It’s 2016, y’all. Women can vote. They can be president. They can do literally anything men can do, and more–like carrying human life inside their body and subsequently expelling it out of their vagina.
Not to imply that there’s the source of all female worth, of course. But I digress.
Generations of women before us already have been defined by either their wombs or other perceived “weaknesses” and I am not about that life. So that’s why t-shirts like these, being peddled in the children’s sections of mainstream clothing stores, can be especially disappointing, and even distressing:
Children's clothes by @sainsburys
— Henry Mance (@henrymance) October 14, 2016
Journalist Henry Mance was the first to point out these rage-inducing tees, spotted at a local Sainsbury’s. In wearing these, girls label themselves “little and loved;” boys, “brave and strong.” It’s not that being little or loved are at all inherently bad things; but they’re passive. While young boys are painted as heroes, action-takers, change-makers in their own right, girls their age are taught that they’re defined by how they’re perceived and valued by others.
Needless to say, the Twitterverse got pissed:
— Helen Ablett (@HAblett) October 14, 2016
— Paula Tucker (@ibundle) October 15, 2016
— bryanthegirl (@bryanthegirl) October 15, 2016
While I do understand the desire not to project stereotypes or inferred qualities on kids before they’ve even come to understand what gender or sexuality truly means, personally, I’m not sure I see the need for completely agendered kids departments. As a woman–and once a “little” girl–I think youngsters can and should take pride in their personal gender expression. But I definitely think the way it’s approached needs change.
For example: I recall my own brief, half-hearted tomboy phase in elementary school, in which I never truly wanted to be “one of the boys,” but felt that if I fully embraced stereotypically feminine qualities–a preference for pink, a “girly” attitude–I would be considered weak. Ineffectual. Silly or stupid. If more girls’ clothing embraced a girl power attitude instead of this ‘little & loved’ bullshit, I might not have felt the need to identify as a tomboy–a girl, but not really a girl, not a ‘girlish’ girl–to get respect.
“These t-shirts are very popular with our customers and we always welcome their feedback,” Sainsbury’s told Mashable in a statement. “We offer a wide range of clothing and it certainly wasn’t our intention to cause any offence.”
The t-shirts remain available for purchase on the store’s online platform.