A Sexist Day at the Beach

The little cuties in this image are from One Step Ahead.

These little folks to the left are pretty cute, I you ask me. At first glance, the swimwear and sunwear this crew is wearing is adorable. Totally stuff I would buy for my own kids, which is why I get the One Step Ahead catalog because I have purchased from them several times before. They have some really cool, unique stuff for families.   


When I look at this and the other photos below, I notice that something is missing.   

What is missing from these pictures out of the One Step Ahead catalog is important.  

For a day at the beach, the boys get sea turtles and whimsical fish. That makes sense.  

The girls get daisies and monkeys. Huh? Daisies don’t grow at the beach. I don’t know about you, but I don’t normally associate monkeys with beach fun. Where are the turtles and fish for girls? Or sea horses and starfish and whales? Not even a smiley sun?  

The clothing is age appropriate and cute. Cute! But we need to look past the cute, and look at the big picture. What is the message we get for girls? That even at the beach, a place for kids to romp and tromp and splash and run and dig and play, girls are meant to sit and look sweet and pretty. Look! Tutus! For the beach!  

The boys, on the other hand, get sea creatures and pick up things from nature and run around! Rascals!  

Even on the swim floaties, girls get ruffles and palm fronds, boys get BIG. CHOMPING. SHARKS.  

Girl Monkey

Boy Monkey

(Click to enlarge these, I know they are tiny.) 

The girl monkey is a close up of her face, with hearts on her smile and a flower in her hair. Look how sweet and pretty she is. Oh, nevermind that she doesn’t have a full body and we’re just focused on her face.  

The boy monkey? He surfs! Always catching a wave, that Boy Monkey! Side by side, the difference is an important one.

Girls = look sweet and pretty.  Boys = sporty and action packed.  

There is no surfing choice for girls. There is no close up of a boy’s face. Why? Because we look at girls, but we watch boys go through the world.  

The difference, what is missing for girls, the focus on sweetness and prettiness….All of it matters. The difference is an important one. 

Girls designs don't reflect anything you'd actually find at a beach.

Boys get sea turtles and fish and surfing monkeys.

Ruffles, daisies, and monkey faces for girls. Fish, sharks, turtles, and surfing monkeys for boys.



  1. I concur. I have had this same conversation with other moms and friends of mine ever since I was pregnant with my daughter (now 6.5y). Why aren’t there fishies of all colors for all kids? Why are whales or sharks only for boys? Furthermore, why aren’t there seashells or sandcastles in colors for all kids? Why do 90% of pink things have to have (mumble-mumble) ruffles??

    What also bugs me is the flip side of this — I can’t find a single item of clothing for my boy (2.5y) with a kitty cat on it, unless it’s a lion or tiger, or a cupcake or a flower. I don’t know about other families with boys, but we have cats, not dogs, so I’d like a shirt with a cat on it for him. My daughter has a cute shirt that reads “I Love Cupcakes” and though it is pink (OH NO!), my son will wear it as soon as he is size 4T, because seriously — who doesn’t love cupcakes? (I know you are focused on the girl side, primarily, but my point is just that there are problems of equity everywhere. THANK YOU for doing what you do!!!)

    • Amy –
      We have a 5yo girl and almost 3yo boy, and I hear and see everything you are saying. I totally agree. It affects both sexes. Our children deserve better.

      Pigtail Pals doesn’t offer boy items…..yet. But my brain never stops working, and I may just have a few plans in place next time the company does some growing.

  2. It’s like your inside my BRAIN, reading my thoughts. Thanks for giving voice to these things. And if I here one more time how it’s such a small thing and it doesn’t matter, I will scream. All those small things add up to some seriously big things!

  3. Women my age fought this battle in the 70’s and it’s sad to see how far backward things have gone over the last 10 years. Mothers and fathers, it DOES matter and I’m so glad to see you and others fight this again. Girls need trucks and surfboards and trains on their clothes, on the bookshelves and in their toy box. Boys need cats and rainbows and ladybugs in all those places, too. I won’t even go down the road of blue and pink. Let’s hear it for RED! Keep up the good work, women. Don’t let us slide back to such rigid gender stereotyping!

    • Laurie –
      You hit on something I’ve been mulling over a lot lately – my generation of mothers is the most well-educated, most accomplished, most liberated, most well-traveled generation of women the world has EVER seen….and we’re allowing these marketing concepts to move us back to 19th century thinking. I just do not understand it.

      Thanks for your comment, and for leading the way for women like me. Hopefully my contemporaries will find their way again, and stop making the choice to limit and sexualize their daughters.

  4. It’s so funny to see this post. I needed to buy some beach stuff from this catalog the other day (some items that I either can’t find elsewhere or are too expensive elsewhere). Besides the logos and ruffles that you mention here, I want to point out the limited COLOR CHOICES!!! The boys have a choice of blue or green — nice, two choices. But for the girls EVERYTHING came in pink!!! There was no yellow, or purple, or even shades of blue/green that don’t look like boy clothes. Very frustrating.

    I for one love your sun idea. How about some items in a nice bright yellow with a smiley sunshine! I would buy that for my daughter!!

