When one mom’s letter to the Land’s End clothing company went viral last year after discovering the brand didn’t offer science-themed T-shirts for girls, only boys, it brought a lot of attention to the gender-neutrality movement that so many have been working on.
According to Today, New Jersey mom Lisa Ryder told the company that her daughter, “has read more books on sharks than I ever knew existed, follows NASA news, and hopes to be an astronaut one day.” She continued, “And until you recognize that it’s not only boys that can fit that description, I’m afraid my family will no longer be shopping in your stores.”
Unfortunately today, similar modes of advertising for children’s clothing remain the norm, not the exception. But over the last few years, one brand has emerged as one of the leaders in dissolving barriers of gender stereotypes, encouraging children to be themselves, and wear what they want. It’s an obvious notion, but it’s one that was finally put into action thanks to clothes designer Kate Pietrasik.
After spending 10 years in France designing street and sportswear for brands like Roxy and Hilfiger, Pietrasik was shocked to see the strict gender segregation in the way that children’s clothing was advertised in the U.K. But out of something unfortunate, she created something progressive—Tootsa MacGinty, a unisex clothing line covering all children between the ages of 0 and 8.
The company doesn’t have separate sections for boys and girls; in fact, they don’t even show advertisements of one gender wearing certain outfits. Instead, they either photograph the clothes on their own, or they show both genders wearing the same pieces. In their catalogues, children can see both girls and boys wearing the different outfits they offer. Girls aren’t restricted to pinks and purples, and boys aren’t restricted to blues and greens. No colors, styles, or pieces are created with one gender in mind.
Creating gender neutrality for something as basic as clothing isn’t just necessary for trans-kids, which is a common myth associated with the idea. It’s important for the development of all children. As Everyday Feminism explains, while gender-neutral parenting (GNP) can “provide a safer and more nurturing environment that’s absent in most trans childrens’ lives,” all children can benefit from growing up under the influence of GNP in two ways as well.
First, the act of abolishing strict gender rules allows children to find their own place spectrum instead of being pushed into a hyper-masculine or hyper-feminine role. Then, GNP can provide all children, even those children who exemplify stereotypically masculine or feminine characteristics, with the tools necessary to question gender stereotypes as they exist today, and to appreciate their diversity.
The decision you make of where to buy your children’s clothing may seem like a small place to start if you’re considering gender neutral parenting, but it’s one that can have a big impact on their future.
Every parent wants their children to grow up to be happy, healthy, and well-adjusted adults, but the mode for doing so is hardly accomplished by pigeonholing them into certain arbitrary roles. Let your kid be whoever they want to be, and give them the supportive gear they need for doing so. Whether that means giving them a much-needed confidence boost or just an adorable panda sweater is up to them.
Monica Lowry is a freelance writer (and work from home mom) who tends to tackle topics related to lifestyle trends, parenting, fashion, and (more recently) technology. You can learn more about her here.