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The Gender-Neutral Clothing War

Jul25

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Hey wonderful! I hope you and the family are doing well.

I am 16 weeks pregnant, and we’ll be finding out the sex of the baby on August 4th (probably).

My problem is that I HATE how our culture is currently gender stereotyping babies before they’re even born! I can think of nothing as tasteless as these “gender reveal parties” that are all themed like “Glitter or Guns!” as if having a vagina means you can’t use a gun and having a penis means you won’t like glitter. (I think David Bowie would disagree.)

Ugh. The thought a headband with a flower bigger than my baby’s head makes my very bones ache.

Because of my strong feelings, I want all gender neutral items. Most of them are super cute, if harder to find! Who doesn’t love sweet, simple baby clothes emblazoned with bumble bees or foxes? To me, just about anything is gender neutral as long as it’s not obnoxiously gaudy or covered in “Big Man” slogans. This is also a great plan because we hope to have two children, and I love saving money.

The problem is that I’ve already had family members flat out tell me they won’t respect my wishes as a parent. I wanted to keep the sex of the baby private until the birth, but my boyfriend has flat out said he thinks not telling people is stupid. Plus, I tend to get bullied into things by my more vocal family members.

What do I do? I don’t want to be a Baby Showerzilla, but if someone tries to give me an outfit with “Born 2 Shop” written in scrolly letters on it, I might light it on fire. Honestly, our kids will be forced into specific gender roles as soon as they’re old enough to walk. Can’t I just let them be babies?

So first of all, I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH YOU. Gender stereotyping is stupid. Insidious and dangerous, even. The next person who tells me to cut all my 3 year old’s gorgeous blond ringlets off because he’s supposed “to look like a boy” or hints that I’m damaging him somehow by keeping his hair long is going to get a screed and a half on what “looking” like a boy even means and their outdated assumptions about gender and sexual identity because come on, just say what you REALLY think: You think little boys with long hair or who play with dolls are icky gay or something.

However.

Imma gonna suggest you figure out a way to unclench your rage-hands a little and let the baby clothes issue roll off your back, a little bit. Figure out a way to smile and say, “thank you!” when given a gift you don’t like or want. Then you return the flower headbands or SPOILED LIL DIVA onesies to the store, or donate them.

Fill your baby registry with gear and practical stuff — not clothing. Most people are completely chill with buying gender-neutral strollers, crib sheets, Pack-n-Plays, etc., since they know it’s being purchased with future babies in mind. Register for all the gender-neutral swaddling blankets and nursery decor you want. Then take a deep breath and remember that you cannot dictate that everyone follow your exact wishes when it comes to the registry and gifts, and that’s okay. I know it’s HARD when you receive gifts from people who know your preferences but are openly defying them, like ha ha I think your beliefs are silly and I’m rubbing your face in it via a hot-pink onesie, but you’re going to need to be the bigger person. Practice that big smile and fake a “thank you! this is so cute!” You aren’t going to change anyone’s mind about gender stereotyping by being angry/seething/ungrateful about the issue all the time.

Personally, the baby clothes thing didn’t bother me as fiercely as it bothers you, and let me try to explain why. We had plenty of gender-neutral clothing and accessories, and plenty of onesies with trucks and baseballs on them. The point of the gendered baby clothes is just to maybe save people from having to ask you if your baby is a boy or a girl. And for your baby to not be naked. And for your baby to barf or poop on. And in the grand scheme of gender stereotyping, pink and blue baby clothes are hardly the hill I felt like dying on.

My concerns come later, when it comes to my children choosing their interests and activities and role models. I don’t want anyone telling them they couldn’t get a doll and a baby stroller for their birthday, or if they did it automatically needed to be the blue one, when maybe they preferred the pink or purple. I don’t want them to never be exposed to strong female characters in books or TV or movies. And I don’t want them to look down on “girl” things like princesses or pink, and thus look down on the girls they know who like those things.

This stuff? Is much harder. Your influence only goes so far, once they’re out in the world, going to school and making new friends and under the watch of other adults. Returning blue footie pajamas and exchanging them for a yellow set is pretty easy, in retrospect.

The bigger, tougher problem I get from your email is that you seem to be surrounded by people who don’t respect you, and who are openly planning to defy your wishes on this for years to come. Which is probably why you have chosen the baby clothing issue as the ONE THING you hope to control, and your family won’t even let you HAVE THIS ONE THING, which, RAAAAGGGGEEE. (I’m going to hope, by the way, that your discussion with your boyfriend over the possibility of just keeping your baby’s sex private until the birth went deeper than just him telling you that your [perfectly reasonable, given the circumstances and your strong feelings] idea was “stupid.”) I completely, totally understand your frustration. But believe me, a baby shower full of yellow and green is not going to “solve” the underlying lack of respect and bullying problem.

This column now seems like its contradicting itself, since I started out telling you to relax and put on a fake happy face when given gifts you don’t like but then I’m talking about standing up for yourself to these bullying family members. (“That’s what I’m trying to DO, Amy. GOD.”) I guess I’m more concerned about your overall war than this one particular battle, since you’re presumably going to be the one who dresses your baby every day and can skip over the newborn tutus and tiaras in favor of ducks and frogs. But if people “flat-out” telling you your ideas and preferences are “stupid” and won’t be respected, that’s a much more serious problem and will bleed into who knows how many aspects of your parenting and life. I feel like I’ve been resorting to the “maybe a therapist can help” line of advice giving more and more lately, but hey, maybe talking to a therapist about your family would help give you insight on why this is happening and how best to stand up for yourself — hopefully in a situation that doesn’t involve lighting a pile of shower gifts on fire with your mind.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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54 Responses to “The Gender-Neutral Clothing War”

  1. IrishCream Jul 25 at 4:45 pm Reply Reply

    Ugh. I feel you. I have two girls and I hate hate hate the constant stream of messages from society that girls are one way, boys are another, and the sexualization of little girls. (Baby bikinis. I can’t even.) It’s hard to see them pigeonholed in any way, and to see the amazing boys we know absorbing the message that they shouldn’t like “girly” things.

