Five Items Exclusively For Boys That Reveal How Gymboree Thinks About Girls

gymboree sexismGymboree understandably got into some hot water over the weekend for hawking some very sexist onesies. The garments, featured for different genders of course, told boys that they could be “smart like daddy” while girls could aspire to be “pretty like mommy.” Outraged mothers took to and to demand that the garments be pulled for enforcing the idea that girls just remain decorative while their little brother excels at Algebra.

Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon said it best when observing how kids are conditioned into certain roles and capabilities simply by their sex, as she wrote:

“Our children are sold gender expectations from before they’re born – as a friend learned when her sonogram technician announced the sex of her fetus by declaring “it’s a princess!”

A quick jaunt over to Gymboree reveals that the very problematic onesies have been pulled. But keep browsing and you’ll soon discover quite a few outfits strictly for boys that convey just how strong, smart, and talented they are.  Meanwhile, all the girls get are messages about being “pretty peas,” cookies, cupcakes, and “glam” princesses — which says a lot about how Gymboree views little girls in comparison to their “genius” and “strong” counterparts.


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  • C

    Honestly, I can see that “genius” onesie on a girl. Would probably have to be paired with a matching bow though so you don’t have to correct people all the time when they say “Oh, what a sweet little boy!” when she wears it.

    (also, that poodle bib is HIDEOUS!!)

    • Somnilee

      I’d definitely also put a little girl in the maths beaver T-shirt.

  • RighttoWorkMom

    Man, it’s too bad you couldn’t just put the clothes on the kids before they’re old enough to read . . .

  • nicole

    I have ALOT of stuff saying “pretty” and “Princess” for my daughter.. The whole point of making these clothes is for us mommies who do want pretty princesses for daughters and not little beavers.. that would be a little weird… Grow up.. What happened to making our own descisions? If you don’t like them, THEN DON”T BUY THEM and shut up!!!

    • Leigha

      Except that the beaver is supposed to be representing intelligence (not exactly a common symbolism, since they normally represent industriousness, not that that’s a bad trait either). Why would you rather have a pretty princess than an intelligent and industrious child who is good at math?

      And if it were really about CHOICE, then they wouldn’t be so sharply divided into girls’ and boys’ categories. They would have BOTH “pretty” and “smart” options in the girls’ clothing, not limit them to “pretty” or “boys’ clothes.”

  • Briana

    @nicole- the “point” is that while all you encourage from your soon to be teen mom daughter is shallowness, women can do anything men can, & quite honestly, you’re the worst kind of parent out there. I hate women like you who put our suffergist mothers to shame. Its parents like you who dress their girls like skanks, then have the gaul to wonder where u went wrong when your kid gets pregnant at 13. And don’t forget that diva complex! Where the girl thinks all that matters is designer clothes and money cuz thats what princesses need, right? my daughter is only 2, but I can tell you that she’ll never be as blind as you are.

  • Andrea

    I agree that sexist messages on kids’ clothing is wrong, and i haven’t been to Gymboree in quite some time, so I don’t know exactly what all of the shirts look like or what they said. But the two pictured above both look like girl onesies to me. I’d have no problem putting either my son or daughter in the green one, because it’s adorable and looks completely unisex to me. My problem with the two above is more how conceited any parent would have to be to make their child wear a shirt declaring how smart or pretty mommy/daddy are. Parents who require an ego boost from their child’s clothing are just sad.

    • Leigha

      To be fair, I don’t think it’s normally (or at least not necessarily) the dad buying a “like Daddy” and the mom buying a “like Mommy” shirt. It’s often the opposite parent, or the grandparents, or some other person. And you can’t deny having your husband buy your kid a “pretty like Mommy” shirt would be sort of cute, right? It’s baby clothes AND a compliment. (I’m mostly joking, because I agree it could be awkward from an outside perspective.)

  • Katrine

    While I share some of your concerns regarding sexist clothes, I must say that your general attitude will do much more to harm your movement than move it forward. Calling a total stranger the “worst kind of parent out there” and telling her that you hate her because you disagree with her opinion isn’t likely to make you many friends or foster a friendly environment for change. Surely, the parents who beat their children or even kill them are more worthy of such a rebuke than a parent who does not see the harm in gender stereotypes.

