I wonder a lot. Like, a lot. About a lot of things. And I often wonder why. Here’s my latest wondering:
Harris is a wonderful almost 6 year-old boy, full of passion, depth, and excitement. I love watching him grow into a creative, caring, imaginative individual. Many times through out the day, he will practise his moves to “defeat the bad guys.” He plans on being a super-hero when he grows up and already knows the name of his alter ego: Super Runner. The other day he told a family friend that he was “trying to talk less because he wanted to be a man of action” and then proceeded to continue talking non-stop about his super-hero aspirations.
So, you might say Harris is a sterotypical boy. Except that his favourite colour is pink, he loves to have his nails painted and is always asking when he can wear lip gloss like his mom. He always chooses to be a princess in any role-play we do. And he wants to shop almost exclusively in the girl’s section.
I’m not worried about any of this. I love my son. But I do wonder why in 2014 it’s still such a boy or girl world. When we go into the Gap to do some shopping, he is drawn to the beautiful designs and bright sparkles on the girls t-shirts and passes by the dull sports numbers or the ubiquitous GAP logo on the front of the boys shirts.
He has a shirt from the Gap that he loves to pieces. It’s blue with a picture of the London Eye on it. It also has sparkles and some small pink hearts. There was a Paris shirt that he was debating on because of the Eiffel Tower but in the end he chose the London one. There were no city shirts for boys, so even if I had wanted to steer him in a more neutral direction there was nothing comparable. So I bought him the one he wanted.
I wonder why the Gap design department doesn’t think boys would also like graphics like the ones I’ve seen on girls t-shirts–the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, ferris wheels, hot air balloons, retro cameras, vintage cars (yes, vintage cars, but nary a one to be found in the Boy’s section) Maybe not all boys want them in pink or sequins like my son, but I am sure that many would like a break from skulls and sports numbers.
Harris has told me about a store he has invented in his head: one that isn’t divided into a Boys side and Girls side, but rather one where all the hoodies are organized in one spot, all the t-shirts are in another area, and so on. If you need some jeans, you go to the jeans department and find a style and fit that is right for you. It’s a great idea.
Gap purports to be accepting and welcoming of all. Their 2013 Holiday Campaign featured Indian Sikh-American, Waris Ahluwahlia, an actor and fashion designer–a fantastic, inclusive move. But somehow that inclusiveness has not extended to boys clothing. Arsalan Iftikhar wrote in the Daily Beast¹: “I want to live in an America where a fashion model can be a handsome, bearded brown dude in a turban who is considered as beautiful as a busty blonde-haired white girl in see-through lingerie.” He praised Gap for “doing a great job forging a path for minority and under-represented fashion models who do not conveniently fit into our traditional American notions of beauty and actually challenge how we have superficially defined those terms since our country’s existence.”
I want to live in that world too, but I also want to live in a world where it’s not just skulls, sports, and skateboarding for boys. My son doesn’t conveniently fit into traditional American notions of boyhood and I hope that one day Gap will forge a path for this minority as well and challenge the superficial definitions this country has of gender.
It’s a lot to ask of a clothing company. But on their official blog² they recently posted the following statement: We know that innovation is a key ingredient to our continued success and growth. To do this, we foster an environment where our employees can be themselves, challenge conventions and push boundaries to find ways of doing things better. I hope the Gap honours this promise and does their best to be innovative and challenge conventions. I could go somewhere else to shop for Harris, but I like the Gap. They just need to work on a few things. Just like the rest of us.
Notes: In my last post I mentioned that I was giving a talk about gender issues and blogging at a local university. I’ve been working at it fairly steadily for the last few weeks. This is one of the first posts I wrote on the subject, and since I haven’t had time to write anything new, I thought this one might be worth re-posting.
*An earlier version of this post was first published in April 2014 under the title W is for Why: Why Gap, why? Part 1 of a 3(?) part series*
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