Thank you for mistaking my girl for a boy

The above title is not meant sarcastically, I am actually sincerely grateful to all those people who thought my little girl was a boy. It really helped me think more about how I allow gender to define things like clothes or toys.

The first time my daughter was mistaken for a little boy was when she was a tiny pink bundle, only a few days old. Now when I say pink bundle I’m not referring to her perfect newborn skin, she was literally dressed head to toe in pink. We were just leaving the hospital and mama was feeling more than a little fragile. That was when an old lady decided to totter over and admire the ‘gorgeous little boy’. Thankfully my husband hadn’t just given birth and intervened before I could clatter her. He cheerfully (and kindly) chatted away to her while my dad hurried me into the car. Awkward new mama meltdown avoided. Still it is easy to mistake the gender of newborns, I figured these incidents would be less frequent as my little girl grew older.

Flash forward twenty months and my daughter and I have just had a lovely stroll around the supermarket. I was feeling proud and dare I say it a little smug.  This may sound odd but until recently my little rug rat has been prone to super hissy fits while shopping. I finally hit on the solution. No matter if you need one item or twenty grab a trolley and let her stand (never sit unless she asks) up in it. Cue happy toddler and relieved mama. We were on our way back to the car with herself carrying some chicken fingers (yes I occasionally serve my child processed food, shock, horror, call Social Services!), when an older gentleman smiled at her. “Ah he knows what he likes doesn’t he?’ gesturing at the chicken fingers, “Bet he can’t wait to get them in the oven.” I gritted my teeth in an attempt at a smile. Thankfully he didn’t linger perhaps sensing my mood. I know why this happened. It’s happened before. It was the fault of the navy coat.

Okay yes this coat had been purchased in the boys’ section and yes I do know a little boy who actually has the same coat. It was originally purchased as my husband had the great idea of dressing herself as Paddington Bear for Halloween (she refused to dress up) but I always dress her in it as it is cosy and the easiest coat to tackle her into. I don’t generally even notice the colour. But then I realised each time she was mistaken for a little boy it was while wearing this coat. What does this say about a world where we are constantly trying to avoid stereotyping yet the minute a little girl wears navy we automatically assume she must be a boy?

While shopping recently I found myself taking a closer look around the girls’ clothes section. The divide between boys and girls was very clear. Girls are adorned with flowers and princesses in pinks and purples while boys are covered with trucks and dinosaurs with catchy slogans encouraging bravery and strength. Girls’ clothes very much emphasise prettiness above all else. My daughter loves trucks and dinosaurs but I’m ashamed to say it never struck me to buy outside of the range of pretty dresses and flowery jeans. When we returned home I looked at her clothes and realised the navy coat was really the only non-girly thing we owned and this is a girl who spends most of her time in jeans rather than dresses. I vowed there and then that next time we went shopping we would not return home until we purchased a dino t-shirt! So thank you to every stranger who has mistaken my girl for a boy, you may well have helped her grow up to be a more rounded individual and you have certainly helped educate her mama.

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