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As I write this, I’m in my pyjamas drinking a pint of squash. I’ve just put my babies to bed. Today they turned six months old. I genuinely can’t really believe it, because they’re actually big, you know, and like real people. Their personalities are really coming out and we don’t really get through a day without wondering what they’ll be like when they’re older – what they’ll be into, what they’ll choose to do for a living, even how they’ll dress. Which leads me neatly onto this post’s topic.
Unnecessarily gendered stuff makes me cross. Like, seriously cross. From the word go, Matt and I never placed much importance on what sex our babies were. We decided not to find out the genders at our 20 week scan, mostly because we knew we wouldn’t prepare any differently either way. For us, that was totally the right decision. Not knowing made the day they arrived extra special somehow, a little added bonus during a few weeks of total madness.
In 2016, raising girls is a minefield. There are so many different issues to deal with, as parents it would do our daughters a disservice if we were passive. So, as a start, Matt and I made the decision quite early on that there wouldn’t be any gender restriction on them. After all, they have the opportunity to be whatever and go wherever they want in life (although, as it turns out, maybe not university – thanks government!), and I was keen that just because they’re female they shouldn’t need to wear pink everyday or play princesses and ponies. When they get older and they choose those things, they’ll like what they like and that’s cool, but for now, I don’t want to put them in a box they don’t have the agency to get out of. I know it may seem over the top or sensitive, but I don’t like the idea that they should conform to stereotypes just because their biological make up dictates it. And I feel very strongly that they grow up knowing that although the way they look and their level of femininity may sadly dictate how they’ll be judged in the world, they do have the power not to care.
When they were born we were lucky to be given a lot of presents by our nearest and dearest, and quite frankly, some people I don’t even know. Turns out I was actually quite shocked by how gendered even newborn clothes are. T-shirts with slogans like “Pretty like Mummy” and pictures of lipsticks and compacts just didn’t sit right with me. I found myself edging towards animals and nature as themes for the girls’ first wardrobe. We also picked toys and mommy and me sets that are largely gender neutral – the animal kingdom is a pretty unisex area, after all – and they’re encouraged to play with cars and tractors just as much as fluffy bunnies and dolls.
I think it’s probably important to say that I think parents should raise their children in the best way they know how, and I certainly wouldn’t judge anyone for doing things differently from us, but I think this article What’s wrong with pink and blue? by Let Toys Be Toys can probably say it way better than I can, and it echoes my view that I don’t believe there’s anything inherently wrong with the colour pink. In fact, I quite like it, and the girls wear it, and even some flowers (gasp!) from time to time. However, I don’t think there’s a need to shop for them exclusively in girls departments – far from it. This quote from that article sums things up pretty well:
Anyone who asks ‘what’s wrong with pink for girls?’ is asking the wrong question. What’s wrong with pink for boys? What’s wrong with all the other colours? Isn’t sticking to pink confining children to a strict idea of what it means to be a girl? The world comes in an array of glorious colours, why limit children to just a few shades?
So this leads me on to what I’m really here to talk about: some shops do the whole gender neutral thing better than others. Even if they do have designated “Boys”, “Girls” and “Unisex” sections, there are variations of those parameters. A while back Mamas & Papas got in touch with me and (full disclosure) offered me a £50 voucher to choose some clothes for the girls. I shop there a lot, I love their Leeds Trinity store, and they’re one of the brands I think do gender neutral clothing well – even if it is separated into girls and boys sections. There are floaty Midsummer Nights Dream inspired dresses, a gorgeous collaboration range with Liberty (I have the nappy bag) and even a flash of little Fifi Lapin, all alongside shirts, jeans, earthy colours and woodland prints – perfect for either sex. I actually over-spent on my voucher, and splashed a total of £71 on my picks for AW16.
Mamas & Papas sizes are generous, so the kids won’t grow out of them too quickly, and their ranges for boys and girls feature a rainbow of colours, designs and are thankfully devoid of sexist slogans. Want to read more about this? Check out Gap Kid’s gaff from earlier this year. They advertised a collection for boys called “The Little Scholar”, with the equivalent for girls labelled as “The Social Butterfly”. Not only that, they actually managed to spell Einstein wrong too.
I spent my voucher on some gorgeous pieces, including some blue printed leggings with pine trees on, a three pack of bear all-in-ones which I absolutely love and will be super snuggly for the autumn and a three pack of bandana bibs. My favourite items were actually these mulberry cord trousers which I think were a real bargain at £14 – they’re thick and hardy (a must for adventurous babies!), plus they come in a couple of different colours – and this beautiful woodland-themed quilted jumper. I almost can’t wait for the colder weather to set in so the girls can wear them.
Other places on the highstreet which I think do well for less gendered collections – H&M do a wide range of unisex stuff and their long sleeve vests are some of my favourites, M&S aren’t half bad for the basics, and Zara’s Mini range is great for under ones. I also like online stores like Milk Moustache Apparel and Tobias & the Bear who label all their clothes, accessories and homeware as unisex and have some awesome designs.
Where do you buy your little ones their threads? Are you a fan of neutrals?
- There’s no good reason to push pink toys on girls by Melissa Hines, Professor of Psychology at the University of Cambridge
- Breaking Down Gender Stereotypes in Media and Toys so that Our Children Can Explore, Learn, and Dream Without Limits a fact sheet from The White House
- Toys Are More Divided by Gender Now Than They Were 50 Years Ago an article by The Atlantic
- 18 female scientists tell us about their favourite childhood toys by Let Toys Be Toys
- GoldieBox on a mission to inspire the next generation of female engineers. They make toys and entertainment that inspires girls to be confident.
- Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls encouraging girls everywhere to change the world by being themselves
- Let Toys Be Toys asking the toy and publishing industries to stop limiting children’s interests by promoting some toys and books as only suitable one sex