    I think this is absolutely a cause worth fighting for, but better to win people over to your side than to be so dogmatic that they can dismiss you as crazy. Remember that you have the final say (with your partner) over what your baby wears, and the toys that he or she plays with. If people give you gifts that are deeply counter to your values, you can say “Thank you for thinking of us” and then exchange or donate what you will. If someone confronts you about why they never see the baby wearing that outfit, you can say that you’re sorry, you’re so appreciative of their generosity, but it just didn’t feel right to you to push them into any gender stereotypes before you know who they are as a person. Or whatever you think would get the message across without being so confrontational that they get defensive.

    Good luck, and congratulations!

  2. Stephanie Jul 25 at 5:32 pm Reply Reply

    I love Amy’s suggestion about registering for gender neutral baby gear. We did that with our first since we had future babies in mind. No one objected in the slightest.

    Turned out, we wound up with two girls.

     Anyway, here’s my experience: while I don’t object to girly clothes in the slightest, I’m pretty dismayed by how my older daughter (just turned 5) has completely and utterly dismissed anything that can be perceived as boyish. She wanted to get Lego sets, but refused to get any that weren’t Disney Princess or the “Friends” line. I mean, I’m glad she’s interested in building, but did she have to gravitate immediately to the girly ones? Same thing happened with clothes. Friends of ours gave her an outfit with a pair of shorts that were camo in coloring (although it was camo flowers). My daughter flat-out refused to wear them.

    Anyway, my point is: You can want to be gender neutral when they’re babies, and even when they’re toddlers, but at some point, it’s going to be out of your control.

  3. Amy Renee Jul 25 at 5:37 pm Reply Reply

    I disagree with the advice not to register for gender neutral clothes. Yes, there are going to be people who insist on buying the pink frilly dress no matter what. But finding gender neutral clothes (that aren’t designer or cost 2 arms and legs) is actually not that easy. So if you see something in the store or online while you’re registering and think “yes, I’d let my kid wear that, boy or girl” then register for it so you at least have a chance to get it as a gift.
    Yellow & green stuff for under 6 months old isn’t so hard to find. But after that, it gets trickier, especially if you are trying to shop at less expense stores. For instance, one of my perfect gender neutral items would be a red T-shirt or onesie. Seems straightforward enough right? Never found a plain one in a store other than a 2nd hand store.
    Buy yes, clothes are only the first battle, toys and stuff are much harder. But just keep trying and exposing your kids to as many different experiences as you can, and hopefully you can strike a balance that works for you and your kids.

  4. Rose Jul 25 at 5:48 pm Reply Reply

    I also wanted to be fairly gender neutral in my clothing preferences in the lead up to my son’s birth – even though we knew it was a boy, it just seemed more fun to have clothes in a variety of colors beyond blue. We registered for a few gender-neutral clothing and bedding items, and to be honest most people bought us the registry stuff PLUS they added a little extra shirt or outfit that they personally loved (and that was decidedly BOY). I balanced out the boy stuff by having a onesie/shirt/bib/hat decorating party at my baby shower. Everyone ironed on an applique of my choosing, that was decidedly gender neutral (and freaking adorable, I might add). This might be something you could have your family members do – then you will at least have a big stack of neutral stuff, made with love. 

    I will also echo others’ thought that eventually, your clothing preferences for your kid might be outweighed by the kid’s own choices, or maybe another situation. For me, I received boxes of hand-me-downs (that I am utterly grateful for), and don’t care that they are BOY BOY BOY. I just care that they were free, given with love, and connect me to other friends/mothers in a way that is surprisingly important and satisfying. 

  5. Jenny Jul 25 at 5:58 pm Reply Reply

    We lied about knowing the baby’s sex. We knew our families wouldn’t respect our desire not to share that information so we lied and pretended we never found out. Say what you will about honesty and boundaries and whatever, but it worked for us. If only you could get boyfriend on board…

  6. Kerry Jul 25 at 6:09 pm Reply Reply

    I have nothing but empathy. We didn’t find out the sex of our first baby until birth for exactly your reasons…and the day she was born was the last time we received anything from anyone that wasn’t pink. Except for from my mother-in-law, who went 180 degrees in the other direction and decided that since I dislike pink (I’m actually fine with pink) she would buy nothing but boy things…which makes me feel icky and misogynistic. The best you can do is register for stuff you like, don’t feel obligated to keep stuff you don’t like, and try to reassure yourself that you are going to be a bigger influence on your kid than any of these people. 

  7. Bobbe Jul 25 at 6:40 pm Reply Reply

    I’m going to second Amalah’s advice about therapy: it doesn’t have to mean there’s something wrong with you, but just that you’re mature enough to recognize the unhealthy disrespect from your family members for what it is. And it can really help, especially over time.

