Kavi likes pink. Her…

Kavi likes pink. Her favorite color right now is sort of a pink-magenta, which incidentally, is apparently the official hot new color for 2011, which they're calling 'honeysuckle' -- clearly, she is going to be a fashion trend-setter.

And I admit, I like dressing her in pink. She looks insanely adorable in her pink ballerina dress, with a long-sleeved white shirt and her hair up in a pink-banded ponytail. Her pink light-up sneakers complete the outfit, and it makes her so happy when everything matches. (Her standards for matching are very strict -- the various pinks, for example, should be exactly the same color. I have tried to tell her that blue and purple 'go together', but Kavi is having none of it.) Mama likes cute little outfits, and daughter is picking up that attitude, I can see. After she gets all dressed and hair brushed in the mornings, Kavi turns to me and asks, "How do I look?" And I tell her, always, "Beautiful!" She goes away happy, and I wonder whether I should be doing something different, so that she doesn't think to ask that question.

I also like dressing her in blue, or green, because both colors look great with her skin tones. And so does brown, which is often really hard to find for little girls. There's an upscale kids' resale shop near us, and I managed to find a gorgeous little dark brown t-shirt there, with white silhouettes of girls riding horses across the front. It was probably $40 new, but down to $5 for resale, thank god, and I snatched it up, because you just can't find that sort of thing at the big chain kids' clothing stores. Almost everything is relentlessly gender-segregated, and it drives me crazy that even the stupid jeans are so clearly boy/girl designed, making it very difficult to be frugal about passing clothes down from your daughter to your son.

And part of this is in my own head, I know. Because when I was last sorting Kavi's old clothes for Anand, I found that I had a hard time imagining dressing him in pink, or in flowers, or in the jeans with the little ruffle at the heels. (Kevin would have been fine with it.) And when I dress Anand in a pair of dark grey corduroys and a blue sweater with a white tall ship on it -- I swoon. He is such an adorable little man.


It's not just clothes either. Anand is transitioning from bottles to sippy cups right now, so I picked up two new ones just for him. And they had one in blue-green, and one in pink-orange, and I stood there in the aisle for way too long, trying to decide whether to get two of the blue ones, or one of each. I went for one of each, even though it felt a little awkward, and was proud of myself when I gave Anand his pink sippy cup of milk the next morning. And then Kavi got a little upset, because the pink-orange cup was bright and pretty, and wasn't it supposed to be for her? And I said she had three cups already, and two of them were pink and yellow, with flowers and crowns on them. And Anand could have pink things too. I'm not sure I convinced her, but she did wander off shortly thereafter. (Anand, of course, did not care about the color -- he just wanted his milk, and as fast as possible, please.)

I have this ongoing battle in my head, whenever I shop for them. Nobody gets military clothes (for babies? seriously??), or much in the way of sports clothes. Not that I have anything against sports, really, but the boy = sports thing is SO intense that it makes me reflexively angry. Especially when they're designing clothes for a one-year-old that make him look like he should be hanging out in a seedy bar, hitting on drunken frat girls. We buy a lot of clothes with dragons, and robots, and dinosaurs, and just animals in general. Dogs are good. For both kids, although Kavi is starting to resist grey and black and dark blue, and she thinks some of the aliens / robots / dragons are scary. Which makes me sad.

And she's picking up stuff from pre-school now that makes me crazy. Pink is for girls!, she'll proclaim. And that makes me want to go put Anand in a pink dress, right now, but of course, I don't have any pink dresses for him, because of the aforementioned buying into the same damn cultural constructs. Argh. Although to be fair, pre-school also has her coming home from school and saying, Look how big my muscles are! Much better.

My father commented when we were back home for Thanksgiving that I should cut Anand's hair soon, because it was starting to get a little long and girly. And I bit my tongue, because I was raised to be respectful to one's parents. But also because I was sort of stunned that someone would actually think / say such a thing. Argh. Now I want to grow his hair into a long, flowing princess cascade down his little back.

No, I'm not going to do that. I'll probably cut it within a month or two.

I know, I've written about this before, and I imagine I will again. Because I'm not sure it's going to be resolved anytime soon. Maybe she'll get tired of pink dresses and turn into a tomboy, or he'll turn into a...I'm not sure what a polite term for it is. Girly-boy sounds awful, and sissy-boy is much worse.

But whatever you call it, however they dress, I'm committed to being fine with it, even if, I suspect, it will sometimes make me uneasy on some level. It's my job to make them strong and confident enough that my kids can wear whatever they damn well feel like, at any age. No matter what anyone, including their mother, thinks of it.

14 thoughts on “Kavi likes pink. Her…”

  1. Some of it is social constructs, some of it is what kids are attracted to…

    We dressed my male cousin up in drag all the time when we were growing up… (and we played with his Star Wars and He-Man figures).

