Girls’ T-shirts with empowering slogans are reinforcing feminine stereotypes

Since 1985, the market for children’s clothing has changed dramatically, from a unisex wardrobe to a gender-defined market. From a market that offered a wide range of colors, shapes, and styles, parents are now offered clothing embellished with flowers or trucks, defining “boys” and “girls” sections, with less space devoted to neutral styles.

A random visit to most of the children’s clothing retailers will reveal a very distinct gender-defined pallet of colors. Girls will mostly wear pink, purple, pastel, light blue, yellow, white and black. Boys usually wear colors like black, red, blue, grey, green, orange, white and yellow. In addition to the difference in color and shape, boys’ and girls’ clothing share a distinction in their prints. While boys’ clothing mostly have prints of objects that are considered masculine, like trucks, monsters, and sports icons, girls’ clothing have objects that are considered feminine and cute, like pandas, butterflies, ice cream, bunnies, narwhal and, of course, unicorns. Not only are these animals considered feminine icons, but the print is also making sure we will recognize them as such, usually adding extra feminine touches to the cute animal, like a hair bow, eyelashes, sparkles or sequins. Thus, children’s clothing is gendered, and there is no mistake in which gender these clothes are designed for.

This process of highlighting femininity in girls’ clothing can be seen in the various shapes and patterns, linking the shirt, or dress or skirt, to the girl’s feminine identity and body shape. Mainly, feminine clothes are designed to be tighter and, sometimes, to expose more skin than boys’ clothing. In this sense, gendered clothing relates differently to girls’ bodies than boys’ bodies. Girls’ clothing, such as leggings, tight shirts, or belly shirts, emphasize the girl’s body and physicality. The unique gendered patterns are designed to portray a softer, more feminine silhouette for girls.

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