  8. Kathleen Jul 25 at 8:23 pm Reply Reply

    We told everyone we were having a boy and I was genuinely surprised when almost everyone in our family gave us clothes that had “all-star” or “daddy’s little slugger” on it because presumably they knew us and knew neither my husband nor I could tell a football apart from a baseball. We’ve NEVER been sports people, so to have the sudden tidal wave of sports-themed clothing was really weird. I said thanks and never, ever dressed my son in any of it. By his first birthday, I would casually mention how much my son loved animals and from then on, we had a nice safari theme going. People get really, really weird for the baby shower, but they really do relax after those first few months…at least about clothing. By then, they’ve moved on to unsolicited opinions about sleep schedules, nursing, preschool, etc.

  9. Chiara Jul 25 at 8:23 pm Reply Reply

    Oh dear. My partner and I were tossing around the idea of not finding out the gender at family get-togethers and as soon as I heard one person complain that not knowing would mean they wouldn’t know what colour things to buy I slammed my foot down and decided not to find out. Like Amy says, it’s sooo hard to avoid gender stereotypes once they’re born, I absolutely DO NOT want them to start before. Luckily my partner was okay with it. But Amy’s also right that this is only one small battle in the war. I don’t know if you remember a few years ago the complete hubub that was created over a family who decided not to reveal their child’s gender (http://www.thestar.com/life/parent/2013/11/15/remember_storm_we_check_in_on_the_baby_being_raised_genderneutral.html). It was horrible. I didn’t find out because I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep it a secret, but I also know that there are way more forces at play than some ultrasound technician and the colour of a kid’s clothes. 

    One of the things that pisses me off the most is my two nephews have NO DOLLS to play with. Almost all of their toys are trucks. 

    I don’t have a real conclusion to this comment. I guess I just wanted to say that I sympathize. I feel triumphant every time someone tells me they don’t know what colour gifts to buy. But it also makes me feel absolutely awful about the realities of gender moving forward. 

  10. Jen Jul 25 at 8:35 pm Reply Reply

    My recommendation, if you don’t want people to know the sex of your baby ahead of time is to not find out. My guess is that even if your bf agrees to not tell, it will slip out somehow since it isn’t that important to him.

    With the clothes– we had lots of gender neutral things with our first. However- be aware that gender neutral generally means “boy” clothes. I found that as long as things weren’t frilly and horribly stereotyped, I was ok with “girl” clothes. And with our second daughter, we had more girly things. But the Line I Would Not Cross was the the Disney/branded/sexualized/negative stereotyping one. I tend to stick with things that are plainer.

    I do agree with the other commenters about toys, books, etc being more important. I am careful about what my girls wear, but I am more careful about the example I set and the toys and books that they have, plus we are very strict with media exposure.

    At the same time, I have one girl who hates pink and princesses, and she loves crazy bright colors, Lego, science, and math. Harriet the Spy is her hero. Her sister loves Hello Kitty, Playmobil, and all things pink and sparkly. Your kid(s) will develop into the person they are meant to be.

  11. Mag Jul 25 at 9:20 pm Reply Reply

    This was/is me. My daughter is 3 and while it’s been challenging at times (and some times frustrating and some times enraging), it’s do able. The way we look at it is it’s not so much as denying our girl “girl things” but rather not limiting. So yes, she has received dresses and pink crap, but we make sure she has as many (if not more) options that aren’t about that. When she was a baby, I made a point to dress her in a variety of outfits and yes, sometimes people thought she was a boy (the horror! ;)) but I refused (and continue to refuse) to allow any clothing item that says “Princess” or something similar. We got a few and they were returned/donated with no problem.

    I will say I was very open about my gender neutral preferences and for the most part people were supportive. We told everyone we were having a girl and made sure our registry was gender-neutral and not pink. I tried to bite my tongue and just be gracious when people gave me gendered gifts but whenever I wasn’t actually receiving a gift at the moment, I talked about my hope to not receive a “pink avalanche” of stuff.

    The thing that bothers me now is how the toys are so gendered. For example, the school bus toy she received as a gift? It’s pink. You know, like all those pink school buses out there. Barf. But whatever, she puts her superhero Little People in it and they go for a ride. And that’s another question.

  12. Mary Ann Jul 25 at 9:25 pm Reply Reply

    Mother of a girl who accidentally bought a “Little Big Guy” onesie here. They shouldn’t put the ones with writing in the middle of the sets. It doesn’t leave the house, but she does wear it.

    I’m fine with some gendered stuff in her wardrobe and toy box, but I tend to buy the “boy” version if both are available, because I like blue and green more than pink and purple. The pink and purple find their way in, of course. And I’m the only person buying things with dinosaurs, robots or cars, clothing or toys.

    My line (with which my husband agrees) is no “sassy” clothing.

    Also, my daughter’s thighs do not fit into the “girl” shorts or shortie rompers that fit her waist. So, she wears boy shorts (and most of her pants) and shortie rompers. That cuts down on the aggressively monochromatic girly clothing from everyone.

    • Elizabeth Aug 06 at 11:48 am Reply Reply

      OMG “sassy” clothing. That is the perfect, diplomatic way to describe it.

      I have two little girls and have a very firm rule about any clothing I feel sexualizes the children. That string bikini with cherries on the little boobie triangles for my 5 month old? NO THANK YOU.

  13. S Jul 25 at 10:08 pm Reply Reply

    It does not matter what you dress your child in. I have an 11 month old boy who is all boy. But people still call him her/she. Coral colored shirts that were all the rage this year? Yep. Red shorts? Girl. No gender neutral name here either. People out in the world dont care.

  14. Kate Jul 25 at 11:33 pm Reply Reply

    We did not tell the sex of our daughter before birth for this reason, but really, once she was here, people actually calmed down about it.

    My mom buys her a lot of clothes (mostly pink or dresses, but not all) and purses, and she was the most vocal about things. But my daughter really loves being outside, animals, and her favorite colors are red and orange, and that has really motivated her grandmother to buy some clothes and toys that are more neutral.

