Not Your Average Prom Queen: Men in Pink, Babies in Blue
As I walked into the Carter’s kid’s clothing store on North and Clybourn in the days before X-Mas, my eyes were drawn left-to-right and right-to-left by the vast color differential in an even more extreme way than those exhilarating first moments of walking into the GAP. Everything on the right is PINK and everything on the left is BLUE (with some greens and browns mixed in there unobtrusively). After two years of shopping in the pink section for my niece, I finally have a chance to peruse the boy’s section for some holiday gifts for my brand new nephew. Although I love the color pink, I don’t love hearts and flowers, nor the supposition that I am supposed to love them because I am a lady. Picking out clothes for my niece has been a bit of a challenge to my feminism. How do I chose gifts for her that don’t encourage gender stereotypes, while still acknowledging that she IS a girl and she should be damn proud of it?
Finally I’m able to visit a kid’s store and look at clothes without wading through what looks like the Valentine’s day at the CVS. Buying boy’s clothes must be less political. I love the blues and greens and deep browns of the section, but every time I grab for a cute item it has a sports theme: baseball, football, soccer, hockey. After a few minutes, I’m actually wishing I could find a car or a truck because even though those images encourage some stereotypes for boys, it’s better than “Boys Play Sports.” There are very few items without a sports reference, but lucky for me, I find one with a dinosaur. But as I go back and forth in the boys and girls sections, frustrated a lack of gender neutral (yet cute) clothing, I also try to picture buying my 2-year-old niece a blue hoodie with a stegosaurus, or my 2-month-old nephew a onesie with a pink flower on it. Somehow, those images seem silly.
What’s wrong with me? I’m a feminist. A queer feminist, at that. I am perpetually aware of the need to exercise my freedom to act and be whoever I want – free from the expectations placed on my sex and gender. When I see men in pink winter caps or wearing nail polish I am happy to see those expectations being challenged. Seeing people chose to like what they like regardless of what they “should like.” I wear ties. I wear skirts. Who cares?
Something in me has a hard time accepting those same standards for my niece and nephew, who, because of their age, really only have an identity based on how their parents choose to dress them. It somehow seems to make more sense to just go along with what society asks then to have to explain every time your son gets called “she” because he has a mermaid on his pink onesie.
It turns out, my seemingly hard-wired pink and blue brain reaches even further than just my niece and nephew.
My girlfriend got a puppy. His name his Howard and he is a gorgeous black lab. At a play date with a girl-dog friend, Howard borrows her pink leather collar. It looks so cute on him. He looks handsome and sort of dapper, like the Hugo Boss models in the front 87 pages of Vanity Fair – but when it comes to picking out a real collar for him days later, my girl and I wrangle the puppy on the floor of the pet store. As we slip a variety of necklaces over his head I hear myself saying, “I really like the idea of a pink one, but I don’t want people to think he’s a girl.” It’s a puppy and I’m afraid someone will confuse his sex?
Is it possible that I’m not as forward thinking as I thought? Or maybe that I just don’t think something like the colors in which babies and puppies are dressed play that large of a role in feminism and equality? I would never suggest that my nephew only play with cars and trucks and my niece only with kitchens and dolls – quite the opposite – toys are toys and they should play with whatever they want to play with. And I don’t think that dressing boys in pink or girls in blue would at all confused their sexuality – but I do think it might confuse other kids.
Am I less progressive than I’ve made myself out to be? Is it ever good just to want to fit in with society?
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