Naughty boys, nice girls: the problem with messages on Christmas kids' clothes


OPINION: Boys are on Santa's naughty list this year and girls have been good, nice and kind. That's the message I got while shopping for a cute Christmas outfit for my three-year-old son.

Festive messages printed on boys' T-shirts at shops such as Cotton On and Kmart included:

"Dear Santa, I was good at being naughty, does that count", "Naughty by nature" and "I'm on the naughty list".

Other Christmas-themed boy garments featured a "Santa Jaws" print with a Christmas hatted shark breaking a candy cane with its teeth, a Santa riding a roaring dinosaur, another riding a motorbike and a "Wraptor Saurus".

Photo: Cecile Meier

By now, I am used to the typically boring boys' clothes racks. Little boys only get to dress in navy, black, grey, and dark green with the rare splash of yellow, orange and red. On their T-shirts, they are allowed dinosaurs, sharks, trucks, superheroes and inspirational messages about being strong and adventurous.

I often pick a few things for my son in the girls' section - home to unicorns, rainbows, kittens, love hearts and butterflies - to add colour and fun to his wardrobe. But it's difficult to find good quality items in the girls aisle. The fabrics for boys' clothing are thicker, sturdier and longer wearing, with plain edging.

Photo: Cecile Meier

Many times, I have picked up a cute girls' outfit for my son and put it back down when I noticed the scallop edging around the neck and sleeves or the ruffle and lace around the ankle.


Girls' clothes are also cut differently even though little boys and girls are shaped more or less the same.

Boys' t-shirts are square with sleeves that allow for plenty of movement. Girls' T-shirts are smaller, with tight, frilly sleeves, a wide or even plunging neckline and might be cinched at the waist. Girls' shorts are shorter, tighter than boys', which is just not only unpractical but also disturbing.

Photo: Cecile Meier

Nonetheless, I had a look at what was on offer for Christmas in the girls' section.

I found a "Christmas is magical" T-shirt featuring a unicorn, "Merry" and "Oh What Fun" and "All I want for Christmas is you" messages in golden, sparkling letters, and a T-Shirt reading "I've been good this year" with frilly sleeves and a cute dog. 

So girls are "good" and "fun" while boys are "naughty by nature"? How do we come up with such harmful messaging a year on from the #MeToo movement exploding?

Looking at other items for girls, I saw messages about kindness, friendship, magic and believing in yourself.

Photo: Cecile Meier

For boys, it was all about exploring, adventure, heroes and being "epic" or "awesome".

I don't think there is anything wrong with any of these messages in isolation. What is disturbing is that girls are being clad in impractical clothing promoting kindness with cute, cuddly or magical animals while boys get better quality clothing but are limited to aggressive animals and being active and strong.

I want my son to feel magical and pretty and cuddly too. I want him to have messages about kindness and friendship on his T-shirts. I want kittens and rainbows for him. He loves rainbows and kittens - why wouldn't boys love these things?

I don't think he is "naughty by nature" and I certainly don't want a T-shirt with that message on it for Christmas.

If I had a girl, I would want her to be warm and free to move in her clothes, and to get messages about adventure and strength. I would want her to be more than just a "good girl".

So why are forcing our kids into these gendered stereotypes from such a young age? They hardly get a chance to develop their own tastes and beliefs about the world. And in the #MeToo era, it's time to stop perpetuating the "boys will be boys" myths with messages celebrating them for being naughty.

- Stuff