Why doesn’t it go both ways?

As we were putting our daughter to bed tonight, my husband and I started talking about how cute her clothes are. They’re so little! They’re so colorful! Look at this one! So cute! I doubt this is a unique conversation amongst parents of little kids. I mean, by definition baby clothes are pretty much the cutest clothes ever.

Around here, baby bedtime consists of a bath and then some cuddles and sometimes some singing… then lights out. We’ve tried other routines — like storytime at bedtime — but they just didn’t work. (Our kiddo prefers storytime during the day and before naps. Who knew toddlers could feel so strongly about such things?) And before we lay her down to sleep, we get our little girl dressed for the next day. This is a matter of practicality as well as function. It’s very hot here in the desert (especially this week with record-breaking heat). Once it was clear that a onesie was pretty much all she needed, it seemed silly to have “bedtime” onesie and “daytime” onesies. So, every night our daughter gets fresh, clean clothes.

Tonight, my husband pulled out a onesie he’d never seen. “This is cute!” he said, taking it over to the crib. This was a find from the clearance rack — a grey t-shirt style onesie with a little blue and green monster on it. Judging from its lack of pink or other stereotypical girly identifiers, I’m sure the monster onsie is “supposed to” be for a baby boy. But, as you might have guessed, we don’t let “supposed to” guide how our little girl dresses.

The little monster onesie did, however, start another discussion about babies and clothes and gender. We both agree that if our daughter is mistaken for a boy because she’s not wearing pink — so be it. And that’s the “worry” about what babies wear, right? Aside from making sure they are clean, dry and comfortable, our society wants to make sure everyone knows what gender they are. But, come on! I just don’t believe that at the tender age of one, my daughter has the kind of self-awareness that is required to understand that she has a gender. I think the baby books say something about how babies at this age are starting to notice that men and women do look different. But whether or not that has translated into her having a sense of a gender identity for herself yet…? Eh, I doubt it. In fact, I doubt it very much.

But all this probably comes as no surprise to regular Tired Feminist readers. What was interesting to me was what came next. My husband said, “I wonder sometimes if I’d feel the same way if we had a boy. About pink, I mean. Would we dress him in pink because it doesn’t matter?”

Oh, that is interesting.

I have to admit, I don’t think I would put pink on a boy baby. But then again, I don’t have a son. However, if you look at adults, it is clear that in our society if someone is going to gender-bend, it’s preferable that it be women wearing men’s clothes and not the other way around. And we have a word for this in the kid vernacular, too. If a little girl likes to wear “boy clothes,” she’s a tomboy. But if a little boy likes to wear “girl clothes,” well… he must be gay. (And for all our positive strides in the LGBT community, there is still a stigma about stereotypical gay attributes in boys.)

And, if I’m going to be honest, this made me think of another application of this test. When my family gets dressed to go to church, we put our daughter in a dress. Partially this is because she has so many dresses (people love to give girls dresses!). But really this has more to do with the fact that — even though our church is pretty casual — my husband likes to dress up for church because that’s what he did as a kid with his family. I don’t have a problem with that. If dressing up enhances his church experience, fine by me. And so, somehow this translates into a Sunday morning routine of putting my daughter in dresses — which she doesn’t wear any other time during the week. Now, I will say that I would not care if we put her in pants for church. But it being 110+ degrees out, pants aren’t happening in general. But I wonder if when the weather cools, we’ll still be going to the closet for a dress rather than the drawer for a pants-based outfit.

The funny part about all of this is that my daughter could care less what she is wearing. The only thing she notices is if a piece of clothing is colorful or has some visual appeal to her. But outside of that, she could care less if today’s outfit is a dress, pants, onesie or anything else. To be honest, she’s happiest naked! Like so much with the gendering of our children, they are perfectly happy just tooling along. It is quintessential innocence and a purity of motivation. All my daughter wants is to be happy. And that’s the best look of all.

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