Gift Shop Woes

This weekend my husband and I took the kids into Chicago for a day in the city. I had a brunch with Ines from 7 Wonderlicious to discuss brand strategy, and the kids were anxious to tear up the Children’s Museum at Navy Pier. I had checked out the website for the museum the night before, and was really excited to see some of the exhibits like the Artabounds Studio, Dinosaur Expedition, and Skyline. 

I consider museums to be sacred. They are esteemed building of knowledge  where everyone becomes an equal because of their hunger for learning. When I’m feeling completely run down and out of sorts, I head for an art museum. It helps my head to just sit in the sound and the color of the paintings. I have successfully passed down my love of museums to my children, who at ages four and two years old seem to already know everything and question everything all at the same time. 

So the night before our trek into the city, I’m pouring over the website and then look at the link for the gift shop. I always like to know ahead of time if places have little trinkets available so each of the kids can get a small ($5 or less) toy when we leave.  Then I come across a t-shirt that makes my head explode. I shared the image on our Pigtail Pals Facebook page, and many people had the same reaction. Not only did the shirt have no place in a museum, some commented it had no place, period.  I am offended by limitation, especially when aimed at my children whose minds know no boundaries

Princess shirt for sale at the Chicago Children's Museum.

 

My confusion on this has several parts: 

1. Why sell a princess shirt in a museum with no exhibits about princesses? 

2. Why sell only two shirts for girls, this one with a tiny-waisted white princess, the other pink with butterflies and caption “You make my heart flutter”? 

3. Why are girls limited, constantly, to Princess Culture? Why is this their ONLY choice? 

4. Why are we constantly bombarding our girls with a very narrow definition of beauty? 

5.  What do a few royal sparkles and odd floating high heel have to do with learning? 

In case you are wondering, the boys had three shirt options: a pirate, a T Rex roaring at the skyline of downtown Chicago, and a blue tee with a space shuttle on it that read “Big Dreams Start Small”. 

Girls = “You make my heart flutter.” Butterflies          Boys = “Big dreams start small.”  Spaceshuttle 

Big dreams start small. My daughter is small. She has big dreams.Not a single one, so far as she has shared with me, is about princesses nor their sparkles. She dreams about narwhals and dolphins and Sea World and seals and flying to Madagascar. She thinks volcanic eruptions are divine and she loves to pour and measure liquids. This morning when she was playing pretend with her little brother, she didn’t ask for a princess dress or enchanted high heel to wear. She asked for seal fur so that she could go to the Arctic. 

Next to the princess tee above was half a wall of purses trimmed in fur, tiaras, magic wands, jewelry,and fairy wings. Next to the boy’s pirate shirt were astronaut and space toys, dinosaurs, maps, rescue gear and vehicles. 

My daughter came to this building for learning. Gender stereotypes do not help her, nor my little son, learn. They limit them. They diminish who she thinks she can be, and what he believes girls are capable of. I teach them everything to the contrary, but this is the urban wallpaper I am forced to raise my children with. Even in this building of learning and exploration. 

The gift shop offerings belied the experiences I saw as my family moved through the exhibits. I saw girls pretending to be bugs, playing with cars, building skyscrapers, digging up dino bones, putting out pretend fires, and experimenting with physics like racing balls and flying planes they made of foam pieces. My daughter discovered the joy of delivering enormous static shocks to her dad after she slid down the slide in the Treehouse Trails. She discovered sparks, but not sparkles. 

I don’t understand why so much of the marketplace for children does not reflect children. It reflects what a company thinks a child ought to be. 

I think we need to change the way we think about our girls.  

I am offended by the limitation being sold and taught to girls. I do not accept it. Not for my daughter, not for yours. 

If the princess paraphernalia were one of ten other options, I wouldn’t be writing this post. When it is the only option, my head explodes. Childhood is not a time for limitation and stereotypes. 

Next time I go to the museum, I hope to see them carrying shirts that show girls as astronauts, doctors, scientists, carpenters, paleontologists, and pilots. Shirts, like these

We need to change the way we think about our girls.

Booty Shorts and Baby Bums

Ahhh, summer time. This upcoming weekend is Memorial Day and the official start of summer. Dogs on the grill, baseball games, lemonade stands, and little girls’ asses hanging out of booty shorts all over……Sometimes, there are things that by definition, have no place in childhood. Booty shorts would be one of those things.

Before we get underway, some vocab for all you Media Literacy savvy parents:

  • Inseam: Length of inside pants seam from bottom of crotch to lower ankle.
  • Short shorts: Clothing vendors refer to these as shorts with an inseam of 4 inches or less.
  • Hot Pants: Shorts with inseam of 2 inches or less, meant to draw attention to legs and buttocks.
  • Booty Shorts: Shorts with inseam of 1 inch or less, meant to reveal the lower curve of the wearer’s buttocks. Usually used in conjunction with clubbing/dance outfits or sex workers.
  • Infant: offspring of humans, usually pre-verbal and under 24 months old.

Clearly, our vocab list doesn’t seem like it has a lot of cohesion. I think it would make sense for clothing companies to provide shorts that allow young girls to crawl, climb, run, and sit as they naturally would during a full day of play. Yet I’ve received numerous emails and postings about moms having a hard time finding decent shorts for their girls this summer. Everyone is complaining about how short these shorts really are. As a mom of a four year old girl who needed new summer clothes, I could empathize.