    Growing up with brothers, I often wore “traditionally” boys clothing. I guess my question is aren’t we reenforcing these types of stereotypes BY confirming that clothing, colours, etc should only be “for boys” or “for girls”. Wouldn’t the more powerful statement be to dress your child in whatever clothing you want, and use for them whatever labels you find appropriate to their personality ?

    I dress my child how I want to dress them, irregardless of what a company tells me to do.

    • Leigha

      The way I see it is this. Yes, you can put your kid in girls’ or boys’ clothes as you see fit, and there is really nothing wrong with that. Most people wouldn’t have any issue with seeing a girl in boys’ clothes unless it causes confusion (though they tend to be less tolerant of boys in girls’ clothes). But at some point, the child becomes more aware of what they wear and plays a role in choosing it. No matter HOW much I liked the clothes, if I’d had to go to the boys’ clothing part of the store as a child to find things to wear, I would have found it really embarrassing and would have spent the whole time being afraid someone from school would see, or that they’d notice sometime when I was wearing it. It would have been humiliating for me, and I can’t possibly be the only one who would feel that way.

      The thing is, my issue would have been with the labeling of those clothes as boys’ clothes. If the exact same shirt were in the girls’ section, I would’ve grabbed it up in a second, but because the tag said “boy” I would probably never even have considered it. (You can tell I had a good deal of choice over my own clothes as a child.)

      So while I agree with your statement that we’re reinforcing the stereotypes by saying things must be for either girls or boys, I don’t think just disregarding the label is the ideal solution, or even necessarily a plausible one for everyone. As long as the stores are going to have completely separate boys’/girls’ clothing sections, they need to more fairly represent personality differences in EACH section, not force girls who hate pink to buy boys’ clothes. (And I have noticed that that section seems to be getting increasingly pink. I disliked pink as a kid and never had an issue. Now I swear everything is pink, purple, or occasionally aqua.)

  • Amy

    As the mom of two boys, I’m just gonna come out and say it. There are not a lot of cute clothes out there for boys. Especially if you are looking for something that doesn’t have a car or a superhero on it. I hate when self-righteous, critical people force companies to take some of the few adorable pieces of boy clothes off the market.

    There is really nothing putting these clothes on small boys and nothing wrong with putting “pretty” clothes on girls. And for the record, my sister happily uses the hand-me-downs I have given her for her 4 month old, so her little girl wears “boy” clothes. I asked my sister to look at these items and except for the first slide, she would put all of these items on her daughter.

    Some people need to get over themselves.

    Signed the mom who sent her boy toddler to daycare wear a shirt that reads “I’m the smartest kid I know”


    • Leigha

      I have to agree with this. Boys’ clothing, particularly for babies, seems to all be in shades of brown, weird olive green, and dark blue (oddly enough in rather small quantities), and there is an overabundance of superheros, sports, and cars/construction equipment/what have you. They do get the occasional animal (such as this), but normally still in the same earthy color scheme (also such as this, although it’s at least a nicer green).

      I think a better solution than pulling the perfectly acceptable boys’ clothes would be to simply make a girls’ version, too. They can even put it in pink, if they like. I see no issue with putting a pink math shirt on them. If anything, it subverts the stereotype more by embracing both intelligence AND femininity.

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  • Cee

    Honestly, Im so over this movement of chasing down every shirt you broads find to be sexist. Whats wrong with girls being smart AND wanting to be pretty? I taught the first grade last year with two of the brightest girls, who were best friends. BOTH were reading the Harry Potter series together. One of them liked being a tomboy and dressed in boyish clothes. The other one, who happened to be a bit smarter than her friend..dressed in the glitteriest shirts, saying “Princess” “Daddy’s Lil Princess”..on her birthday she even wore a tiara and guess what? She looked absolutely adorable and it did not take any of her intelligence away from her!
    Its really not the clothes that makes the person, seriously. I see all kinds of idiots wearing university shirts that have never and never plan on touching a university. In contrast I see lots of cute girls in pink, puppy-kitty-pony shirts that have a desire to learn. I mean in my university I see all types of women…from the pajama and sweats clad girl to the tank top, skirt and heels. They all got their because of a desire to learn and continue to be there because they want to learn.

