The Gender Divide in Preschoolers’ Closets

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/28/well/family/the-gender-divide-in-preschoolers-closets.html

I buy my daughter boys’ pants because even in an age of female fighter pilots and #MeToo, boys’ clothes are largely designed to be practical, while girls’ are designed to be pretty.

By Sara Clemence
Aug. 28, 2018

“How adorable!” crooned the woman in line behind us at the department store. “And look at those lashes. How old is he?”

I looked down at my 3-year-old daughter, Lia, who was trying to scale the counter, and paused. It’s not unusual for strangers to think my little girl is a little boy. People are used to seeing boys with tumbles of curls like hers — but a girl wearing boxy olive-green pants and a sturdy space-motif T-shirt has a way of throwing off the gender radar.

Lia’s bucking of clothing stereotypes isn’t her choice (yet). When her older brother started outgrowing his clothing, I put a lot of it aside for Lia. The hand-me-downs saved money and let us squeeze a little more enjoyment out of those tiny jackets and sweet sailor shirts. While I was happy if they also happened to de-girlify her wardrobe, I didn’t set out to turn her into a pint-size fashion iconoclast.

But by the time Lia was a year old, I was buying most of her clothes in boys’ sections. When she started walking, then running and climbing and jumping, I looked for clothes that were as functional as my son’s: Pants that would buffer her knees against falls and have pockets to hold the rocks and leaves she picked up in the park. Substantial shirts that would shield her arms from the sun and mask grass stains and food smear.

Instead, I found girls’ sections filled with lightweight leggings, scoop-neck tops, and embellished shoes. I scoured the internet for girls’ pants with capacious pockets and reinforced knees, and found maddeningly few options.

I eventually realized that, even in an age of female fighter pilots and #MeToo, boys’ clothes are largely designed to be practical, while girls’ are designed to be pretty. Now when I shop for Lia, I hit the boys’ section first. It’s not just about avoiding skinned knees, but also the subtle and discouraging message that’s woven right into girls’ garments: you are dressed to decorate, not to do.

Some might think I’m being sartorially oversensitive. But what we wear matters — and not just as a projection of our personalities and priorities. An abundance of research has shown that our clothes affect how other people perceive us, as well as how we see ourselves.

A 2012 study by researchers at Kenyon College showed that adults thought fifth-grade girls who wore more sexualized outfits were less intelligent and capable than girls who wore more childish clothes. In another study, published in the journal Social Behavior and Personality, ballerinas who wore tights and leotards felt worse about their bodies and their performances than those who wore loose get-ups.

How we dress can even change the way we act. Studies have found that wearing more formal work clothes can get people thinking in a more abstract, big-picture way, and that adults become more focused when they put on lab coats — even if they’re not scientists. It’s not a stretch to think that putting our girls in tighter, frillier, flimsier clothes can imprint them with outdated notions about what they can and should do.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/28/well/family/the-gender-divide-in-preschoolers-closets.html

 

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