Last month I wrote about Loblaws and Joe Fresh and their gendered clothing lines. It is frustrating that so many companies continue to believe it is necessary to use outdated stereotypical and sexist text on their clothing for kids.
The good news is that there are companies that are trying to change this pattern and that are designing clothes for kids, not for boys or for girls, just for kids. Ten small clothing companies have joined forces to talk about how the limited choices for kids clothing is putting limits on kids. Obviously they are also trying to promote their clothing lines as a part of this campaign.
I should mention here that this is not a sponsored post and I have not received any product in return for writing about this campaign. I am writing about their efforts because I think they are doing good stuff. Also as a small business owner myself I understand the challenges of getting the word out about your products and I like to help, plus JillandJackKids.com and I share a product topic in common.
These retailers are working together to challenge what it means to “dress like a girl.” They are offering clothing that promotes Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). My daughters are going to have to rebel against the ways of their arts degree parents if they choose to pursue these fields of study…
We all know that the social expectations are that girls will not be as successful in these fields. Those expectations are still being borne out in rates of women working in STEM fields. Macleans Magazine recently reported that “the percentage of women working in the [STEM] fields has barely changed in almost 30 years. In 1987, 20 per cent of the STEM workforce was women. Today, it is 22 per cent.”
In another article they outline why there are still too few women in STEM fields. Primarily this is an issue of everyday sexism. Women are leaving the field “because they’re discouraged at every turn by thousands of small, sexist moments that make them feel unwelcome and unworthy.”
What does any of this have to do with the clothes kids wear? The same attitudes, conscious or unconscious, that result in those thousands of small, sexist moments that discourage women from pursuing careers in science also result in boys and girls being treated differently in elementary school. The New York Times covered a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research in the US that outlined How Elementary Teachers’ Biases Can Discourage Girls from Maths and Sciences. “The researchers concluded that in math and science, the teachers overestimated the boys’ abilities and underestimated the girls’, and that this had long-term effects on students’ attitudes toward the subjects.”
Clothing communicates messages. We know that there is value in the messaging on clothing because advertisers and brands put their own logos and names on clothing. They want to increase exposure to their brand, logo and messaging. The repeated exposure to those brands and messages sink in and influence our perceptions of what is cool and what we think of the company. The same kinds of advertising can work to shift perceptions of what we think about girls and STEM. At the very least they shift our perception of the kid wearing one of these shirts. It indicates something that the child is interested in, which may then translate into adults and other kids asking the kid about that subject or sharing information they have about that topic. The more a kid is encouraged to talk about and learn about topics of interest, the more confident they will be in their expertise on that topic.
So kudos to these clothing companies that are trying to make a difference and trying to shift our perceptions of gender and STEM through clothing. Thanks for working to free our children from the limits set on them by adult expectations and perceptions. Here’s to #clotheswithoutlimits.
Check out the participating companies and their products below.