    Some kids at the library, when we had more toys, loved the kitchen set, both boys and girls. There are girls who play with the train set, too….

    I wouldn’t worry too much… yes some of it is social conditioning (you can look back at my rant about the Thanksgiving parade float), but kids can also be remarkably resistant to social conditioning…

    Are there any pink dinosaurs? (My cousin, Amy, is a fashion designer http://www.zazzle.com/zoo_by_decew who is just starting a new line… give her feedback on what you’d like to see) Pink robots?

  2. Besides, you may look back on this in 12 years and laugh, when Kavi is dressing in black, with black fingernails and green lipstick!

    But I do agree that it is amazing how gender-oriented kids clothes are….

  3. I was really struck by something you said at one point here, I don’t remember now exactly when it was, but you were expressing frustration at being unable to start on a knitting project for a baby yet because you didn’t yet know whether it was going to be a boy or a girl, so you didn’t know what color to use, and that really surprised me.

    We’ve tried pretty hard to dress Juniper (20 months) in both “boy” and “girl” clothes, and are pretty committed to trying to fight the stereotypes when she inevitably runs into them, but I’m sure it won’t be easy. It helps that I think she looks absolutely adorable in “boy” clothes, and sort of weird and girly in pink and dresses. :^) (It also helps that we got a bunch of hand-me-downs from friends with a boy, so we had a large supply of “boy” clothes without having to try very hard at all.) But at some point she’s going to start having preferences of her own, and I predict that that’s going to be harder to fight.

  4. This is so interesting. My first daughter (the one who shares your birthday) loved lavender when she was Kavi’s age. She still does, almost four decades later, but not so exclusively. We painted her bedroom that color, by her choice.

    When she was about nine to thirteen years old, she was very much into frilly feminine clothes, but she was also very much a “tomboy” who thought nothing of climbing trees is a dainty pink dress or whatever!

  5. We just bought my 6 yr old son new snow boots and the ones he picked out, while almost entirely black, have multi-colored metallic threads in the “fur” lining and are almost certainly meant to be girl boots. He has spent his entire life listening to me tell him “There’s no such thing as ‘girl toys’ or ‘boy toys'” (0r colors/jobs/etc…I’m a big believer in early and pro-active brainwashing!). However, because he is now in 1st grade and kids can be mean, I *did* mention casually that I thought the boots were excellent, but it was just possible that some people might perhaps think that they were meant to be worn by girls… I disliked myself for even mentioning it, but wanted to know if he’d be ok with some teasing, if it came. He said he didn’t care, and a couple of kids have indeed told him that he’s wearing girl boots. It bothers him and makes him feel bad, but he also really likes these boots and doesn’t want to stop wearing them. So we’re working on telling people briefly that we disagree and then ignoring the entire thing. Some new Avengers and Spiderman manga-like books help with the distraction. 🙂

    It also helps to have friends who are committed to ignoring gender stereotypes. When Finn feels like he’s had to defend his choice of footwear too many times, we can go hang out with a friend who has both superhero and princess undies and isn’t shy about telling you so!

  6. We avoided all the angst about boys in pink and other ‘girly’ things by only having daughters. So although I like to think that we’d be willing to put our son in pink, I can’t be sure how successfully we’d manage to implement our ideals if we actually had to put it into practice. That said, we’ve been quite successful in putting our daughters into sports-themed clothes & camouflage. 4-year-old Meg’s favorite shirt has a football & the word ‘Gridiron’, and 2-year-old Nicky is going to be disappointed when she realizes that she’s outgrown her camo pants.

  7. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    For the knitting thing, I’m guessing I was knitting for someone else. The thing is, some people really do care and want to dress their kids in gendered ways, and even if that bothers me, it also feels weird imposing my politics on what’s supposed to be a gift for them. I dunno. I think I can just default to yellow, the ‘safe’ baby neutral — but I don’t really like yellow.

    I definitely would be thrilled to have Kavi climbing trees in a pink frilly dress. I think part of my anxiety about all this now is that she’s a fairly cautious child — the last on the playground to try climbing a tree, or the swings, or…well, anything. I get frustrated about that, since I’m kind of the opposite, and I would like her to be braver. But, oh well. If she’s happier sitting on the ground digging in the dirt, more power to her. The world needs gardeners too.

    I do think our friends are reasonably good, parent-wise, at not being super-gendered with their kids. But even their kids are repeating the same girl-boy stuff to Kavi. One of the downsides of pre-school, these pernicious ideas. Although I suppose they have to socialize at some point.

