One of my goals for this summer was to organize the hundreds of family photos we’ve snapped since our oldest son was born 11 years ago. Our youngest son, C.J., is seven and has loved to help me sort through the photos – but he slows my progress to a crawl with endless questions about his baby pictures.
“Why did you make me wear a football jersey?”
“Who put me in a sweater with a train on it?”
“Why did you always dress me like a boy?”
“Because we thought you would be a boy who liked boy clothes and boy toys,” I reply matter-of-factly.
I’m not Kim Kardashian. I didn’t dress my babies and toddlers in gender-neutral clothing. Check out North West’s hipster mini wardrobe. Notice the black tank tops, the black and white stripped pants and the complete lack of anything pink. I wish I were more like Kim when it comes to dressing my kids (and when it comes to having loads of money and a professional beauty team too, if we’re really taking inventory), because C.J. is gender nonconforming. That means he’s a boy who prefers to wear clothes and play with toys that are marketed to girls. If he can’t wear those kinds of clothes and play with those types of toys, he’d prefer them to be as gender neutral as possible. I, like so many other parents, initially reinforced limiting (at best) and harmful (at worst) gender stereotypes while clothing, entertaining and educating my child.
Whatever her reason, Kardashian’s no-pink-on-my-daughter stance is good because it shows that everything doesn’t have to be “for boys” or “for girls.” Clothes don’t have to signify gender. You don’t have to announce the sex and/or gender of your child via the outfit. If people can’t tell, but want to know, they can ask. (Or, in North’s case, they can look at the .5-carat diamond earrings in her tiny lobes and crossbody handbag and make a guess.)
Gender-neutral clothing for kids is one step in the right direction of freeing them from restrictive gender boxes. If Kim Kardashian is thinking outside the box, Angelina Jolie ripped the box apart and set it ablaze when she let Shiloh serve as ring bearer in a tux and top hat at her recent wedding to Brad Pitt.
Looking at his baby pictures all summer, C.J. hasn’t liked what he’s seen. And, truthfully, neither have I, because seeing my now-very-effeminate-dress-loving son in photos wearing a blue fire engine t-shirt with baggy, beige cargo pants and light up dinosaur sneakers makes me feel like I don’t know the kid in the photo and, even worse, like I didn’t know my own child.
Unlike Kardashian, at first I taught my child that pink was for girls and blue was for boys. Then, suddenly, he was old enough to teach me that a person’s gender identity doesn’t make itself known until they are two or three years old. From then on, they want to express that gender and their independence by picking out their own clothes and toys. They want to start making their own decisions. We call this blossoming “The Terrible Twos.”
Maybe baby North West wears gender neutral clothes because her mom is publicly shunning outdated and antiquated gender stereotypes; or maybe it’s simply because it’s on trend and little Nori is clearly more hip, fashion-forward and stylish than most people on the planet. Many people are surprised by North’s simple, understated, gender-neutral style. We all expected to see flamboyance, opulence, avant-garde. We expected New York Fashion Week on a one-year-old.
If every generation of parents creates a new definition of masculinity and femininity for their children’s generation, then cheers to Kim Kardashian and all the parents out there who don’t define their daughters with the color pink and their boys with the color blue. We are a generation of parents who have no interest in our daughter’s being hyper-feminine and our son’s being hyper-masculine. We’re comfortable with androgyny. We’re sick of the double standard of femininity in males being viewed as weakness, while masculinity in females is viewed as strength. We realize that colors, toys and clothes are for everyone regardless of who they are marketed to. We don’t necessarily think gender expression is a definite predictor of future sexual orientation, but, if it is, we are okay with whatever the outcome – because love is love.
What are the repercussions of gender-neutral fashion choices and behaviors in children? Kids learn that they are free to be who they were created to be. We don’t confine them to the blue aisles or the pink aisles; we give them access to the whole world to explore unrestricted.
I hope Kim and Angelina know that C.J. and I are available for gender-neutral playdates just as soon as I’m done with this family photo project that I started in June and am nowhere near finishing!
Lori Duron is the author of an award-winning blog (RaisingMyRainbow.com) and memoir (Raising My Rainbow) which were the first of their kind to chronicle the adventures in raising a gender creative child. With more than two million readers in nearly 180 countries, Duron’s work has earned the attention of such media outlets as The Atlantic, BBC, CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Newsweek, PEOPLE, TIME and others.