When I was a child, my favorite character was Scooby-Doo, however, my mom was never able to find Scooby-Doo clothing in the girls’ section at the store. For some reason, in my five-year-old mind it was essential that I had Scooby-Doo clothing, so she finally provided me with some, but I was so embarrassed that they were from the boys’ section that I didn’t want to wear it.
Now I ask myself why I cared that they were from the boys’ section if they fit and were what I wanted; why was I so ashamed by the fact that they weren’t for girls that I wouldn’t wear what I had begged for?
If someone were to walk in the kids’ section of a clothing store, there is usually a very clear delineation between what is considered the “boys’” section and the “girls’” section and what makes this line clear in most cases is a sea of color that is visible: pink on one side and blue on the other. Color is generally the first thing that one pays attention to when looking at clothing, however it is quickly apparent that very few pink options exist in the boys’ section, even if there are blue options in the girls’ section. Why can’t boys wear pink if girls can wear blue? (Check out this history on gendered colors!)
Putting aside color, it is also common to see superheroes, athletes, dinosaurs, etc. in the boys’ section; this is something I see all the time as an aunt to three boys. In the girls’ section, however? One might see princesses, flowers, and sparkles, but nothing that represents a child’s interest in male cartoon characters or superheroes.
Regarding adult clothing, the difference between that for men and women might not be as apparent as it is in children’s clothing regarding color or content, but it is common to see clothing in the women’s section that is tight fitting or restricting in some other manner, as well as clothing that doesn’t have pockets. I know I for one have bought pairs of jeans with the pockets sewn closed before, whereas male clothing seems to always have multiple large pockets.
One might ask why it matters that such differences in kids’ and adults’ clothing exists; if someone wants to shop outside of a certain gender’s section so what? This of course doesn’t matter; I for one love to shop in the men’s sections because the clothing is more comfortable. However, comfortable clothing or clothing that has certain colors or designs shouldn’t be found in only one section of a store. The fact that girls aren’t given certain types of clothing, such as that of boys that is comfortable and in which they can move freely seems to suggest that clothing designers don’t see the need for girls to have such clothes.
Why should a clothing company have the right to limit a child’s interests by not representing them on the clothes that are made for them?
They don’t have the right, but this is simply the case for most brands or stores that we shop at. This can also be an issue for individuals who identify as non-binary; if clothes are extremely gendered to one end of the spectrum or the other, it limits the options for someone who is searching for a gender-neutral alternative. (This Vox article is a great resource to learn more about the gender-neutral clothing movement.)
It’s clear that there is an issue in the clothing industry regarding how gendered clothing is, but what can we do to address this problem? The quickest and easiest solution is to simply push past our opinions on what boys and girls should or should not wear and encourage children and adults alike to ignore the labels put on clothing sections and to simply shop for what they like. To help encourage brands to reduce the amount of gendered clothing they produce, it is important to support brands and companies that create gender-neutral clothing lines. For a great jumping off point into the world of gender-neutral fashion, websites like The Good Trade provide lists of popular gender-neutral clothing companies.