A Dad on TikTok Went Viral for Voicing His Frustration Over Clothing Options for His Daughter
A visit to The Children's Place offers a selection of clothing emblazoned with the same tired and sexist tropes. Today's highlighted collection for girls includes a pink conversation hearts shirt, a light yellow shirt with the words "Will trade brother for unicorn," a purple and gold glitter shirt adorned with the word "QUEEN," and a deep red shirt declaring "Ain't no daddy like the one I got."
For boys, the colors are dark greens and blues, and the themes are limited to sports and ninjas. And the message is #BRINGIT! Everything's gendered. Everyone is forced into a box. As a full-time stay-at-home dad to a son and daughter, it drives me nuts.
That's why I related to fellow dad, Michael Vaughn (@world.shaker), who describes himself as "Walmart Seth Rogen" and a "Licensed Girl Dad" with a "Bluey stan account."
When fellow TikToker Erika (@ericasaysstuff) asked when DadTok "realized that oversexualization of women starts incredibly young," Vaughn, the father of a 14-month-old girl, replied.
"I knew it was gonna be bad, but I didn't know how bad, and then we got a onesie for our daughter that said, 'Sorry, boys, Dad says no dating.' Sized for a newborn. I guess I'm wondering who they thought was gonna date our zero-month-old daughter."
"Why is everything hyper pink?" he continued. "Why is everything glittery? Why can't I just find a one-piece bathing suit for my daughter? Why are the girl clothes smaller than boy clothes when they're the same size?"
In another video, he points out that boy clothes are made to withstand wear and tear, while girl clothes are made to objectify. They are form fitting and revealing, with shorter hemlines, shorter inseams, and shorter sleeves. So, he and his partner put their daughter in gender neutral or "boy" clothing. "People confuse her for a boy in public, and then they get upset with us. For some reason, it's almost like they think we're trying to trick them."
When my son was born in 2018, it was annoying when my mother-in-law came home with a wardrobe filled with dinosaurs and footballers and phrases about what a macho trouble maker my son was—many items were promptly donated. But when my daughter was born in 2020, it wasn't just my mother-in-law gifting us clothes, it was friends and many family members. Everything was printed with butterflies, flowers, and bunnies. Shirts had words that indicated my daughter was an object of desire who needed protection.
I truly loved many of the brands we received. I was jealous of my daughter's pink Adidas track suit. I wanted my clothes to sparkle as much as her new Betsy Johnson dress collection. But the clothes were unwearable. The sparkles fell onto the couch and got stuck on my daughter's skin. Tulle is trash on newborns and nothing was rational. Our daughter always needed a size larger than whatever size the companies claimed she was supposed to wear, so we put her in our son's clothes, and, like Michael Vaughn's experience, everyone called her a boy.
"So the cool thing is, you are the parent," Vaughn said in one of his videos. "Which means you get to choose what they're exposed to, how they're exposed to that information. And you also get to help them learn how to process and challenge those influences."
But teaching my kids to question the way clothing is marketed towards them (including how pink used to be marketed as a boy's color and blue a girl's color) is difficult when it's nearly impossible to find decent clothing. Gender neutral alternatives such as Primary and Maisonette are pricey and not in most stores.
Based on inventory, people seem happy purchasing clothing with expressions like "Stud Muffin," "Heartbreaker," and "Daddy's Princess" printed on it; my wife and I avoid these options. Like Vaughn, we want our kids to be defined by their actions, talents, and interests, not boxed in by their appearance.
Hopefully companies will stop selling clothes stitched with gender stereotypes and allow kids to wear what feels good and what they like—without labels and judgement.