I have two sons and a daughter.
I like recycling clothes. My younger son has, each season, a selection of whatever his big brother didn’t destroy at his age. My daughter inherits some of them too – fleeces, wellies, waterproofs – but from an early age has had a strong interest in clothes and a very marked preference for what she likes.
She likes pink. She likes sparkle and glitter and is counting down the days till I will let her have her ears pierced.
There are a lot of days to go.
Pink and sparkles aren’t my thing, but I don’t mind that she likes “girly” clothes. We try to compromise, with me curbing her inner Bet Lynch as far as is humanly possible.
Yesterday, after rummaging through the bin bags of hand-me-downs, I went online to fill the gaps in the wardrobes of all three. My daughter, who is lucky enough to be passed on some lovely dresses and tops from a friend, was particularly short of….shorts.
Tesco, to its credit, let me browse for “children’s shorts” without forcing me into choosing whether I wanted boys’ or girls’. So far so good. But these were the results.
Sainsburys offered me these
Asda (which also has the option of a unisex search):
You might notice the main difference between those for boys and those for girls, and it isn’t the colour. It’s that the girls’ ones are cut – not to put too fine a point on it – on roughly the same lines as a pair of pants.
Let me introduce you to my daughter. As a wannabe gymnast, she spends half of her time like this.
When she’s not walking around her hands, she’s rolling around on the floor or clambering up a climbing frame or running across a field. She likes clothes, yes, but during the course of her day she gives no more thought to her body than what it can do. Just like her brothers, in fact. She likes to be comfortable and inconvenienced by what she wears.
And it’s this which gives me the problem with high street retailers’ offer to little girls. I don’t care if the clothes are pink, or sequinned or spattered with flowers. I don’t mind if they have pretty features and are plainly not unisex (whatever that means).
I do mind, very much, that so many of them, worn by a small girl, restrict her behaviour in a way that the boys’ counterparts just don’t. I don’t want my daughter forever hoiking a shorts gusset out of her bottom or rebalancing an impractical strappy top over her shoulders. I don’t want to have to explain to her that she can’t do what she wants to do because bits of her body are bared by her activity when her brothers remain more sensibly covered – and I’m talking not just about modesty, but about safety and comfort too. I mind that the boys’ shorts above are described in terms of their practicality and comfort, while the girls’ are all about being “on trend”. And yes, I could (and do), buy “boys” things for her, but very often that misses the point.
I don’t mind that my daughter wants to look pretty. I just don’t want her to think that that’s the object of each day.