Mama’s Got Muscle Too

What do you get a kid who his currently obsessed with all things science? Who will sit for hours pouring over his sizable collection of Magic School Bus books and National Geographic Kid’s magazines?

We certainly don’t need anymore stuff in our house. We’re filled to the brim with toys, books, art supplies, etc… and I didn’t want to add to any of that. What he does need, however, are clothes. It seems like every other week EZ grows just a smidge bit more, with his pants resting right above his ankles, taunting me.

Then I came across these pjs from Old Navy and thought I’d figured out a way to solve two problems at once (go me!).

EZ definitely could use a few more pajamas, and I knew he would love these. It’s like wearing your organs outside your body – cool & gross at the same time, which is one of his favored categories at the moment.

They finally arrived the other day, and I knew they would be an immediate hit. I quickly pulled them out of the packaging to inspect. The first thing I noticed was that, for some reason, they weren’t as soft as the the Old Navy pjs we own. (I assumed a run through the washing machine would fix that. It didn’t. Total bummer.) The second thing I saw was that some of the body parts had labels, something I hadn’t noticed when purchasing the pjs online. They were mostly innocuous: “Dr. Love” for the heart, “toot factory” for the colon (um, ew.), and “funny bone” for the, er… funny bone. As I scanned the rest of the parts, I had to restrain myself when I came across this one, located in the leg:

"muscles from dad"


Why, Old Navy, why? Why play into these gendered stereotypes that I’m more than done talking about? Why not “muscles from mom”?

Showing off my muscles with a toddler EZ

Or better yet… Why not “strong muscles from eating good food”? Or “strong muscles from exercising”?

Dads aren’t not the only ones with muscles, but when it comes to attaching traits to parents (and kids), most clothing lines (and this is not only specific to Old Navy) default to easy, tired tropes and stereotypes related to gender.

This post isn’t meant to vilify Old Navy. In fact, they do a semi-decent job of offering a range of choices for boys and girls (if you can stand to flip through the vast amount of pink stuff for girls, and sea of blue and green for boys).

But this points to the larger, systemic, more ingrained pattern I’ve been seeing. From board games and toys to clothing, stereotypical notions about gender continue to be promoted and accepted.

Boys are dirty...

...and girls are princesses

As I’ve talked about before, this problem is cyclical. Stores put out these types of clothes, people do buy them, and the store continues to put them out. The reality is that the majority of these stores all have low price points, and to be able to find stores that don’t push tired stereotypes or sexualized messages/trends, you sometimes have to be willing to pay more, and frankly, that sucks.

Speaking of messages, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the current JC Penny debacle with Ellen Degeneres. JCP hired Ellen as their new spokesperson, and the conservative group One Million Moms decided to boycott the store because they disagreed with Ellen as the new face of the company. I absolutely despise One Million Moms and their views, and actually found myself agreeing with Bill O’Reilly over this issue. (I know. I checked outside my window to see if I could find any flying pigs too).

While I certainly applaud JCP for standing up for their choice in using Ellen as their spokesperson, I wish they would acknowledge the poor choices they’ve made, and continue to make in regards to the other messages they promote through their clothes.

Melissa from Pigtail Pals does a great job of explaining just what I mean in her latest blog post. We can’t stop excusing stores that continue to churn out these types of clothing, whether purposefully or not. The fact that many of these stores don’t even realize that what they’re doing can be harmful speaks volumes. Let’s continue to push for change and not accept mediocre results – our kids are worth more than that.


5 thoughts on “Mama’s Got Muscle Too

  1. I bought those same pajamas online, not knowing what they said about ‘muscles from dad.’ I have discussed this problem with children’s clothing in my Women’s & Gender Studies classes. My students recommended that I should write ‘muscles from dad & mom” in permanent marker on them. Here’s hoping it doesn’t wash off!

    • Love that idea, Courtney! For me, it’s especially annoying b/c my son is reading now, so after getting help sounding out “muscles” he had no problem knowing what that phrase said, and then it just gets soaked up into his head, that, yup muscles = men. Most people wonder what the big deal is when I get frustrated about these types of things. But really… all of these “little” things build up and compound on each other to create the larger, systemic problem of gender stereotypes – and that’s not so little. It’s always great to find folks like you that get it.
      And it’s a shame, b/c otherwise – cute pjs, you know?

      • Yeah, “What’s the big deal?” I got pissed at Target this weekend, and a Twitter friend commented on the Target FB page about why – they’re selling a t-shirt marketed to toddler boys that says, “Lock up your daughters” – and the shelling she took in the comments was awful. This kind of stuff *IS* important.

      • @Tmae – Who in their right mind would allow a t-shirt like that to be created?! One that (not so subtly) essentially promises (!?) rape. It may not be blatant, but the undertones certainly carry a message that only a. play right into rape culture and b. also weirdly play into victim blaming (i.e. it’s not the person wearing the t-shirt’s fault, but rather the girl or parents fault for not staying “locked up.”) Too many subversive messages to process on a kid’s t-shirt this early in the morning. ugh.

  2. Pingback: Lock up your daughters! | Life V 2.0

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