Thursday, February 16, 2012

Why does it all have to be boy/girl?

So, I have begun putting together a baby registry, and I have noticed something that is driving me crazy. Well, there are many things about baby shopping that are driving me crazy, but this one mostly just makes me mad: the virulent need to gender-ize everything that is sold for babies. I get (although I don't like/agree with) the clothes, and some of the toys - pink for girls, blue for boys - but does everything have to be labeled boys or girls? I mean, the baby bathtubs, play pens (yeah, yeah, the correct term these days is "playards" but that is so inelegant and stupid I refuse to use it), bibs, washcloths, diapers, car seats! All seem to have a built-in implied gender. Washcloths? I saw two sets, one primary colors and the other pastel. The first was labeled "boys" and the second "girls." Why? Why not just say "primary colors" and "pastel"?

This is kind of a language thing for me, and kind of a feminist social issue. Colors don't have a gender, neither do bathtubs, washcloths or car seats.

A baby doesn't know or care what gender it is. Gender is a socially constructed idea, not a biological fact. So why start enforcing that stereotype so early? I'm not saying that people who like to dress their daughter in pink shouldn't be allowed to do so, but I am saying that it isn't necessary to only have a pink bathtub for girls and a blue one for boys. Whether intentional on the part of marketers and manufacturers, such starkly binary distinctions limit the range of options open to children as they grow and explore, telling them that something is not for them because of their gender. Don't believe me or think I am exaggerating? Check out this great set of videos from Feminist Frequency about LEGO and gender for a sort of introduction to the topic. 

I want my child to know that every potential career, hobby, and color is available to them, regardless of gender. To that end, I am making a conscious effort to only register for gender neutral items - there are plenty of cute products without resorting to pink and blue, you just have to hunt for them.

1 comment:

Jenn said...

Cora uses Jack's old blue bathtub. And red is a great gende-nuetral color.