Every six months or so, I have to buy new clothes for my daughter. Usually this means a trip to the supermarket and, every time, there’s a clear divide between the ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ shelves. I’m not just talking about pink and blue – which continues to a be a major issue – but in terms of which brands are hung where. For girls, you’re lucky if you see Wonder Woman in among the princesses. Of course, there are some shared brands in both sections – the Paw Patrols, the Peppa Pigs and what have you – but if I want to find Star Wars clothes that actually fit her, we inevitably have to hop across to the boys’ shelves.
Since Lorelei was born, I’ve made it a habit to walk around the entire kids clothing section. From the get-go, her wardrobe has been a mix from both sides of this enforced gender divide. You’re as much likely to find blue and grey in her drawers as glittery pink. Now that she’s expressing her independence and identity more, I’m now leaving a lot of the choice with her (it’s how she ended up with a big puffer coat in Naboo Starfighter yellow).
Given I cross-dressed and wore make-up throughout my teen years, I’m no stranger to frequenting the sections of shops geared more towards women. It never occurred to me to stick only to the self-styled girls’ shelves. My partner, Elisabeth, meanwhile, enjoys playing with masculinity, so we’ve made it a point to avoid strict gender definitions as we raise our child. While we’re fine with this, it’s alien for a lot of parents. Some may not even think to go to the opposite shelves, or may be uncomfortable with the whole idea. Ultimately, I think the decision should be the child’s, but just showing them that they’re free to wear whatever they want is crucial here. Especially when new research has shown that gender stereotyping is harming young people’s mental health.
Which brings me back around to Star Wars. No doubt you’ve seen one those viral stories about a little girl being teased for wearing/liking Star Wars because it’s a ‘boys’ thing’. I’m always heartened by the outpouring of love and support, but things need to go further. Right now, if my daughter wants to wear Star Wars clothes, we either have to find a specialist (read: expensive) online shop, or go over to the boys shelves. If it was up to me, I’d put all kids clothing in one gender-neutral section but, until that’s a reality, how about putting more Star Wars stuff in the ‘girls section’?
If Star Wars is supposed to be for everyone, let’s make sure that it actually includes everyone.