Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Back to School Shopping: A Terrible Window into our Culture

The two big girls started school yesterday. It's a good school, a small school, and a place that they are so excited about going that they became a bit annoying over the weekend. As far as I'm concerned, if they come out with good grades and having learned a bunch of stuff, that's great, whatever. The point is, they are exposed to a world that isn't manicured or presented by my wife and me and though they may see a bit through our lenses, they journey alone for the first time. It's hard, really, letting go, but that's another subject.

What scares me is the back-to-school shopping that we've had to indulge in. Where we live, it gets awful cold a good bunch of the year. But during the summer, we are in exceedingly warm climates--sun dresses and sandals all summer long. When it comes time to get dressed for the approaching fall, we learn that our kids have grown three feet and it's kind of freaky. So back-to-school shopping is more than just a ritual, it's a necessity for many of us.

Now, I know I've spoken to some of these issues in the past, but every time we seek out clothing for our daughters to wear, we are presented with a harsh reality. The clothing options for little girls are more expensive, less practical, and more insulting than clothing options in the boys section. Everything from shirts to shoes to sweaters to pants are bent towards "fashion" and looks for girls with very few practical options.

My kids like to run and play and climb. My kids have gym class. My kids sit in a classroom, sometimes flat on the floor, around other boys and girls. Now, wouldn't it be great if clothing manufacturers knew this and made clothes for girls that are good for play, good for exercise, good for sitting in? No. This season it's all about this retro-80s bullshit--boxy shirts with oversize necks, low-rise pants, short shorts and footwear more appropriate for walking on the sidewalk than the playground. In those boxy shirts, you can guarantee that your daughter will have a shoulder out and about from time to time and their stomach out, too. In the pants, you can promise that their underwear will show when they sit down. With those shoes, you know that blisters are in the future.

This is not the case for boys. Boys get reasonable T-shirts in every color (except pink) and nice long rugged pants and shorts. Their shoes are made for running and climbing and keeping their feet warm. Their sweatshirts are not V-neck and can actually hold the wind off since their not paper thin. And, as always, boys clothes costs less.

Our culture and their cradle-to-grave marketing wants our daughters to start falling into predictable buying habits. They want them to start seeing their bodies--even at this young age--as a currency that must be maintained, displayed, and spent. This keeps the machine moving in the future.

The type of peer pressure that is exerted through children doesn't come from children. It comes from pre-cognative links formed in the human brain and exploited by marketers to keep groupings of children dressing the same. So buying boys clothes for girls will make them outcasts. Buying from thrift stores--which we do a lot of--will eventually lead down the same path.

But we are given little choice. What shall we do? Vote with our dollar? I hear that all the time. Sometimes we're not given the right option for which to vote. Our daughters deserve more. We need to demand more. Now, anyone know how?

1 comment:

koskalaka said...

If I had the time and patience, I'd make all of my daughter's clothes. It is ridiculous that I have to buy the 2 sizes too big for her in the waist shorts in order to get the legs of them to be long enough to cover enough of her rear end to be appropriate. She's TWO! I feel your pain.