    Turns out, most other people didn’t care one way or the other. She’s gotten trucks, and blocks, and dolls, and animals, and musical instruments, and books, etc. the people who really care for your child will encourage your child to be themselves, not try to force them into clothes or toys they don’t like.

    Also, just because karma is a bitch, you will have the girliest girl or the most masculine boy.

  15. Leah Jul 26 at 12:13 am Reply Reply

    We tried registering for neutral gear and got… mostly boy clothes. We knew we were having a boy, so yay, but still. 

    We live in a more rural part of the country and about 90% of the people who attended my baby shower don’t have email, let alone online shopping skillz. The stores out here have an average of three gender-neutral clothing options. Sure, the frogs and ducks are adorable, but once you get those three items, it’s white onesie city and… that’s it. I agree that the issues here go deeper with the lack of respect thing, but for those of us who are tempted to get our undies in a twist when the little old ladies just want to pamper the baby… Showers are *technically* for the baby and parents-to-be, but in reality they’re more about oo-ing and aaah-ing over truck-covered overalls or tiny tutus… as nauseating as we may find them.

  16. Erinwithans Jul 26 at 1:42 am Reply Reply

    LW, I just wanted to say that while I don’t have children, I have said that if anyone gives me a “Born to Shop”-esque onsie for a future child, I am lighting it on fire in front of them. Just want you to know you are totally not alone.

    Also, if your bf won’t respect your desire to keep the sex of the baby quiet, maybe you can just try not to find out? It’s a surprise either way – just at a different time. That’s mine and my sis-in-law’s plan: keep the details mum so relatives who may be inclined to go all pink and glitter/guns and camo don’t really know which side to come down on. Good luck, and your kiddo’s lucky to have a pro-glitter-for-everyone mom.

  17. Autumn Jul 26 at 1:54 am Reply Reply

    I am the mother of an almost 3 year old girl who loves her skirts and dresses and “Diggers!” Trains! MeowDats’ (that’s a bob cat to the rest of the world).  I try very hard to avoid the disney princess girly world, but I know that day will most likely happen.  Eventually kids start to get opinions, and what to wear in the morning is a battle not worth fighting, luckily she wants everything to MATCH, so at least she looks presentable. . . 

    As far as the ultrasound and announcement of gender, HIPPA privacy laws are on the side of the OP/mom to be.  If mom announces she does not want to know and does not want the baby’s gender shared, it is a Federal privacy law violation.  Just like the father’s being in labor in delivery is at the mother’s discretion, so to is the information about the baby’s gender.  Won’t help family harmony at all, which is a different problem, but the law on keeping things under wraps is on the OP’s/mom to be’s side. 

  18. S Jul 26 at 2:11 am Reply Reply

    Ugh, I hear you. I got a pair of baby EARRINGS at my baby shower. I get it, people pierce girls’ ears and it’s normal in the gift-giver’s culture … But OMG! Here was someone forcing gender stereotypes AND trying to mutilate my unborn child! 

    Fast forward. The disrespect. Amy picked up on that important bit. If they don’t allow you to be the parent now, it will be sooooo much worse when they march into your delivery room and try to walk out with your kid. They’ll have opinions on your milk of choice. Strong, mean, opinions. They’ll think the kid is theirs. This is about boundaries and setting them up now. But it’s also about picking your battles. Could you grit your teeth and donate the tutus and earrings? It might be worth saving your fight.

    • Suzy Q Jul 28 at 4:35 pm Reply Reply

      I truly despise baby jewelry (esp pierced earrings) and baby headbands.

  19. Anna Jul 26 at 12:37 pm Reply Reply

    Our girl is 3 months old and we kept her gender a surprise (though we were convinced she was going to be a boy). I feel really strongly about the gendered clothes issue and really loathe the super pink stuff. I really had to practice lying through my teeth in thanking people when the pink gifts started rolling through the door after she was born . I don’t blame people though – it is really tough to find unisex clothes that aren’t grey grey grey. (Tip: American Apparel make bodysuits and pants in a lovely variety of interesting gender neutral colours)

    I didn’t have a baby shower so bought (and still buy) most of her unisex wardrobe myself. I want to be able to reuse as much stuff as possible for our 2nd baby. Baby gear is expensive enough – why would you want to have to buy the same item in another colour later on?

    Some family have made slightly snarky comments about how I rarely dress her in pink. She also often gets mistaken for a boy by strangers (as Amy says – most people need that colour marker to be able to identify boy or girl) but I don’t mind. We’ll probably have the whole pink ballerina princess obsession later on, so for the time being I’m enjoying her other colours of the rainbow.

  20. Lindsay Jul 26 at 2:59 pm Reply Reply

    Wanted to say I agree with Amalah that the big problem here is that you are not respected by your family.  This could eventually become a problem, and could even be a danger to your child, i.e. family members not willing to abide by your requests to cut food like grapes in half for an 18 month old who could choke.  You don’t want to have to go down a road where you don’t feel comfortable leaving your children with family because they won’t abide by your wishes.  We have a family member that we no longer allow to watch our toddler, and I really wish it didn’t have to be this way.  
    So worry about this, and let the clothing issue go.  

