It happened again this weekend, "will the boys be bowling today?". At a birthday party for a six year old girl my children were erroneously identified, yet again, as boys. Happens all the time, really, and it doesn't bother me at all, nor does it seem to affect the emotional growth of my two girls who, dressed in navy corduroys and sweaters, were off and hurling bowling balls at each other before any of us had a chance to respond.
We hear it more frequently in the winter, when they are often buried beneath coats and hats, which is the one thing that does bother me as I suspect I have sniffed out the real reason for the incorrect gender identification: they have blue coats. The horror. Not only are they blue but they reverse to green, and not a light and frothy green, but a good dark hunter green, quite attractive with the navy opposite side. But, I have found, decidedly masculine, as I should have known, I bought them in the boys section. To be fair, I had no choice, at least not in the girls department, the only offering being a pink coat that reversed to purple. Boys coats came in red and orange and blue and green, a virtual rainbow compared to the lone option deemed appropriate for girls.
You find it in every single store, one side screams at you in pink and fuchsia and all shades of violet, the other subtly speaks in blues and greens and reds. When they were quite young, still sleeping away the afternoon in their blue stroller, I pushed them into the Baby Gap in need of socks, small white crew socks that I knew I could find in the gender neutral section near the cash wrap. Baby Gap being one of the very worst offenders in the color coded wall segregation, it is not a store I frequent, but they do make darn fine socks. In the far corner I spied a sale rack and pushed the double wide over to see what was available.
Androgynous Looking Sales Clerk: Can I help you find something?
Me: Just looking thank you.
ALSC: Are they twins? (long pause, some inspection) Girls?
Me: Twin girls, yes.
Clearly she was helped by the large flower on the front of their matching red fleece jackets, but still thrown, they were red piped in blue.
ALSC: You know this is the boys section, right?
Me: Yes, thank you.
A pair, two pairs of blue and white seersucker pants, in the right size, I grabbed them, spring was just a few months away.
ALSC: Oh, those? Wouldn't you like to check the girls rack? We have plenty of items on sale there, so many things that would be just perfect for them.
At this point she actually reached for my seersucker pants, so horrified that I would consider putting them on my daughters, small people she did not know at all and in fact could barely identify as girls, but still thought she knew best what would be perfect for them. Something I imagine to be part of a Baby Gap sales clerk final exam, which she really nailed: what color is best suited for baby girls? Pink. Passed, to the sales floor with you!
Me: Really? No thank you, we'll take these.
ALSC: You know we had those in pink, maybe they are still here, let me check.
She took off for the color appropriate wall, I ran for the door.
To be clear, and so that I am not thought of as a horrible mother who denies her daughters all that is available to them in the world, they own pink clothing. More of it in the summer, owed to my personal Lilly Pulitzer driven ideology that pink is a summer color, but yes, there are pink t-shirts in the drawer, and also blue and green and yellow. They are offered a choice in clothing, as they are in many aspects of their five year old life.
If it's true, if girls can really be anything they want when they grow up, that Hillary Clinton might one day be President, or Sarah Palin, why is it that we teach our daughters that they must be wearing pink when they take the oath of office?