Baby gender benders

22:00, Nov 26 2013

What colours are you wearing today?

If you're a man-person are you clothed in some variant of blue? Ladies, are you a riot of pink?

Maybe you are... but then again, it's just as likely that you're in green, or red or grey or that old trusty fallback option, black. You have options, is all I'm saying. 

But when it comes to baby wear the lines are very firmly drawn. At least in terms of gender. 

This is something that I was vaguely aware of before but since becoming the kind of person who actually has a reason to frequent shops that sell baby paraphernalia (rather than someone who would occasionally cruise in, get gooey at the sight of tiny little socks, and leave without buying anything) I now see how strictly gendered baby clothing is. 

Let's just say that, like me, you don't know what the sex of your unborn child is. You know, like most people throughout history. What are your colour options when buying clothes for the babe?


As far as I can tell they are: white or grey or pastel yellow, green or turquoise. Possibly some orange if you can find any. Black doesn't seem to feature at all (what happens if I have a ninja baby then?) and bright primary colours are almost impossible to find for newborns. 

I've been told that black and babies don't mix because of its tendency to emphasise the kind of milky stains that they create, but if the obsession with pastels is to do with stain-based realities surely Pumpkin Patch should be doing a line in oatmeal tops and karitane yellow leggings? Or karitane yellow onesies, if the explosive, tsunami qualities of baby excreta are to be believed?

When it comes to shopping and what's available, blue is very much for boys and pink is for girls. The reason I know this is because blue things also have dump trucks, rocket ships and firemen on them. Pink things have flowers, fairies and princesses. I was genuinely surprised at the lack of variability. Finding a blue item that doesn't also say something twee like "handsome like my daddy" is next to impossible.

I've also discovered that puppies are for boys, bunnies are for girls, and that ducks and giraffes are gender Switzerland. The jury is still out on elephants. Which is all a bit silly given that I'm pretty sure all of these animals come in both boy and girl varieties. But they, like colours, do seem to be "assigned" in a fairly rigid way when it comes to baby fashion.

Considering that the gender meaning we apply to colour is basically arbitrary and based on a cultural consensus rather than any inherently "masculine" or "feminine" attributes (after all the rule used to be pink for boys and blue for girls), that we're so very strict with our observance seems downright weird. 

Is it really as simple as the fact that boy and girl babies are, to the casual observer, gender neutral? That the clothing we put them in is the only signifier to the outside world of which pigeonhole to put them in? Because I'm not that fussed if people can't tell whether my baby is a boy or a girl (as if human gender identity is as simple as "one or t'other" and not a rather more varied continuum). If they're really interested they can ask. I won't be offended. You know, because of how they all look like tubby little asexual blobs of humanity and you've basically got a fifty-fifty chance of guessing correctly. 

But honestly, the way that their outfits are so strictly delineated between two colours makes it seem that something crucial is at stake. It's as if all babies are either Crips or Bloods and must show their loyalty as such so that everyone knows who's on whose side during a turf war or pitched battle with flick knives. Woe betide any baby that accidentally wears the wrong colour on the wrong street corner lest this prompts a rival baby gang member to do a driveby, yo.

I'm certainly pleased that as an adult I have more options. There is as much blue and green in my wardrobe as there is red and pink. I just wish there were more options for The Squishy too. 

Are you similarly bemused by the strict colour rules that seem to dictate what goes in terms of baby garb? Does anyone really care if a boy wears pink or a girl wears blue? 

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