My daughter, now six, is now madly in love with superheroes. She’s particularly fond of the Justice League, mainly Wonder Woman, the Flash, Batman and Green Lantern. My mother recently bought her a Batman sweatshirt, complete with a hood and a Batman mask that pulls down over her face. M loves it so that even in the dead of August she comes running down the stairs in the sweatshirt and black jeans, to strike a proper superhero pose on the steps. She’s been “Kid Bat” ever since, running around on the lawn with a towel tucked into her collar for a cape. I love it.
My mother and I, however, were irritated by the labeling on the sweatshirt. She bought it at Costco, under a sign reading “BOYS’ SWEATSHIRTS.” She asked the same question I asked when looking for superhero costumes last year–why, exactly, is this a “boy” item? The girls’ table was piled with shirts with ballerinas, princesses and sparkles. My daughter likes some of those, but she’s leaving them behind in favor of bright colors, geometric patterns and superheroes. She doesn’t want a pink “supercutie” T-shirt, she wants Superman–the same design the boys have, but fit for a girl. M did mention the “boys” sign over her shirt, and asked why they thought they were only for boys.
“Because the people who made the sign are stupid,” I answered. “Wear what you like. They don’t have any right to tell you what to do.”
M nodded and walked on. Her friends love her sweatshirt, and none of them have mentioned that she “shouldn’t” be wearing it. She has a Spiderman backpack for school, packed with princess, superhero and My Little Pony school supplies for school next week. She’s happy.
I ran into this same problem at the beginning of summer. M needed a sleeping bag for camp. I asked her which she’d like, and from a wide variety of options, she chose a blue one with moose printed on it. When it arrived, the tag attached says BOYS SLEEPING BAG printed on it. M worried that she’d made the wrong choice. We wrote her name over the tag in black marker and then she was fine, but we again had to talk about how just because it says “boy” doesn’t mean she can’t have it. Why does it say that, anyway? Are moose masculine and dragonflies feminine? Who decided?
Even I, as an adult, run into this. Konami now makes Silent Hill T-shirts, and I desperately want one. However, they only make them in men’s sizes and styles, and I can’t wear men’s shirts; they look weird. It’s disappointing that they don’t realize how many of the people who play horror games are female. (Including everyone I play with!)
As I watch M run around being Batman, I hope that when she’s grown and has daughters of her own, that maybe we’ll be past labeling what boys and girls can have. Maybe people just need to see more little girls in Batman cowls.