Monday, August 5, 2013

Why is it so hard to find gender-neutral school supplies?

I went out to slay the gender stereotypes dragon today, and I utterly failed -- this time.

Some background: my company is hosting a back-to-school backpack drive (& you can donate here, if you like).

For those of us in the office, it works like this: first, you pick up a packet containing 1) a backpack-shaped card with a shopping list of back-to-school supplies on the back and 2) a luggage tag with a description of the child receiving the bag (e.g. 7-9th grade girl; K-1st boy).

Then, you go buy the supplies on the list, stuff 'em in a backpack, affix the luggage tag & bring it back into the office.

Being the over-achiever and the gender neutrality enthusiast that I am, I figured I'd buy two sets of everything, stuff 'em into bags, and label one for each gender. Simple, I figured!

Buying the office supplies wasn't too bad. I steered away from red and blue by going for highlighter green 3-ring binders and yellow, purple and black notebooks. Although it was an affront to the eyes, it appeased my sense of equality.

Then came the backpacks.

At the store I went to, these were my best options, and the ones I ended up going with. Take a wild guess which was "meant" for which gender:

All the other backpacks were either pink or promoted violence. Seriously.

What an eye-opening experience. We really are training our kids at an early age to fit into tiny boxes. I had half a mind to swap bags & give them to the "other" gender -- but stopped when I thought about the teasing that would ensue.

Does anyone out there have any suggestions on stores and brands that do a good job of gender-neutral children's accessories? I'm not a mother yet, but the time will come, and I'd like to do a better job than this.