  21. Amy L Jul 26 at 5:09 pm Reply Reply

    I am a mom of 18 month twin boys. Like others have mentioned, gender neutral clothing is hard to find, but the bright side is you are continually buying the next size clothing as they grow. You may not get the chance to put on the dreaded shirt due to growth and most people understand children grow rapidly that first year. I have had more luck with toys. As a few others have mentioned, every child’s personality is different. Around 10 months I began to notice one of my boys preferred anything with wheels and noticed anything with wheels. Cars on the road, his stroller, the wheelchair of a lady at church…if it had wheels he pointed to it and wanted to touch. My other son loves anything soft. Adores stuffed animals and our cat. Boy A gently strokes and hugs cat. Boy B pounds on the cat if we don’t remind him to be gentle. These boys are together 95% of the time, though we do try to do seperate putings with each child, but its hard. Point is, so much of personality is inherent. So love the child you have and appreciate them for them, even if their boyish or girly traits don’t totally sync with your personality.

  22. Jackie Jul 26 at 7:07 pm Reply Reply

    I was really worried about this before my first was born – we found out at 20 weeks that we were expecting a girl. We got the usual gifts of pink tutus and pink toys and I was irritated. She went through the standard princess obsession at around 2 and I was horrified. But she is now 5 and while she wears dresses all the time, she is obsessed with science, dinosaurs, animals of all sorts and she wants to be a paleontologist when she grows up. 

    My second is a boy. He is equally obsessed with trucks and cooking. He loves his baby dolls while his favorite color is blue.

    I guess all of this is to say that I wish I hadn’t worried about it so much. I am now a firm believer that there is a lot to say for Nature’s role in how kids turn out – provided that there is plenty of love and support at home (which I’m sure you do!).

  23. Sarah Jul 26 at 9:52 pm Reply Reply

    I totally hear you, it’s nuts how opinionated people are and they seem to have this primal urge to buy pink or blue clothing for your shower. Here is how I dealt with it: if an outfit was extra hideous, I would dress my son in it on a day when he hadn’t pooped in awhile and was due for a blowout or massive spit up. Honestly babies just spew out bodily fluids for a few months no matter if you love their sweet little outfits or can’t stand them, sooooo might as well take advantage of it :)

  24. Kim too Jul 27 at 2:00 am Reply Reply

    The baby shower clothes aren’t going to last all that long, and your child is not likely to remember them.  You are going to buy most of the clothing, and you can bring your influence to bear. My girls are both happily playing Batman Brave and the Bold video game with their dad right now, one in her favorite flowered prairie skirt, the other in her Batman shirt and cargo shorts.I shop on both sides of the aisle for both of them, and they’re good with that.  The Big is more traditionally girlie than the Little, but they both love nail polish and they love their matching Speedos.It does make handmedowns a little harder, but I’m good with that -if it doesn’t fit the Little’s style, it gets given away to someone else.  And she has a friend who says she is the only one who gets his very favorite shirts.  

  25. Jenn Jul 27 at 11:53 am Reply Reply

    Whether you reveal the baby’s sex ahead of time or not, once he or she is born, you will be flooded with clothes anyway because people LOVE buying baby clothes, even when you don’t even need it. It’s going to happen, one way or another, either at your shower or in the weeks after the baby is born.

    They hardly wear those clothes in the early days anyway. They grow so quickly and before you know it (by about 9 months), the influx of free clothing will stop and you’ll have total control over what the baby will wear next.

  26. Caroline Jul 27 at 3:05 pm Reply Reply

    There is a solution here. Simply do not find out – and tell your OB that he or she is not to reveal that info to your boyfriend either – what sex the baby is to be. If it is that important to you that the whole thing stay gender-fairly-neutral, then force it to be that way by A/ only registering for things that are more long-term, as Amy has suggested and B/ don’t find out the sex. A friend of mine is having a baby in Nov and I am – this is tragic – dying to know what she’s having. Why?? Who cares?? I know. I know. And yet… but by literally not knowing, her baby shower gifts will have to be neutral. She has a little boy already, and thus has most of the big-ticket things, and people where I’m from don’t tend to register for stuff, just make whoever is organising aware of approximately what they’re after. My general rule with baby showers is to get something practical (wipes, nappies, bum cream, I got lots of that for my last baby shower and we are just running out of divine organic baby wash now… and he’s 10 months. I haven’t had to buy bath wash in 10 months, and had wipes to keep me going for nearly 6!), something cute, like bibs or a top or whatever and then maybe a toy or blanket, and my closeness to the recipient dictates what I spend. So for someone I don’t know that well, a 3 pack of good brand wipes, a cool button through vest and a little dangly toy would be perfect.

  27. traci Jul 27 at 3:18 pm Reply Reply

    I’m right there with you on this issue. I disagree with Amalah and think that the clothes are a big issue because it sets the tone for everyone’s interactions with the child. Children start to understand language long before they can speak and the language we use does impact their understanding of gender. I made it clear how I feel about gender norms and asked everyone to respect that. For those who said they’d buy it anyway I politely stated that they were welcome to do so but it would be a bit of a waste since I wouldn’t put it on the baby so it would go unused. I do think it helps to give ideas of what you like and state that repeatedly (such as the cute animal stuff you pointed out). I really have only gotten a few clothes that I didn’t like and they just went to consignment. Don’t be afraid to return items that you won’t use and get something you want. I got a baby bullet which was very thoughful, they were thinking I would want to make my own baby food which is very much my style except I’m planning on using baby led weaning and skipping purees, plus I already own something similar. I thanked them, but returned it and got a play gym instead. Baby boy loves the play gym and uses it every day. If they ever ask about it I will tell them the truth and then say how grateful I am that it let us get this awesome playgym and we think of them whenever he uses it-every day! I highly reccomend finding a good consignment shop, you can get rid of stuff you don’t like/need and can’t return and stuff that is outgrown while making money to buy the next thing baby needs.

