Monday, November 12, 2012

Baby Gender: How Marketing Has Changed

It is hard to believe how much my baby has changed in a few short months.  She used to be a teeny (relatively - partner is tall & kiddo is definitely getting those genes), totally dependant bundle.  Currently, she's crawling and feeling along the coffee table for things to grab and offering me cheeky grins.

There are a lot of things I wish fo her future.  When I look at certain parts of the world, I'm worried that I won't be able to parent through them adequately.

One of the things that really bothers me is the genderization of very small children & babies.  I'm not sure when it started, but it is radically different from when I was small.

If you were born in the 1980s (and possibly the first half of the 1990s), it was relatively easy to find clothes that could fit a child of either gender, making hand-me-downs a little bit easier.  If you wanted a pair of overalls, they were just plain-old denim overalls.

Nowadays, if you want a pair of overalls, you have to choose between girl overalls & boy overalls.  The girl overalls will likely have some pink or purple elements to them, or be embroidered with butterflies/flowers/animal print or have ruffles somewhere.  The boy overalls will likely be embroidered with some sort of sports-related item, vehicles, dogs or fierce animals like crocodiles.
If you do manage to find a pair of plain overalls, it is almost a guarantee that they'll be in the boy section of the store.

There's a similar issue going on with toys.  If you were a small child in the 80s you may remember this guy:
The chatter-phone is still around.  Only now, the above image is the 'boy' phone.  There's now a girl phone, that is, you guessed it, in shades of pink.  Same thing with the awesome popper toy that you may remember.  The traditional version you may remember is now the 'boy' version, and they've done a pink 'girl' version.

I don't see how the above toy is for boys only.  To me, it's just a toy, suitable for a child of any gender.  I don't think it benefits anyone other than manufacturors to encourage the parents babies and small children into buying all pink or blue toys and clothing depending on their genitalia.  Babies don't care about those sort of differences - they're too busy learning how the world works.
Gravity is super-fascinating when you've never seen it before.

I think one of the reasons this bothers me so much is that I was never a girly-girl. I understand that there are girls who love princesses & all the things that go with that, but I never did. I wanted to be an astronaut-ballerina-archaeologist when I was little, so that I could dig up dinosaurs, bring them to space, and then put on a kick-butt dance show when I came back to Earth (somehow, not surprising that I have a BFA in theatre production & design when I think about that . . .). My favourite colour was blue.

I want my baby to feel comfortable choosing any colour she wants to be her favourite.  I want her to be able to play with a toy without someone telling her it is a 'boy' toy.  I want her to wear comfortable clothes (that I can possibly hand down to any future cousins or siblings without issue).  I know there's a chance that she'll go through a girly-girl phase, and I want to encourage her to be herself.  I also want her to understand that princess is not a career choice.

I'm not sure of the best way to wrap this up, since it feels like a bit of a rant now.  I guess my main point is that after all the advances in equality that have been, and that continue to be made in Western society (including womens' rights, gay marriage, etc), the idea that corporations are trying to get us to go back to the gender ideals of the 1950s just to make a few extra dollars, that really riles me up.


  1. I don't know who buys the pink crap. It's gotten ridiculous - there are no pink school buses or airplanes, Fisher Price. When they're that young, they don't even have a favourite colour, so it really is for the grownups that buy this stuff. And why would you want to limit your daughter/neice/granddaughter in such a way? Shouldn't they learn all the colours of the rainbow? (That rock-a-stack that's all shades of pink instead of a rainbow pisses me right off.)

    Do you sew?

    1. I saw that too Skwishee! It makes me not want to buy anymore Fisher Price products (except that I know they are still decent quality . . . and they're not the only manufacturers doing this).

      It also disturbs me that the 'boy' stuff has gotten really genderized too - little boys should be able to play with kitchen sets (that didn't used to be all bloody pink), dolls, etc.

      I do sew! I've been debating making some of my own toys and clothes for Esme, but I haven't found any patterns that I really like for a price we can afford. Do you have some?

  2. Reading your post reminded me of an article I read awhile back that talked about how and when pink and blue became the colours of choice, and said that there was a time when all babies just wore white dresses for convenience (bleach-able, and easy to lift up and change a diaper). Here's the link if you're interested:

    When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink? on