to her. Nice work, but seriously time consuming. I can’t imagine how many hours it takes this talented artist to make her “wholesome” “modest” dolls. I once defaced some of my children’s books turning the doctor and dentists into females.
The dolls look nice to me, but you have to wonder why such sweet innocent looking dolls don’t catch on commercially?
Years ago I got involved in anti-war toy campaigns, and went to work shops about non-competitive games, organised by Quakers in Norfolk. I enjoyed playing with a colourful parachute and as someone who was rarely a first choice for any team game I also liked the co-operation involved. But even though I never bought guns for my boys I found they were adept at making them from toast, Lego and cardboard. To some extent children will always make or choose their own toys. My daughter tried to introduce a purple My Little Pony into Ted’s repetoire, in part to show him how to comb and plait, but it soon found itself involved in many accidents with the wide variety of trucks he is far more concerned with (age 3).
I feel these campaigns are worthy, and I have to admit I prefer the Tree Change dolls to Bratz and regret the pinkisation of female childhood. I am not sure in themselves they will actually change anything. All of us have aggressive, competitive aspects of our personalities, We need to find safe ways to express these “bad” characteristics. Equally we all have dependent and caring qualities in our make up. And if you want to see these as male or female, you can. But everyone is made up of a variety of character traits, and we need, as we grow up, to get to know the full range of our capabilities and limitations. What do you think?