  8. I think it’s important to remember that it’s not the cultural gender roles that are harmful in themselves, but the way that they are used to limit and control people. If our children have a fondness for the traditional male or female gender identity and all that comes with it, that has to be fine, right? Otherwise, how DO we defend the boy who wants to wear pink? It can’t be true that it is only okay for our sons to like pink, because that makes them gender-role smashing warriors. It has to be also all right for our daughters to be pretty pink ballerina princesses in tutus if that’s what they really want. I was just reflecting yesterday about my own childhood, and how it was kind of shoved down my throat that being a tomboy was the only way to be. I was a girl who liked dresses, but I felt marginalized because all of my fictional heroines were tomboys. We, as a society, are also pretty hard on girls who want to grow up and be housewives and mothers–as if that is only an acceptable vocation, again, if you are a gender-stereotype-smashing stay-at-home father.

    Above all, we have to let our children be who they are. As they grow, your children will surprise you with the many ways they assert this. Although I loathe the way that gender roles are handled in the entertainment and fashion industry, I gotta say there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with being a girly girl or being an all-boy boy.

  9. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Catherine, I certainly agree that there shouldn’t be anything wrong with being a girly girl or an all-boy boy. But at the same time — there are ways those roles are prescribed that make me deeply unhappy. When the role is restrictive, I guess. When someone says girls can’t do this, or boys can’t do that — or if they do do things they aren’t supposed to, they’ll get laughed at, or abused, or even killed.

    I’m not sure, really, what I think about gender performativity in general — when I choose to wear a dress or nail polish, when I try to be pretty and feminine, sometimes it weirds me out. Because — what’s the point, exactly? And why should pretty be feminine, rather than masculine? Weren’t there pretty dandies once upon a time? (Metrosexuals now, I suppose.) Often I wonder whether we’d all be better off if all of these behaviors — dressing up, dressing down, being tough, being delicate, etc. and so on — could be uncoupled from gender entirely.

    And I have no idea how to reconcile that wondering with support for trans folk. I find it all really confusing.

  10. This is something I struggle with ALL the time. I think there’s a lot more freedom for girls, in what is socially acceptable to wear, than there is for boys (though I admit I’m biased, being the mother of a son). For the most part, I buy River’s clothes and he sometimes will pick out what to wear on any particular day. I always try to get the very cutest boy clothes (no sports, limited trucks, am a sucker for anything with dragons, robots, etc.). But the one day he needed to borrow pants from preschool and they only had sparkly girl pants? Oh, was he ever delighted, and it made me feel bad that I’ve never bought him the prettier, girly pants, but only boring old boy pants.

    We did let him pick out his new boots last month. He desperately wanted the pink kitty boots, and we would’ve bought them for him, but they didn’t have his size. I still feel a bit of anguish about this, because even while I was a bit relieved (both b/c I was worried the older kids at school would mock him and also b/c I get sick of parents making assumptions — though lately other parents ask if they aren’t sure, for which I’m grateful), I was also sad; what if this is the last time he’s open-minded enough to really go for the pink kitty boots that he loves so? (He ended up picking out red ladybug boots, which are certainly also meant for girls, but are less obvious about it. Still, I think they’re the main reason other parents have been asking me his gender lately.)

    Anyway, I’m trying to involve River more in deciding what we buy for him.

    PS Oh, and if you get Anand’s hair cut, be sure to cut your curl beforehand, at home. I’m still bitter I don’t have a perfect ringlet of River’s baby hair b/c the stylist messed up.

  11. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Yes, maybe if I just let Anand pick his clothes more when he’s older, that will help. But I do think I need to have some pink and/or sparkly options available to him, which means I either buy things he might not choose to wear, or I have to actually take him shopping, which I never do, because I am lazy and it’s a pain shopping with the kids. (Mostly because of carseats and winter gear.) Sigh.

    The curl thing is actually the main reason I haven’t cut his hair yet — to get a good ringlet right now, I’d have to cut it very short, and I don’t want to do that. If I wait a few months, I can get a ringlet to save and still leave him with some hair. 🙂

    I haven’t taken the kids to a stylist yet — I just cut Kavi’s hair myself. I’m sure it shows. 🙂

  12. Let a home dress-up bin be the testing ground for self expression. If Anand wants to wear heels and a glittery dress great! If Kavi chooses superhero capes and construction worker hat, more power to her! It is a wonderful place to test interests without outside social commentary.

  13. I struggle with many of these same issues. But I also just had to laugh at the description of Kavi’s insistence on colors matching, because this morning, Alice dressed herself in (and I swear, I am not exaggerating even slightly): a dark-purple long-sleeved shirt with little sparkles on it; a somewhat faded orange-and-white summer sundress; magenta leggings; lime green socks with ducks on them; and white sandals. That’s what she gets for having two parents with no fashion sense whatever.

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