For some reason, two weeks ago, instead of deleting an email from the Gap, I opened it and noticed they were proudly promoting their new line of toddler clothes featuring Superheroes.
Feeling fortuitous, I hopped on my computer to actually check out the new Superhero Toddler line because the previous evening, my toddler girl spent the entire duration of her older sister's T-ball game dressed like Batman, clearly fighting crime, with no regard for how profusely she was sweating under her mask. This particular 3-year-old girl loves pirates, Spiderman, Batman, any kind of superhero or dinosaur. With a passion. She sleeps, breathes, and lives for these things.
Back to the Gap, as I logged on to eagerly view their new line, naively thinking that finally I could purchase something for my daughter that aligns with what she wants to wear but maybe isn't in primary colors that boy clothes tend to be sold in (no offense to primary colors but I get tired of seeing her in red and royal blue). Why was I surprised to find an entire line of superhero clothes, bathing suits, flip-flops, sunglasses and sneakers for boys and when I clicked on Toddler Girl -- which reaches up to age 5 -- I could instead purchase her this outrageous zebra BIKINI... or better yet for a 3-year-old -- a one shoulder tank top.
Really, Gap? Really? Teach the toddler girls of America that being sexy begins at two -- I can see the endless value in that lesson.
Look, by this point I was seeing red. Now it was too late for me to go back to my happier place of not opening the emails from the Gap... all that was left to do was unsubscribe, obviously.
What is wrong with American clothing manufacturers that they believe little girls only should be wearing pastels with rainbows, horses or the peace symbol? Or zebra print bikinis and one-shoulder tank tops? Why can't little girls shop in the girl section and find superheroes, dinosaurs and pirates? My little girl comes ALIVE when she's in the boy section of a store and that doesn't need to be the case. What about the little girl who maybe isn't intuitively drawn to these types of toys but could see these things as options for her in the girl section and might begin to want those things? Why are we assigning such strict gender roles to kids as young as 2, 3, 4 and 5? The message being broadcast: Girls are sugar and spice, they care about world peace, brushing horses and glittery rainbows. Boys are messy and dirty, they like big scary dinosaurs, thieving pirates and strong superheroes who save people from large lizards.
It isn't right.
Same goes with McDonald's. Why do you have to choose "boy" happy meal or "girl" happy meal -- why can't you just choose the themed toy your kid wants without assigning a gender to it? All this does is open up unnecessary conversations between my kids -- one wants a boy thing (hurled at the younger one as a criticism), no I insist, it isn't a boy thing, it's a YOU thing. It's a thing she likes, or it's a thing the other one likes, it's not boy things or girl things, boy or girl shouldn't matter, we don't need to assign meaning and gender when we are 3. It is CRIMINAL that she has to process this in her own way and try to make sense out of it because she goes on to say "But I am a GIRL" -- and she is so confused.
She's a super cool little girl who loves pirates, dinosaurs and super heroes and the only people who seem to take issue with that are the close minded, totally sexist one-dimensional people working at American companies. These are the very people who are unnecessarily confusing my kid and dictating to her what girls should wear, what they should play with, what they like to watch. Except she doesn't -- and she won't.
Oh, and she also doesn't want to wear a superhero shirt with a slutty looking Bat Girl or Wonder Woman. She wants strong girl superheroes except she can't articulate it that well, all she knows how to do is reject those things -- and rightly so.
It's no wonder that she says things to me like "Only boys are superheroes mommy" and I am left with doing a desperate Google search to find age-appropriate examples of female superhero role models. All of this leaves me in a conundrum -- do I support the Gap's toddler boy superhero line -- by purchasing a few of the things for my daughter -- or do I ban them from our house all together in a feminist protest because it is so condescending to look through the contrasting clothing options offered to girl and boy toddlers at that store. Gap isn't the only company guilty of this -- they just are the target du jour because of the email they distributed recently.
What do you think? Do you find this at home? Is it me -- or have we had enough of this and it's time to view kids as more nuanced, complicated, open-minded humans who enjoy a variety of things and don't need the gender assignments the adults want to push on them?
Follow me here for more rants... not all of them rage against patriarchal American companies, but you never know.
Follow Monica Gallagher Sakala on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@wired_momma