  28. Shelly Jul 27 at 5:21 pm Reply Reply

    I am going to make everyone mad at me. I don’t really care though.  Boys and girls are physically, hormonally, developmentally DIFFERENT!!!!  Please, please stop trying to force boys to act like girls and girls to act like boys and forcing the idea of gender neutrality on your children.  There are two TWO genders. They are different.  Not better, not worse, not anything but different!!  No amount of “gender neutrality” is going to change basic biology. I am never going to be able to write my name in the snow.  My husband will not be able to give birth.  These are facts.  We are doing our children a huge disservice by attempting to force them into a neutral world.  Let them be boys. Let them be girls.  

    • Tabitha Jul 27 at 8:26 pm Reply Reply

      Sure, for most people sex is something that you are born with and there are inherent differences… gender is NOT something you are born with, it is forced on you by society.  In the 1900s pink was a BOY color and blue was a GIRL color because “pink was muted down red and red is powerful, while blue is calming like little girls should be.”  A complete 180 from where we are today.  I don’t think anyone is in favor of forcing all kids to be exactly the same (neutral world), I think people are thoughtfully considering that maybe the way society thinks that boys and girls “should” be does not encourage them to necessarily be true to themselves and in the long run is a disservice.

      • Tasterspoon Aug 08 at 3:49 am Reply Reply

        An aside, I remember telling my mom, when I was about 4 or 5, that pink was more suitable for boys and blue for girls for nearly the reasons you cite (I thought pink was more ‘energetic’). Anyway, I read recently that pink used to be for boys because it referenced the blood of Christ while blue was for girls because it referenced Mary.

    • J Jul 27 at 11:12 pm Reply Reply

      I don’t understand why people are “horrified” or “disheartened” that a little girl gravitates towards or loves pink and glitter and baby dolls and yet get ragey if someone tells a little boy he can’t love pink and glitter and baby dolls, or visa versa. I feel it’s reverse shaming, and that’s just as damaging. So long as my child is happy, healthy and is a kind child, then who the heck cares what they play with.

    • Kerry Jul 28 at 1:26 am Reply Reply

      I’m sure I’m about to offend someone, but I totally agree with you, Shelly. I don’t understand why a baby girl dressed in pink or a baby boy dressed in blue gets some people so.freaking.pissed.off. Holy lord, what is the POINT of finding out the gender in the first place? Better yet, let’s just slap some duct tape over the kid’s junk the minute they’re born, because having a definitive sex is so offensive! I guess I’m an idiot..I fail to see how *forcing* a lifestyle of androgyny on a child is any healthier/more tolerant than allowing them to embrace their natural masculinity or femininity. 

      • IrishCream Jul 28 at 11:48 am Reply Reply

        It’s not about forcing androgyny, that’s ridiculous. It’s about letting children define themselves, wherever they fall on the spectrum of masculinity or femininity.

        And it’s about acknowledging that there are all kinds of ways to be masculine and feminine, and not shaming kids who don’t fall into the most traditional categories. My girls love dolls, they love hair accessories and ballet. That’s great. One of them also loves football and tools, and that’s great too. Those aren’t exclusively male interests, and there’s nothing unfeminine about her passion for the Giants (or mine, for that matter).

        I want my girls to be free to pursue whatever interests appeal to them, without busybodies trying to push them away from sports and science and into caring more about their appearance than about their intellects. And if I had boys, I’d want the same for them. We do both genders a disservice when we try to put kids into narrow little boxes based on their gender.

        • Kerry Jul 28 at 1:11 pm Reply Reply

          I still don’t understand how pink or blue clothes put a child in a narrow little box or “shame” them. Sheesh, are we THAT sensitive that we think baby clothes will influence a child’s whole life or somehow strip that child of choosing their own interests?  If people really give BABY CLOTHES that much power over their child’s life, that scares me. Do they also use a magic 8 ball anythime they have to make a decision? I think ‘Lil Diva’ onesies are tacky, and plan on buying all neutral items for my own baby when I have one. However, I’m rational enough to know that if my grandma buys my daughter a pink, fluffy headband, that doesn’t make her a “busybody trying to push her away from sports and science.” Jesus…

          • Lauren Jul 29 at 2:35 pm Reply

            I have to agree with Kerry and Shelly. Everyone has gotten WAY too sensitive about this subject. Seriously, your baby cannot distinguish colors so put them in whatever color clothing you want. What is the big deal???? I don’t think I forced anything on my son by putting him in blue and NOT pink. He wears boy clothes because he is a BOY. And to be honest, having a baby has made me put very little credibility in the argument that gender is “learned.” Because we have given my son all different kinds of toys and he has always gravitated to the trucks, trains, blocks, etc. You could line up ten dolls and one truck and my son will choose the truck every time. How about not forcing neurosis on your children and just letting them be KIDS?!

        • Anne Jul 28 at 2:13 pm Reply Reply

          This. My daughter is almost 3, and she refuses to wear anything but dresses and skirts. She loves anything pink or purple, and anything glittery or ruffle-y or covered in bows.

          That said, she also gets her pink frilly dresses filthy dirty nearly every time she wears them. She’s constantly covered in scrapes from playing tough. She can name every construction machine at a building site, and she adores helping daddy do work around the house. (I often do physical labor around the house, too, and daddy does do laundry, but I’ve been pregnant for the last 9 months and have taken over more of the light tasks.) She even has her own pink tool kit.

          I’m an attorney and I suppose a powerful woman, but I love to look feminine and beautiful (though my definition of feminine is a little different from my daughter’s). I don’t see anything wrong with how “girly” she is. I only have a problem if her “girliness” begins to limit the way she lives her life.  

