Monday, 9 February 2015

Boys' clothes/ girls' clothes

Glitter, ruffles and pearl stitching - just a few random things boys aren't allowed to wear

I've got to share the sexist comment of the day before I start because it's so good. Carneval's approaching fast, and I overheard a couple of parents worrying about their children's costume choices:

---My daughter said she wants to be either Spiderman or a pirate. That really worries me. I told her, you can't do that, but she insists that her costume's going to be one or the other.

---I know the problem. Last year our child-minder organised a kiddies' dressing-up party with lots of different disguises for the children to play with. When she emailed me the pictures there was my son wearing a Minnie Mouse costume! And pink shoes to go with it! I wasn't happy at all.

Of course, I had to jump in there, and I said that I don't see a reason why we should limit our children's choice of clothes because of their sex. That's when I decided to gather some thoughts on boy's and girl's clothes. And it struck me that society mostly limits boys' choice of clothes.

We have a daughter. She's 20 months old and I've just discovered my passion for sewing. So I started looking through the latest pattern books. And I realized that I've got a choice: either I make girl's clothes, or I make boy's clothes. Because already at this age there's a subtle difference in the way clothes are cut. Boy's tops have got wider shoulders. What for? To make boys look bulkier, stronger? And why do girl's tops have narrow shoulders? To make them look slighter? Hmmm.
Why can girls wear tights and leggings, but boys can't? And what about ruffles? Why is there an unspoken rule that boy must never wear ruffles of any kind? Or glitter? The list goes on.

The boy's section in clothing stores is far smaller than the girl's section, starting at newborn size. That's a scandal. Clearly, boy's (and men's) clothes are much more limited. Girls and women would not be frowned upon if they were wearing an item of clothing deemed "masculine". Whereas boys can't wear girl's clothes. This is starting to change, though, I think. At least there is hope. I'm thinking about David Beckham bravely pioneering the male headband in the late 1990s. Or increasingly feminized clothes for men in department stores: the colour pink; low-cut necklines similar to women's; thin cotton scarves. Granted, these tend to be worn by gay men or fashionistas. But it's a start!

Last random thought, then I'll go to bed: I read a feminist manifesto (I think it was Susan Brownmiller) a few years ago which argued that giving women and girls so much choice in clothing is a way of sidetracking them so they have less time to focus on getting ahead. Just like expecting them to spend much more time than boys on grooming of all kind, like "doing" their hair (Susan likes to joke about the use of "doing" in this context. She's like, what does a non-done hair look like?), and later, their makeup, shaving their legs and armpits etc.

Night night everyone!

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