    We cannot wallow in “mommy dressed me in pink clothes so now I have no desire to learn.” crap..we women alone are not making a case for ourselves.
    Offer your daughter “nerdy beaver clothes” and “pink poodle fluff shirts”

    If your daughter chooses the beaver one..rejoice! Shes a bound genius

    If your daughter likes glitter and pink and fluff..theres nothing that can be done for her at 4 years old..shes a lost cause, dont even try!

    Where’s the rationale in that?!

    Its the parent that GIVES the desire to learn..not fluff or beavers!

    PS..Im working on two post graduate degrees..and I have ALWAYS LOVED girly colors and glitter…It a miracle! :p

    • Heather

      Frankly, you don’t seem to get what this is really about. I don’t think it’s so much that people think cutesie girly clothes literally make girls dumber or even make them incapable of being perceived as intelligent. The problem is that the girl options presented are not equivalent and are clearly stereotyping. The stereotypes themselves aren’t necessarily negative, but the lack of equality in perception/marketing tactics is. The boys are smart like their dads or strong or good at sports whereas they don’t even make girl shirts with those options. I think if I saw a shirt that said “smart like my mommy” in pink ruffles and glitter, I would love to buy it for my daughter, but, apparently, they don’t make shirts like that.

  • mari

    This is hilarious. Gymboree doesn’t give a rat one way or another about how boys and girls are perceived. They make/sell the clothes that a majority of their clientele will buy. Cutesy princess things are what most women who shop in malls want for their little girls. If you want something else, shop somewhere else…..

    • Leigha

      The problem with that is, there really ISN’T anywhere else. In my experience (and there is a baby and a toddler in my family–not mine, both girls–so I’ve spent a fair amount of looking at baby clothes in the past couple years), girls’ clothing tends to come in the following options: pink, purple, or pastel, polka dots, plaid, or flowery, with things like baby animals, smiling suns, flowers, or bows, and sayings involving being “cute,” “adorable,” “princess,” or “daddy’s little girl.” This is true of EVERY store I have been in. You basically can choose either frilly or preppy.

      So yes, cutesy princess things are what sell. But do they sell because they are what almost every parent wants their little girl to wear, or do they sell because they are basically the only option? I would venture it’s a little of both. I do think that many people want to put girls in such outfits–and why not? They are pretty adorable. But that’s a somewhat recent trend, and it’s only gotten pinker and princess-ier. I imagine it started off being divided, retailers saw that the frilly things sold well, and the numbers started to increase, limiting the choices and forcing people to buy more frilly things, making it seem like that’s what they wanted to begin with. Eventually, they became the norm and now it IS what people want, but why?

      That’s pure conjecture, of course. I have no statistics on styles of baby clothes and how well they sold at any point in time. But I know that 100 years ago babies were dressed the same regardless of gender, and pink was not a girly color by default. The rising consumerism surrounding babies did SOMETHING. It’d be interesting to see just what.

  • Amy

    @Heather – If this is truly the case, then why not request that equivalent shirts be made for girls instead of demanding that the current shirts be removed from the shelves? I would find that to be a much more appropriate solution. Demanding that the shirts be pulled is kinda like saying “well if she can’t have this, then NO ONE can”. And on top of that, now that the shirts have been pulled and money lost, the chance of Gymboree putting the money into making new shirts is almost zero. The phrase cut off the nose to spite the face comes to mind.

  • Miles

    I think it is slightly more telling that they consider it important for Mommy to be pretty and Daddy to be smart, not necessarily if they are boy clothes or girl clothes.

    While the green one could work well for a girl, it is clear the pink one is intended as the girl’s version and the green one is intended as the boy’s version.

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  • f

    I do buy things from Gymboree but now I’m definitely having second thoughts.

  • gabrielle

    How about this: if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. If enough people don’t like it and don’t buy it the store will get the message.

    AND honestly, not shopping there anymore because you dislike the tone of one particular item is nonsense! Do you quit listening to your favorite band if they record one song you don’t like? Probably not. I love Gymboree clothing for my son. And yes, girls can be beautiful and smart – if we as parents instill the desire and ambition to learn into them!