      • M. Jul 28 at 11:54 am Reply Reply

        I think this really goes to Amy’s point – forget the clothes, it’s just not a big deal, but as they grow older, if a boy wants to play with dolls or a girl with trucks, let’s not force them out of those options just because they’re not tradtionally (stereotypically?) the “right” play choice for their sex. There is a difference between sex and gender. I’m never going to be able to write my name in the snow either, but I’m the biggest NFL fan in my family and don’t wear make-up on the weekends and that’s all okay too. The bigger issue IMO is the sexualization of little girls’ clothes, which other commenters have noted. I have a two year old daughter and it bugs me that I have a hard time finding a simple one-piece bathing suit for her, or that baby Gap sells little girls’ underwear with writing on the butt. Let’s wait 10-15 years, can we?

    • Melinda Jul 28 at 11:43 am Reply Reply

      There are actually more than two genders, including people physically born that way (see: intersex, genderqueer, etc).

      I’m not trying to “force” my kids to act in opposition to their genders, I’m trying to let them pick what they like without saying “No! This is a BOY thing” or “This is a GIRL thing.”

      It’s about choice and the freedom to be a full human, not a gender. 

    • tami Jul 28 at 11:46 am Reply Reply

      THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

      I am all for children playing with toys that they want to play with weather they be trucks or pretend kitchens – because playing is playing. But Boys and Girls are different – period. And at the end of the day their personality will be their personality no matter what you dress them in as an infant.

  29. Shelly Jul 27 at 5:50 pm Reply Reply

    That being said Gender reveal party’s, “little Diva”  onesies and anything written on the rear end of a little girl are all abominations. I wholeheartedly agree that we are suffering from a serious over sexualization of little girls and it really needs to stop as does the criminalization of little boys normal behavior. Ok. Rant over.  For the record, I have a boy and a girl.   Trust me.  Different. Not better. Different. Biology. Different. 

  30. Melinda Jul 28 at 11:56 am Reply Reply

    Hi! Asker here. 

    Thank you all for the support and ideas. I was worried about writing this in because I didn’t want to end up with a storm of people saying I was an idiot for not want to stereotype my baby. We will be finding out the sex of the baby soon, that’s what we’ve decided. I’m going to talk about it with my boyfriend more, but he just truly doesn’t understand.

    Most of the time the people in my family who are going to be involved are excellent (there’s a lot of people who won’t be involved physically, but will put their two cents in. Which I will ignore). It’s just massively irritating on this one subject to be told “Oh, you’ll change your mind” or “I’m just going to buy it anyway.”

    My plan at this point is to donate whatever I don’t want to a women’s shelter. They could always use baby items. And if someone knows my wishes and says to my face they’ll do it anyway, I’ll let them know their gift will be given to someone in need :-)

    And, for the few people who seemed concerned about the matter, I will let me child choose whatever items they want once they’re old enough. I just don’t want to force things on them before they’re old enough to voice an opinion. 

    I’m actually very “girly” because that’s what I like. Dresses are my 24/7 wear since they’re usually comfier and easier than finding pants that fit! Plus, I like the way I look in them. I personally do not want to force my likes/dislikes on a child who is an individual person. 

    I don’t like any seafood or a lot of vegetables, but I’ll be damned if my kid is going to grow up without eating and trying a variety of foods even if it isn’t what I’d pick for myself. I think that should be one of the goals of parenting- give your kid the opportunities you didn’t have to experience the world as who THEY are, not who you want them to be. 

    Maybe boys and girls are different, but you can’t expect them to conform to a certain pattern of behavior simply because of the sex they were born. Gender means a lot of things that are very different than your randomly assigned sex. 

  31. Jill Jul 28 at 12:50 pm Reply Reply

    I second/third/etc the sexualization of girls’ clothes.  The baby bikini is the perfect example because BARF.
    I do think it’s a bit hypocritical that some of the same people who are all “Gender neutral! don’t judge my kid!” are also upset that their girls want to play with girl things and their boys want to wear blue or whatever.  I have two boys and two girls, and my girls are growing up in a house full of “boy” stuff (legos, trucks, transformers, etc) mostly b/c we have so many toys I hate to buy new stuff.  They are also playing with their brothers’ play kitchen and the doll and stroller they were given.  When they gravitate toward dresses and pink stuff and princesses it doesn’t bother me; not because they also play with “boy” stuff but because if that’s what they want to play with then so be it.  

  32. Dana Jul 28 at 3:02 pm Reply Reply

    Wow! Who knew throwing a gender reveal party made us so sexist and backwards? My husband and I hosted one for the sake of celebrating our pregnancy with our family and friends in a non gift-grabby setting. We were excited to find out what we were having a loved the idea of finding out with all of our closest peeps. The boy I thought for sure I was carrying turned out to be a girl and everyone was thrilled. Her nursery is (GASP!!) pink, grey, and white, because I liked the color scheme. I happen to like the sweet and frilly outfits for little girls but shy away from the obnoxious “Shop ’till We Drop” emblazoned onesies. Also not a fan of the baby bikini (I myself didn’t sport a 2-piece until high school). I choose blue and green outfits and headbands for our now 4-month old along with pinks and purples because her daddy loves all things blue. When she is older, we’ll opt for a wide variety of toys – books, baby dolls, and a play kitchen because those are things I loved growing up, and Legos and Tonka trucks, because those are things her daddy loved growing up. But if she goes for the pink Lego sets over the primary colors, so be it. I’ll give her the option and let her form her own opinion. I just think people get a little too carried away with “not” forcing a gender role on children, and I really think it’s ok for a girl to still act “like a girl” every once in a while, as long as she is exposed to the options on the other side of the toy aisle.

