Gendered Sexualization in the Young!

In many ways gender construction begins very early in life, often even before a child is born. Many parents tend to design the space around their child in ways that indicate gender belonging. Whether or not we agree with the notion that pink is for girls and blue is for boys (it did not used to be that way), we are likely to follow “accepted” norms and performances of gender, which are further built upon with the use of toys, clothes, and other items for young children and infants.

We found an interesting gray-and-green onesie, with the words “Gift to all the Ladies” on it. On top of the “g” is a tilted Santa hat, indicating that the child wearing it is basically a neat Christmas gift. If we base our understanding of gender on the polarization between the “feminine” and the “masculine,” we can use deductive reasoning to figure out  that the onesie is made for a boy.

First, most clothes for girls do not come in colors such as grey and green, but rather in pink, purple, or a little bit (or a lot) of sparkle. Second, the statement “Gift to all the Ladies” points to the assumption of heteronormativity in terms of gender, indicating that heterosexuality is the norm, and that therefore boys will like girls, or in this case, ladies. Third, if implementing the more or less biologically deterministic notion that “boys will be boys”–which includes the belief that boys are sexually more interested and more sexually driven than girls–we can figure out the gender audience of the onesie.

If we also buy into the notion that from birth, boys are stronger and more proactive and aggressive, then being a “ladies man” is a natural state. At the same time, girls are usually viewed as more submissive, passive, quiet, and calm. If instead of saying “Gift to all the Ladies,” the onesie said “Gift to all the Gentlemen,” we would almost certainly find the onesie inappropriate for young children, regardless of gender; but especially for young girls if, again, we adhere to the assumption that women are naturally the ones who care for and are interested in children, while men have only a peripheral role at best, and are predators at worst.

Even though we are all sexual beings from the moment of birth, and we “carry” our sexuality with us throughout life, it seems very unnecessary to make “sexual” inferences about infants that are based on gender stereotypes.

Picture taken by Hennie. 

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