Growing up with three brothers, all I wanted to do was emulate them — what they said, what they played with and also what they wore. I remember one particular time vividly. I was about nine years old and walked into a department store with my mom, ready to do some serious back-to-school shopping. We walked into the store hand in hand, and in the girls' section all I saw was a sea of pink. In the boys' department, meanwhile, there was an ocean of blue. My body deflated. I wanted to mimic my brothers' style and from the seriously pink look of my options, I wasn't going to find what I wanted.
Even as a young girl, I felt the pressure — I felt pigeonholed into only wearing "girly" colors because that's what other girls, who shopped in the same department as me, wore. As a mom, I remember this moment often, and make sure my children are able to choose any color of clothing they want, using clothing to express themselves and not caring about any antiquated stereotypes of what a girl or boy should wear. I'm happy to say that while I didn't have options as a kid, my experience shopping for children now tells me we are at least headed in the right direction
So much has changed in regards to gender stereotypes since I was a child in the '80s and '90s. While prejudice and stereotypes have not gone away, I love that oftentimes I can go into a store and see pink in the boys' section and blue and black in the girls' section, and no one makes a big deal about it anymore. Some stores have even taken away boy and girl sections completely, creating more of a safe space for kids. Plus, there's even gender-neutral clothing available. I mean, this certainly wasn't the case when I was a kid. I felt as though I didn't have any options. If I wanted to dress like my brothers, I learned that I had to rummage through their closets.
Back when I was a kid, it felt like girls were expected to play with dolls and wear pink dresses. I didn't have a lot of opportunities to choose anything outside of the stereotypical "girly" colors — no blue or green for me and never pink for my brothers, who played with toy guns while sporting their favorite blue t-shirts. I have no memory of a single boy in my class ever wearing a piece of clothing in a stereotypical "girly" shade.
Yes, there is still a lot of work to be done regarding breaking down gender stereotypes, but compared to when I was a kid, my son and daughter's generation is miles ahead. Today, I can take my son or daughter into a department store and find brands who provide every and any color as options for all genders. It might seem like a small detail, but it's just something I didn't see growing up. I'm glad that my kids won't have the same experience I did. They can choose to wear whatever they want.
I'll admit that even though I am a parent who teaches my children to be welcoming of everyone, I still find myself having to lecture my son on the girl versus boy dynamic. He has been hesitant in the past to try on a purple shirt, for example, because he is afraid of what other kids may say at school. It's frustrating. Yes, I might be teaching my kids that the color or style of your clothing doesn't play into your gender, but stereotypes run deep and are still lingering today.
We have work to do, but the options at kids' clothing stores make me think our society is at least heading in the right direction when it comes to breaking barriers — "baby steps," they say. As a mother, I hope this trend continues for the sake of our children. I never want them to feel pinned into a certain box like I did.