  33. Katerina Jul 28 at 5:10 pm Reply Reply

    Great advice as usual! I agree to not stress too much over blue or pink. I didn’t dress my daughter in overly girly outfits or huge bows, but she definitely had pink and grey blankets and people would still asks me “boy or girl”? People are kind of oblivious sometimes so I agree it’s not really something to stress too much over!

  34. Beth Jul 28 at 6:59 pm Reply Reply

    I am having a little girl in about a month and although I don’t hate pink, it really isn’t my favorite. Some people have been great about getting clothes in a variety of colors, but I have a ton of pinky pastel fluffy things that I’m not fond of. I think that it is perfectly reasonable to take some of those extra clothes to a consignment store and get some money for them. Buy what you want your kid to wear. I might keep something that I didn’t like if it came from someone particularly close to me, but especially if I had asked them not to and they bought me something to spite me? SELL THAT CRAP.

  35. Andrea Jul 28 at 7:18 pm Reply Reply

    Just don’t find out the sex of the baby! We didn’t with any of our three children. Then nobody knows and your boyfriend has nothing to hide. Instead of receiving a bunch of clothes at our showers, we received all the necessities, which was most helpful.

  36. Susan:) Jul 29 at 6:41 pm Reply Reply

    As I sit here, my nieces are both playing nearby, wearing pink dresses, ha ha. But they actually don’t have a lot of pink in their wardrobes because I don’t care much for pink. As far as babies go, some people still get confused even with a specific type of clothing. Once, when my older niece was a baby, she was wearing a dress with pink flowers all over it, and people still called her a boy!  

    I’m not opposed to pink for girls, but I do think there’s too darn much of it. I prefer purples,blues and greens myself, so those are the colors I like to buy for my nieces. We also get lost of hand me downs from our older cousins. Fortunately, they aren’t really into pink either, although there’s always some. But anyway, as babies, you get to choose what they wear. By age two or three, they may have their own preferences. My older niece, at age two, decided she only wanted to wear sleeveless dresses. I suspect because she had chunky arms and legs and shorts and sleeves were uncomfortable. Also, she got into princesses around that age, and thought dresses were the coolest thing to wear. For over two years nothing but dresses!  We finally got her to start wearing pants and shorts and shirts around age five. Now she wears a variety. And she’s not into princesses anymore either, although she still loves girly things. She wants to be a fashion designer and her favorite color is blue and she loves puppies. My younger niece also likes a variety of clothes, she loves pink and purple, and she loves Darth Vader!  So you really never know what they will end up liking!

  37. Emily Jul 30 at 12:00 pm Reply Reply

    I absolutely agree. Though, it’s easier than you think! We didn’t really have the gender issue so much, but got a lot of really ugly and/or otherwise offensive to me clothes for our baby when he was born last year (Daddy’s Quarterback, or crap like that). I TOOK IT ALL BACK. If it came from my mom or in-laws, or someone else that I thought would really be offended if they never saw it on Baby, I kept it and Baby wore it once, when he saw that particular person. Then, I tossed it right  into the donate bin. 

    Basically, my philosophy was, there are MANY parenting decisions that I will have to defend over the years – this one just didn’t seem worth it.

  38. Melanie Jul 30 at 5:14 pm Reply Reply

    I don’t know – I think this is something that seems like a BIG DEAL while you are pregnant/have a newborn, but it doesn’t matter much in the big picture.  My kids have no idea what they wore as newborns, you know? I do think it’s symbolic of the parents-to-be asserting their values, being in charge of their kid, etc.  

    If the people giving the clothes generally have good intentions, just say thank you and take it back or don’t put it on your kid.

  39. Sam Jul 31 at 10:48 am Reply Reply

    We are expecting our first baby and while we know the gender, due to genetic testing, we will not be revealing the gender until birth.  

    I really think the gender stereotyping in clothing and gear has gotten worse over the years and not better.  Our nursery will be neutral, both because I like how it looks and b/c I hate the whole blue vs. pink themed stuff.  And finding neutral decor is not easy, out of 20 crib sheet sets, maybe 2 or 3 are neutral.  

    it upsets me that we project certain images onto a child that is not even born yet.  Luckily, no one except my MIL will likely challenge our keeping the gender under wraps.

  40. Frances Jul 31 at 7:16 pm Reply Reply

    Ok, I guess I am in the minority here, but I really think that when people give you GIFTS, you should just graciously accept them. I’m ok with a gift registry, but if someone bought something that I absolutely hated, I would smile, say thank you, and then maybe return or donate it. I feel like telling people over and over again what to buy (or, in this case, what not to buy) is rude. If they ask, direct them to your registry. And then politely thank them for the gifts, even if they include glittery onesies that say “born to shop.” As a PP stated, you’ll be the one dressing your child every day, so you can certainly choose what to dress your child in. And you can choose clothing too, as long as YOU buy it.
    As for the disrespectful family members, I see that as another, much more important, issue. I think it’s fine (more than fine – necessary!) to stand up for yourself, both with your family and your boyfriend. You will be getting more “helpful advice” than you can imagine once you have your baby. And it’s important to parent your way, and not get steamrolled. But to me, it’s still rude to dictate gifts.

  41. liz Aug 01 at 2:30 pm Reply Reply

    I am most concerned about your boyfriend dismissing your concerns as stupid. It doesn’t bode well for shared parenting. Some parenting classes – that you attend together – might be helpful to your relationship if joint counseling isn’t in the cards.

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