Forgive me for not getting worked up over the Children's Place offering assorted sexist girls' t-shirts. I keep losing track of which retailers are offering up this twaddle. JC Penney had "I'm Too Pretty for Homework," Disney offered Avengers t-shirts in which little boys could wear shirts reading "Be a Hero" while little girls had the option of "I Need a Hero" or "I Only Kiss Heroes." Gymboree caught flak for offering boy onesies exhorting their brains while baby girl onesies promoted their looks.
Name a mainstream retailer aiming for the middle class, and chances are good that they've pushed a product for little girls or little boys that ascribes a stereotypical gender role to the poor kid.
(I wonder if it's worse for parents of boys in some ways; it seems to me that the people who police so-called "traditional" gender roles are really aggressive about how boys should look and behave. Which always makes me want to remind these people that pink used to be a boy's color and that "expressions of masculinity and feminimity are culturally and historically specific." )
ANYWAY. The cynic in me suspects that children's clothing designers are, in their heart of hearts, trolling us. An "offensive" t-shirt gets a company's name into the headlines; it lets culture warriors posture without benefit of nuance; it gets recalled in a big, showy display of public enlightenment; business ticks on as usual.
I personally think it's ridiculous to clothe babies and small children in onesies that push stereotypical, heteronormative gender roles. But I'm a San Francisco Bay Area late-in-life parent with a few college degrees, so I'm exactly the type of person who frets about "onesies that push stereotypical, heteronormative gender roles."
But here's the thing: Here in the U.S. in the early 21st century, we have many options for clothing our sons and daughters. There are scads of mainstream retailers fighting for the approximately $32 million that will go to children's clothing expenditures this year.
You want to dress your child like a Real Housewife in training, go ahead. You want to dress your child like a Ravenclaw on day leave to Hogsmeade, go for it! Would you like them to channel a little manic pixie stick dream schoolgirl? Here you go. (And here's the less pricey option.) Want basics that beautifully channel the clean, sporty lines of U.S. designers? Have at it. Would you like your child to look like she should have an umlaut somewhere in her name and eats herring without complaint? Of course you do.
It is not hard to find and patronize retailers who don't make silly slogan t-shirts. And that's how you eliminate these t-shirts. Don't give the companies free publicity. Just ... take your money and attention someplace else. Retailers will stop pushing these messages when it stops becoming profitable for them to do so.