Ages 10-12 (Tween)Ages 13-17 (Teen)Ages 2-5Ages 6-9Feminism

The Importance of Not Defining Normal for Other Children

There are things in this world that piss me off. I could come up with a bunch of rhetorical examples to lead into my real point, but I’m going to cut to the chase – one really easy way to do that is to write a whole blog post about how hard it is to find “normal” clothes for your daughter, based on the underlying premise that normal clothes are inherently not girly.

But, I can hear the defenders now, he says this: “Once again, let me make this clear—I’m not saying that everything pink and frilly is evil.” Okay, so not evil. But not “normal” either. Pink and frilly is by definition the lesser exception in this framework and “normal” is not embellished, not obviously feminine, not…well, not actual neutral, unless we buy into the completely mainstream not-at-all transgressive idea that neutral=male.

It should surprise no one that I absolutely agree with his underlying premise that the options for girls are too limited. I hate that it is so easy to see where girls and boys are “supposed” to shop – for toys, for clothes, for school supplies, even sporting goods. There is no reason why everything possible that girls might ever want has to be available in pink and only pink, and conversely, for nothing “for boys” to include that color. And I’ll be honest, it makes for lazy parenting even for someone relatively aware of these issues like myself. It would be completely possible for me to surround my pink-loving girl in nothing but that color 24-7 with very little effort, whereas, a kid who likes red or orange or even blue is not always going to be able to get, say, a bow and arrow set in that color. In fact, getting away from pink and purple and a dash of aqua actually takes more effort sometimes, since pink is everywhere. Girls who like pink have it easy in the continuum of getting to have your preferences reinforced all the damn time. There is privilege in conforming with expectations. It is easier to be a child who fits in and who sees themselves in the representation of their gender.

There should be more options for both girls and boys. Hell, up until puberty, there’s really not even much point – other than marketing – to have different sections to begin with. All the clothes together in a big scrum – that works for me. When helping my kids choose clothing, I look at a combination of styles I think they will wear and overall appropriateness with respect to our family values – which means no “born to shop” or “too pretty to wev” or “babe magnet” or “[other gender] drools” messaging for either of them, and play clothes have to allow for actual physical play. If that translates to my 3-year-old scaling a climbing wall in a dress and bike shorts, that’s cool with me.

And no one gets to tell me – or her – that’s not normal. Because for her, it absolutely is.

(Featured image is the feisty child in question. All rights reserved.)

Emily Sexton

Writer of incomplete novels, entertainment lawyer, mom of two with a wide age spread, blogger here and elsewhere, wannabe vocalist and v/o actress, atheist, weirdo. That last bit went without saying. Find Em on twitter @emandink and maybe she'll use it more.

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  1. In the case of my kid, what she hates is that pretty much all the shirts for girls are low-cut, and all the trousers for girls are skin-tight.

    We’ve found a few upscale sources where this isn’t true, but (of course) they don’t have outlets in our sad little town. We have to buy online. This means we can’t try her choices on without buying them first, and since we *are* talking upscale, and since we’re lower (lower, lower) middle class, that’s an issue.

    I’d kind of prefer her to do what I do, which is just buy from the boy’s side, but she likes girly clothes. 🙁

    1. We’re still in the Toddler section for the most part, but the skinny jeans for all ages thing is definitely one of my pet peeves. Mo has pretty much given up on denim and tends to opt for leggings and skirts or tunic shirts most of the time.

      I also hate that it’s so hard to find things that provide any sort of sun proteciton in girls swimwear – my kingdom for two piece options that include board shirts by default.

  2. I just hate making a fuss about clothes. It seems to me like it’s one of those issues that you can micromanage all you want, and then when your kids go to school or interact with other kids, they’ll just decide they want to wear whatever they want. Your parental influence is kind of limited. And, yeah, I’m not sure there’s anything superior about aqua or green.

    1. That is my feeling. I am sure that my daughter’s preference for pink and flowers and rainbows and hearts (not princesses so much, yet) is tied into other messaging she receives and I could sit down and analyze why and how and where these ideas came from, but I feel like as long as we are offering her choices and she is chosing what she likes and is within age/weather appropriate selections, I’m less concerned with what she’s wearing and much more concerned that she knows she can be a strong capable human while doing it.

  3. I realize the author in the linked article was only using “normal” to describe the clothes because his daughter uses the term, but I bristle at the use of the word “normal” as synonymous “good.”

    1. YES! The old goth in me wishes I’d hit on the normal=good construction a little more along with the normal=masculine assumption as well. Also, his daughter didn’t come to the conclusion that non-feminine clothes are “normal” or “regular” in a vacuum. The idea that girls are separate and boys are default is everywhere, there’s no need to reinforce it in an otherwise good rant about the limited options marketed to girls.

      1. “The idea that girls are separate and boys are default is everywhere” <–THAT.

        This is something I saw a lot with the young teens (11-14) I used to teach. . .and in those of us who worked with them. It's so ingrained in everything, including our language, where masculine pronouns are the default, that I frequently wonder how often I reinforced (and continue to do so) this without realizing it.

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