    • Gillian

      I agree! People get way too wound up about this stuff! My daughter has onesies that say little cupcake, adorable, princess, cutie, etc. and it doesn’t bother me one bit!

  • Christie

    i think this is sad and I’ve noticed it as I’ve bought clothes for our little girl. The interesting thing is that I’ve found that many people do not identify my baby as a girl unless she is wearing all pink! Even then, they often ask how old “he” is if she is in her car seat and explain that the mistake was due to the fact that it is green and brown. From the way I understand it, the only colours you are supposed to dress a girl in now are pink or purple, while colors like red and even yellow and green are too boyish! How stupid is this? Do adults dress like that? Of course not, although most men aren’t man enough to wear pink or purple these days. So why should innocent babies be limited to a certain set of colours based on their sex? Also, if one wants to dress one’s child in ports relate clothing, you will find that almost none of it is for girls unless it represents cheerleading or ballet. My idea is, dress your kids in whatever you like provided it will not endanger them (bullying is often brought on by wearing the “wrong clothes”), confuse them, or make them feel uncomfortable. Our baby girl wears every colour and has almost no princess clothing…in fact, she even has a cute little ice hockey outfit inherited from her (male) cousin. I even bought Superman onesies for her, because when she wears the logo she’s Supergirl. That was her Halloween costume in fact! The fact is that the choices are ours. We can go along with what society sells to us or not…and if all of us refused to buy into this crap, it would cease to exist. Dare to be different! It’s not always easy but it’s worth it.

  • Libby

    Gymboree is just too pricy for clothes that will be out grown in a few months. When my daughter was a baby, I dressed her in t-shirts and shorts in the summer (she was born in November). When it was really hot, I dressed her in just loose t-shirts that she’d eventually grow in to. Her hair grew in real slowly and she was often mistaken for a boy. I never bothered to put barrets or head bands on her because they’d never stay and they were uncomfortable. It wasn’t until she was walking that I bothered to put dresses on her. Dresses on a crawling baby, just seemed like an accident waiting to happen.

    Children’s clothing stores have more sins than just those stupid onsees. How about low rise jeans for little girls — baby butt crack anyone? I started buying my daughter’s jeans in the boys department because they went all the way up to her waist. Then I’d sew on flower and butterfly patches or use embroidery thread to embellish.

  • Christine

    it’s not just gymboree.

  • hCristine

    Gender typing in clothing and toys for babies and toddlers is horrible. I saw 2 side by side toys from the same company. drill for boys and pink hair dryer for girls. seriously in 2012. I have 2 boys, but if I had a girl the toys would look the same. really pink megabloks for girls and primary colors for boys. Of corse they wouldn’t sell it if it wasn’t bought. I have 2 friends having girls and they are happily picking through my boys clothes so that their girls can wear dogs and jungle animals. I mean really certainn animals are boyish and girlish and the only girlish animals are cats, pandas and the occasional elephant and giraffe. of course the other side for clothes is once your boy hits 2t he can no longer have smiling animals on his clothes, they must have big teeth and/or be growling. or skateboarding or playing guitar or playing sports. god forbid you want a long sleeve shirt in a bright color. I’m tempted to have my boys wear swimsets all summer as those are one of the few clothes that are cute and bright. I have found a few cute, bright colored sources for toddler boys clothes and the internet, though generally cute and bright are associated with trademarked characters on toddler clothes.

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  • Melissa

    The real problem with this is NOT with Gymboree….it is with parents’ attitudes and expectations about the genders of their children. I mean, let’s face it, Gymboree would not produce these types of shirts if people weren’t willing to buy them. For every mother who would like a onesie that said “smart like mommy” there are (unfortunately) probably ten that would prefer the “pretty like mommy” onesie for their daughter. And that’s the truly sad thing about this. Gymboree doesn’t force gender stereotypes on children….parents do :(

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  • Laura Gatannah

    I have a 12-year-old daughter and am expecting a boy in a couple of months… and I’d have put my little girl in any of these clothes if I’d wanted to. Gymboree or whomever can market clothes however they want, but as a parent, I get to decide what my kid wears. And if I want my little girl to wear “Daddy’s MVP” sweats, she will. Right?