Tuesday, 25 October 2011

greetings from caffeine central

We're not sleeping much at 40-things central, but we are planning and hoarding supplies. For pinata:

Huzzah! It's not for a party, but I shall endeavour to "pinata like mad" instead. And for item #36 - design and make some interesting (not stereotypically girly) clothes for Martha, this:

I’ve also been thinking some more about the meaning of item #36. Now I want to clarify, I don’t have a problem with pink and purple. I don’t care if Martha wants to wear dresses or flippy skirts all year round. In fact, right now she's wearing pink jammies with baby elmo that say she's 'naturally cute'. Any gifts in this vein are gratefully received. But as she gets older I’d like her to have a choice. What’s wrong with all the other colours? And what’s wrong with wanting it to be easy to find clothes that don’t constantly proclaim, after the age of six months, that she’s “cute” or “pretty” or a “princess in training”? Sure she can be a princess. But why is that all she should aspire to? I guess it’s more about my dislike of putting kids into boxes and the implication of limiting their choices. This applies equally to boys.

A few months ago Elliot and I went shopping for pants. I asked him what colour he’d like. He said orange. Well of course he did. And of course he was really disappointed when all we could see were grey, black, and blue. His little lip-dropping disappointment face is something to behold. Happily a few weeks later I did find a source of lurid orange tracky pants - thanks Target and your trusty fleece section! But more often than not, his clothing choices are limited, just as the girls are, to a bland palette. So I shall be amending this list item to say make some fun clothes for Martha and Elliot.

In my effort to clarify what I meant by non-stereotypical clothes I collected a suite of photos which are stored in two folders, “clothes I like” and “what we’re not”. Given you can see hundreds of examples of “what we’re not” at a glance in any clothing store, I’ll limit my examples to these:

which are fairly self-explanatory. Toddlers and tiaras, anyone? I've found, to my delight, that there are a bunch of good sources online for clothes more to my liking. Some, like this store, are explicitly unisex in approach. Their philosophy is one I applaud, that all kids should be free to wear colourful fun clothes regardless of gender. Here are some examples of things in my hurrah you get a tick folder:

So perhaps what I'm talking about is actually an issue of availability and price; the type of clothes that make me despair are cheap and they’re everywhere. This leads me to wonder whether I’m a niche market in this respect. Which I think is a nice way of saying “you're nuts and no-one else cares about the things you do”. Or is this a chicken and egg problem - do the shops stock predominantly girly crap because that’s what parents really want? Or do parents buy this because that’s all there is available at cheap prices? Another issue to explore is that of sustainable and ethical clothing, and what we’re trading off in terms of resources and other (unseen) people’s exploitation to be able to buy mass produced t-shirts for $5 a pop, but that’s a subject for another day.

I have also found some companies, usually small ones created by mothers, who print clothes for girls with empowering slogans. While I think we’re coming from the same place, and I love the advocacy of strong, brave girls, I’m a bit uncomfortable with feeling that I would be using Martha as a wee billboard to advertise my own political opinions. And while I naturally think my opinions are ok, how is this any better than the princess branding juggernaut? You may say though, if I care about this distinction, why bother at all? Am I not just projecting my own preferences onto her by not wanting her to be my principessa all the time? (Actually, that should be her daddy's principessa, according to the t-shirt slogans.) Or alternatively, why not just put Martha in boys clothes and be done with it? At this point I stopped analysing the issue for fear of my brain imploding.

Now because I’ve again made myself feel like a humourless feminist mother, and what’s worse, one who’s bleated on about what are aptly referred to as “first world problems”*, I’d also like to share a few other sites that are supporting the empowerment of girls around the world:
* (which is not to say they aren’t important or serious issues, particularly if we delve into the area of sexualisation of girls at ever younger ages, but I can’t seriously spend too much time worrying about pink ruffles and not feel like a pillock when there’s: sexual slavery, forced marriage at twelve, abandonment of girl babies, genital mutilation, rape routinely used as a weapon of war and suppression of dissent, girls being denied an education, gender-based violence in the home etc etc bloody etc)

No comments:

Post a Comment