    • Erika –
      Yep, the color choices. We talk about that a lot here. One, it is limiting, telling our children what they should prefer or be boxed into. Two, it is a gendered marketing scheme, forcing families with children of both sexes to buy double as there are ZERO gender neutral options. That is how the whole pink/blue wave got started in the very early 1990’s, marketers saw it as a cash cow, and have ingrained it so far into our heads that most people don’t even question it anymore. Sigh.

      Even at Hannah Anderson, a Swedish company that used to have awesome bright, gender neutral stuff, has changed their options to compete in the American market: http://www.hannaandersson.com/category.asp?id=sale_dress+%26+swim+sale_view_all

      With Pigtail Pals apparel, I have worked very hard to offer ALL kinds of colors and empowering messages for girls.

  5. sigh. it is all so upsetting and overwhelming. i have 41/2 year old twin girls and i’m finding that my attempts at gender neutrality — or at least to provide them with choices — have been completely thwarted through the combination of marketing, family members who have zero respect for my preferences (read: we rarely receive a gift that is not pink or girly-girl), their peers, and (gasp!) their pre-school, which is decades behind on this stuff (read: box of barbies in the classroom and disney princess books abound). i am more outspoken about this stuff than most folks and yet even my children’s world is filled with pink and frilly and princess. it is just so ubiquitous. i can’t understand why more companies aren’t bold enough to not follow the party line. i mean, seriously, a company like One Step Ahead, which provides such useful and unique products — why can’t they offer yellow or green or sharks or fish?? will parents of girls really only buy pink and flowers? really??

  6. Thanks for pointing this out. As a manufacturer I fully agree that most don’t even “think” about their fabric or color selections. When you work in the industry you know what will sell. That said, as I’ve grown my own business I’m seeing that parents want a different style for their kids and not one that is based on gender so much, but rather on style, quality and design. However, stores aren’t willing to make the leap – yet. As topics like these continue to be elevated we have a chance at shifting retail buying trends for the better.

    Thanks for elevating this. So important!

    • RKW –
      Yes, I agree. Stores aren’t ready to make the leap yet. I noticed that while at market two weeks ago. It looked like pink, sparkles, and tulle had been thrown up all over the design tables. Everything was still hyper-girly. That’s why my rep liked my line so much.

      I like the idea of entrepreneurs – mompreneurs – like you and I changing the focus of trends. 🙂

    • For those who don’t know, Rebecca is the founder and designer of one of my favorite luxury children’s lines: Petit Couture. Truly gorgeous stuff in the most amazing patterns and colors. Take a peek here: http://www.petitcouture.com/shop-petit-couture/

  7. I am sick sick sick of the pink! Seriously we like other colors. Why is pink the ONLY go to color. And why is BLUE always on boy stuff. I am grateful for my mom embracing whatever goes with her daycare – a boy of hers used to love playing dress up and wear gloves and carry purses. She never corrected him or mentioned gender, but embraced he was having FUN.

    • Kendra –
      Your mama is right on the money. Benny (almost 3yo) LOVES pink and purple, and last night when choosing toothpaste, insisted that the pink Disney Princess paste was for boys and the blue Toy Story paste was for girls. When I asked him why, he looked at my like I was a moron, and stuttered, “Cuz cuz cuz cuz cuz boys ah dee pitty onez and dee girlz ah brave like Buzz.” Alrighty then!

  8. I agree with the other Amy, it’s just as hard finding certain things for boys. When my friend who’s totally into baseball had a daughter, I looked for a baby outfit that had baseball on it, and the two baseball items I found both said something about “boy” right on them! I thought having a boy would be easier–wrong!
    When my son was about 3 to 6 he LOVED sparklies and ruffles and velvet and pink. But these things were only found on dresses. (I didn’t even care if he wore dresses, but I felt it only fair to tell him that at preschool this might meet with disapproval from his peers.) My aunt sewed him a rainbow sequin vest, (SPARKLIES!) and he wore that thing everywhere. His brother liked it so much my aunt had to sew one for him too.
    I mean really, who doesn’t love shinny things?

    (And as far as colors clothes go… IMO, all children’s clothes should be shades of brown, black, and dark green and blue. I don’t know if other moms have better laundry skills than I or just go through clothes faster, but my children are forbidden from anything white, or other light colors like yellow or sky blue.)

  9. On a big girl note and on the theme of beaches: check out this awful article (insert vomit smilie here) http://www.couriermail.com.au/sport/confidential/womens-surfing-gets-too-sexy-as-competitors-judged-on-looks-more-than-skill/story-e6frepnx-1226016383019

    • Nic-
      I don’t understand how one could surf in something so skimpy and not lose one piece of the other in the first wave…?

      It is a catch-22 with female athletes – so many of them have gorgeous, strong, toned bodies and that should be celebrated….but then they sell out and pose for men’s mags and such…Google Olympic Skier Lindsay Vaughn – an athlete my little girl might someday want to do a report on for school. She has just as many skimpy bikini shots as she does skiing.

  10. Er...what? says:

    Buy the boy stuff. To be honest, YOU’RE the one creating the issue here. Who’s to say a little girl can’t wear the boy stuff – other than, clearly, you? Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill.

    • I shouldn’t have to buy the boy stuff. There should be options for girls. The molehill is the lack of options, and I see that as a giant, sexist, limiting mountain.

  11. Augh, and the catalog labeling in that last picture – “girl monkey” vs the default “monkey”. rage inducing.


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