To Scarlett's Dad,
When I told you about my new business, making clothes for girls in Dino and Space prints (because I was sick of confronting Princesses and smug Unicorns), you told me “Good luck!” - thanks, I thought at the time, but noted the sarcasm. So here is why you should mean that good luck, why we need to remove the retailer induced haze from our eyes, because we should be surrounding our child with all the fun, adventure and learning the high street affords to boys the same age.
Our daughter is not a passive, Fairytale Princess. She does not require make-up, tiaras that dig into her head, or poorly fitting glass (or plastic) shoes. Nor is she a miniaturised version of our adult selves. She is an awesome 5 year old who we are raising to be a confident, healthy young woman one day. The word girl is often used in a derogatory way to mean passive, pathetic or weak (note, awful Dad in school yard to son “you're running like a girl!”) and that's something we need to change - not perpetuate.
Scarlett is bombarded on a daily basis with images of women that are not healthy. Women as sex objects or women bound to shopping, cooking and cleaning (see the multitude of TV adverts that enforce this.) Shops arrange their toys in For Girls and For Boys denying the right to feel comfortable (or actively directed to) what she wants to play with, including anything Dinosaurs, Space or Cars (note ANYTHING Science, Engineering or History related...) The message for our girls from the media, magazines, TV, toy shops and clothing retailers is You are passive, preparing for marriage and should look pretty.
|Talking smug unicorn "Today is my wedding day!"|
Does that sound extreme? Once upon a time (no pun intended) I might have thought so too, but at a time when few women are entering careers in Science and Engineering, is it any wonder when the message from year dot is “this isn't for you.” I can provide ample examples of this, from “Future WAG!” T-Shirts to the “Its my wedding day!” bizarrely angular talking pink horse you bought her. I've told her its ok to take her Dinosaur lunch-box to school when her peers tell her “That's a boys lunch-box!?” (almost incredulous she should own one) or why she can aspire to be an Astronaut when she grows up, no Scarlett – that's not just for boys.
|Scarlett in Evie's room, wearing her favourite Space Play-trousers|
Scarlett can still CHOOSE these things, but she is up against incredibly clever, big budget marketing. The pink girl or blue boy is so ingrained into our consumer choices we all seem to have fallen for it – but its artificial, as artificial as the idea that girls should want to be Princesses, and boys should want to be Astronauts. Gender specific toys will also employ boy or girl characters, or picture girls or boys enjoying their purchase – making it harder for the opposite gender to relate to. I should also note that in contrast to our Pink Girl we have the Blue Boy – energetic, loud, messy, fun? Can't our daughter be these things too?
|Example of birthday card range in Sainsbury, July 2013|
I hate heels on girls shoes, but rigid plastic Princess Shoes! with heels aren't appropriate outside of the house. I felt compelled to finally write this letter to you after you dropped her off in town wearing said footwear, awkwardly tottering alongside me for the rest of our trip, instead of yelling, arms raised above her head while running full pelt into things...
Let Scarlett be comfortable, let her get muddy and play wheelbarrows in the garden (impossible in a long dress.) Let her choose what she wants but make sure her choice is as wide as possible. Lets not fill every Christmas and birthday with endless pink or Princess merchandise thinking “that's girls for you!” We don't have to swallow those gender stereotypes that turn girls into caring more about being decorative than having fun, learning and exploring. Those retailers don't care a bit about our daughter – lets not let them influence how we perceive her childhood.
|Our awesome daughter, Scarlett|
Sewing Circus is inspired by my daughters Scarlett 5 and Evie 6 months. I couldn't find the choice of clothes Scarlett wanted - so I made them. Based from our home in South Liverpool I launched my own business in June 2013 making Dinosaur Skirts and Aeroplane Pinafores. For more information please see Sewing Circus on Facebook