Another out-of-context snippet of my book project draft for your delectation …
Most of the feminist parents I know feel strongly about honoring our children’s self-determination, taking their desires and needs seriously because we see them as fellow human beings. But the impulse to give our children control over their own lives, at least in small ways like choosing one’s own boots, may come into conflict with our values about gender sometimes.
In Pink and Blue: Telling the Boys from the Girls in America, Jo B. Paoletti points out that marketers have paid increased attention to children as consumers in recent decades. Meanwhile, young children don’t understand how advertising works and tend toward super-stable expressions of their own boyness or girlness. As such, Paoletti argues: “The more gender binary the children’s clothing market becomes, the more it fits the worldview of the three- to five-year-old consumers looking for ways to express an unambiguous gender identity. The more parents let their children make their own clothing decisions, the more gender binary the clothing market will become” (118).
Many of us object to the mainstream gender system and to consumer culture because we believe they limit our children’s ability to be fully-realized and whole selves. So it can feel odd for these two closely-related parenting values to butt heads in practice. We each have to figure out which strain matters most at a given moment—the child’s current felt needs or the limitations of a strict and binary gender system—and try, often on the spot, to do the best thing in a frustrating situation.