Jenn Neilson writes:
My name is Jenn, and I’m a former academic with a PhD in philosophy from UT Austin (2011). I’ve moved on from academia to my next project, but I thought that you might be interested in a post about it for the Feminist Philosophers blog.
I’m starting a kids’ clothing company called Jill and Jack Kids to challenge gender stereotypes and inspire the next generation of leaders to think beyond pink and blue. We’re launching our new line of kids’ clothes that go beyond pink and blue on Kickstarter from May 19th – June 6th, 2014. We’re starting with t-shirts in sizes 2-8, with 4 designs that change the messages we’re sending to kids, and our products are eco-friendly, socially responsible (no sweatshops!) and made in Canada with US-sourced materials.
As she explains:
Of course it’s great that we’re starting to see skill-building toys being marketed to girls, as well as boys (Goldieblox being the prime example). But this is really only a tiny part of the change that we need to make in kids’ environments to stop reinforcing the outdated gender stereotypes that limit their opportunities in life. If we want kids to want to engage in play that develops new skills, they have to see that kind of play as acceptable for kids like them. This will be easier with some kids than others, but how easily it comes depends both on the examples and influences that they see around them, and on their sense of self–their sense of how they’re supposed to behave, what sort of interests are seen as acceptable for them to have, and what options are open to them. A child’s sense of self is shaped by a combination of his or her own personality, along with a wide range of social factors. To change the environment that kids grow up in enough to stop reinforcing outdated gender stereotypes, we’re going to have to do a lot more than market skill-building toys to kids who are already independent enough, who already have a strong enough sense of self, to be interested in them. If we want to see the level of real, widespread change that stands a chance of eradicating gender inequality as we know it, then we have to start earlier. We have surround kids with influences that will help them to develop a strong and resilient sense of self, so that they will be secure enough to choose toys and clothes and books and movies based on their true interests, instead of choosing according to what society expects of them.
So how do we do that? We start by changing the messages that kids receive from role models in books, on TV and in movies–ending the era of the traditional Disney princess, where adventure, curiosity and personal strength are reserved for boys. But that’s not enough. If we want to change the messages we’re sending to kids, we need to recognize the communicative power of the things that are closest to them–the very clothes we dress them in. Gender conventions in children’s clothing reinforce the idea that building, discovery and active play are for boys, and that girls should be concerned with home life and aesthetic appeal. The bows and ruffles and hearts and frills teach girls about the importance of looking pretty, and the dark colors, truck and sports motifs show boys that they’re destined for competition and adventure. We should strive to make our children’s worlds reflect our hopes for a future where men and women are treated with equal respect, and have equal access to and responsibility for all aspects of life. Only our own choices as consumers and business-owners can make that change happen.
Check out her website here!