So could Andrea Owen, a life coach and mom of 2 who was shopping for her infant daughter at babyGap. She became disgusted when she saw what were very short shorts being marketed to babies. If the purpose of short shorts is to show off long, lean legs and a little peek-a-boo of ass cheek, why are they being sold to babies? That’s not exactly the kind of peek-a-boo I’d want my little daughter playing.

I’ll let Andrea tell you more. Here’s her guest post:

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Denum Shorts for Toddler Girls from babyGap

I admit it: I’m a conformist. I shop at The Gap. It’s one of my favorite stores and probably 85% of not only mine, but my kids wardrobe is from there. And slowly my heavy metal loving husband’s closet is seeing labels from The Gap as well. A few weeks ago I was shopping at Baby Gap, oohing and aahing over the cutest ever baby girl dresses. Then, I saw them. Booty shorts. For babies, you ask? Say it ain’t so! Yes, it is:

Link to Product: http://www.gap.com/browse/product.do?cid=6433&vid=1&pid=740457&scid=740457002

Even in the reviews section one shopper writes, “These were too “hootchie mama” short shorts for my very tall 18 mo old. Bought size 2! I didn’t send them back, though, they look cute over leggings but I sometimes wonder if people are looking at me sideways for dressing my baby kind of sleazy.”

These shorts can be purchased for your little baby girl in size 12 months to 5 years. My daughter is a hefty 7 month old and I’ve been looking for shorts for her to wear this summer. Does this look like a girl who should be wearing short booty shorts?

Andrea Owen's 7 month old daughter

I didn’t think so.

But, you might be thinking, “Wow lady, they’re just shorts. And they’re just babies. Get over it.” Well, to be honest, if someone actually said that to my face they would have really wished they hadn’t. But, to be nice and professional in this blog post I will make the following points: The first and most obvious being that specifically from The Gap the boys shorts are much, much different.

Secondly, and more importantly, there is nothing sexual about babies and little girls. Why do women wear super short shorts? Because the weather is hot? No. Because they like the style? Maybe. But mostly to show legs. The shorter they are the more leg is shown and yes, I know, it makes our legs look longer. I’ll be honest, in high school, I wore some very short, shorts. We used to roll them up and even roll down the waist. But, I was 17 and 18 years old. Not 18 months old. Or a preschooler. And even a couple pairs I own now would be categorized as “short” (for the record, my butt cheeks are nowhere near hanging out). But, as grown women, we’re allowed to be sexy. It’s our choice as adults. Call me crazy, but in my book, short shorts are considered sexy, right?. So why would we put them on a baby or preschooler?

And thirdly, if you still think this isn’t a big deal, OPEN YOUR EYES, PEOPLE! This is a big deal! I will NOT allow companies like this to tell me it’s okay that our babies, our toddlers and our little girls dress this way. Or that it’s cute, or funny. It’s setting them up and sending them a message very early on that it’s how they should dress. That their bodies and how much they show is more important than things like their personality, attitude, sense of humor and intelligence. It’s hard enough for them to understand this when they get into adolescence, the tween and teen years. If we start early by dressing them in a way that screams “Check out my legs and butt, everyone!” we as parents are giving in to the pressure that advertisers and the media put on us as adult women every day.

As a parent, and as a woman, it’s unacceptable that this double standard, this message to young girls starts this young. We deserve better for our daughters, and we deserve better as parents shopping for those daughters. So, I wrote to the Gap. My beloved store The Gap, I let my voice be heard. Here is my open letter:

To whom it may concern,

I have been a loyal shopper of the Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy for many, many years. My wardrobe has been dominated by your brand ever since I was single, and now I am married with children. I do buy clothes for my family at your stores, but was recently shocked when I realized the length of shorts for little girls that you sell in your stores and online.

What concerns me is these “short shorts” or what many call “booty shorts” that are being marketed for 12 months and toddlers. In the same age bracket for boys, the shorts are much longer and yes, I understand that it’s the “style” for girls to have shorter shorts, but, really…..really? I am not what some may call “prudish” or “overly strict” with  my style or attitudes, merely aware that these type of messages are detrimental and careless for our young girls. Please re-think this. Talk to your  marketing team and designers. What do you want to say to your customers? To me, you are saying, “Your 12 month old to 5 year old daughter should wear shorts so short that her little butt cheeks hang out,  and set her up for dressing this way when she continues to get older”.

Your shorts from The Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic in the women’s sizes are not this short, why are they this short for our babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers?

Sincerely,

Andrea Owen

I encourage you to write to them too. Take action. We need more voices heard that this is unacceptable for our little girls. Be heard. You can tell them what you think at custserv@gap.com.

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Here is Andrea’s response she received from The Gap after her initial letter:

Dear Andrea,

Thank you for your feedback regarding toddler shorts. We appreciate the time you’ve taken to contact us to share your thoughts. We’ll be sure to pass your message along to our merchandising team, as customer feedback is an important consideration when planning what our future products will look like.

We appreciate your business and look forward to shopping with you again soon.

Sincerely,
Erika
Customer Service Consultant

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A big thank you to Andrea Owen for her guest post, for standing up for our daughters, and for holding corporations accountable. Brava!

Andrea Owen is a Life Coach, blogger, self esteem and body image activist, empowering women and girls, eating disorder awareness, loving wife and semi crunchy mom.

You can read more from her here: http://liveyourideallife.blogspot.com