Wednesday, June 13, 2007

If the suit fits

Warning - the following post includes feminist ranting.

K likes to wear "suits" with matching tops and bottoms. She has recently grown out of her stripy pink suit with butterflies on the top and so I went looking for a replacement.

I got sucked in and bought H & K each a suit and a long sleeve T-shirt at a name brand kids clothing store. The suits were from the girls range and the tops are size 5. The long sleeve T's were from the boys range (because they had better colours). They are the same shape, the same length in the arms and body. The only difference is they are cut slightly wider in the body. They are size 3.

So are 3 year-old boys the size of 5 year-old girls?

From the New Zealand growth centiles the average 3 year-old boy is 96cm tall and weighs just under 15kg. The average 5 year-old girl is 108cm and just over 18kg. So there is 12cm (more than 10%) difference in height and over 3kg (more than 15%) difference in weight.

What about the difference between 5 year-old girls and 5 year-old boys? The average NZ 5 year-old boy is 108cm and just under 18.5kg. So there is no difference at all in height and less than .5kg in weight.

So why are their clothes so different in size?

I think it is because it creates an appearance of more gender difference than their really is at that age. Boys in baggy clothes look bigger, with the implication of more muscular and masculine. Girls in tighter clothes look sleeker and closer to the current slender feminine ideal.

Little kids do a lot of developing their gender identities. I have no problem with that. If K wants to wear a purple fairy dress, own pink shoes and ask me lots of questions about which pictures are boys and which are girls that is fine. What I have a problem with is when gender difference is pushed on children. When it is impossible to buy neutral clothes for children that are androgynous in size and shape. When all the toys are divided by gender.

About now I lose the rational argument and start raving and gnashing my teeth.


.carla said...

Madness! You could write to the This Way Up Guy on National Radio. He has said he is interested in following up such things with the manufacturers. Last week he investigated whether fake mint flavouring was added to peas.

Karen said...

My recent frustration has been with the colours available for boys in the cheaper shops. J likes colours at the moment, especially purpoo, yeyow, green and boo... no boys clothes are purple and the girls ones tend to be obviously gendered, we managed to find a yellow skivvy, but the only greens are olive drab, and even the blues (which he mainly ends up with
) are kind of subdued. Also boys clothes tend to be plain or have obnoxious, scary or otherwise inappropriate for 2-year-olds pictures on (though socks seem to be the exception to this).