Labels and Kids

There’s something I believe strongly in that I want to perhaps start some discussion on. Perhaps put a bug in your ear about. I know I’ll stick my foot in my mouth at some point so I’ll do a disclaimer at the beginning. When in need, refer back to the disclaimer: I’m not judging anyone who does what I’m against, our culture and society hardly teaches us to question these things ever. Don’t feel bad or whatever, just take a few nuggets of what I have to say and perhaps apply it to your life if it suits you.

Ok, so Leanne and I were chatting yesterday on our way back from our spur of the moment trip to see Mama Mia (AMAZING). I was telling her how I have really big problems letting my kids wear clothes with characters on them or with brand names. Or having a bunch of toys that are characters from the media (we have a few but only because they’re good toys).

I think my massive problem with it is that a character or a name brand isn’t going to make you happy, it has nothing to do with who you really are. People so often define themselves by the brand of clothes they wear. Kids feel “cooler” if they have the newest latest greatest toy. Isn’t there something very wrong about that?? What does a name have to do with what’s inside of you? Why does a little girl need to have Disney Princess EVERYTHING to be “happy”? What are those princesses teaching our little girls about being a real woman in the real world? That if you’re beautiful you’ll live happily ever after??

I seriously think if I had a daughter and she asked for something like that I’d tell her she doesn’t need it to feel beautiful or to be her own princess. Barbies?? Not a chance! Dolls that are correctly proportioned with normal non-sexual clothes?? For sure!!

What are the super heroes telling our little boys about being men and dealing with issues? Super heroes solve problems with violence and they don’t have anyone to hold them accountable. It’s all about violence and being a MAN. If my son wants superheroes I’ll tell him that if he treats everyone with respect he’ll be his own hero and a hero to the people he loves. There is no way on earth I’ll let any violent toys in my house, ever. No questions.

It just makes me sad to see so many kids effected so greatly by the media. If they keep hearing what the media is telling them to do, how to play and who to be then how can they possibly grow up to be their own unique selves? Wouldn’t they grow up to be who the TV is telling them to be? That they need the new wicked awesome toy from Mattel to feel like they belong on this earth? What does that translate into when they become adults?

I will let my kids have some of that, if they save their money and buy it themselves or if they beg for that Gap hoodie all year and we decide to give it to them for Christmas, for sure. I just can’t promote slapping labels all over my kids.

This image sits amongst on my other photos in frames in my house.
This image sits amongst on my other photos in frames in my house.

Labels are nothing, they’re dust, they’re not eternal nor are they important for any aspect of life. I think they cheapen who we are on the inside, they’re a mask. They make followers, not leaders. They’re something that some smart guy put on a T-shirt that’s usually made by some underpaid child worker in China. This guy was rich enough to hire smart people to make a commercial that’ll make you feel like you need this. All of it comes from someone at the top who is making you feel like you need this item to feel like you belong. What a lie!! You wear the item, label proudly displayed thinking you’re cool but you’re just advertising for the man at the top who’s getting richer and richer off you. He’s saying “SUCKERS” as he counts his cash and watches his little sheep on the street from the top of his building. He’s a business man, he’s a liar, he’s greedy and you love him…because he told you to.

I just cannot promote my kids to be sheep. I want them to be comfortable in their own skin no matter what they own. I want my boys to feel like real men, not men that cover themselves in Axe to try and get laid because the commercial told them it would work. If I have a daughter I want her to know she’s beautiful no matter what and that her power and beauty is within her.

I truly believe this starts with their toys and with what we let them watch. That very first barbie doll that she sees totally nude, without genitals (which I think is odd like she’s a woman because of what she’s wearing and her shape…not because of the genitals). Just a perfect lump of plastic that she dresses to look beautiful. That’s what she’s seeing a woman as. That very first super hero with rippling muscles. It comes with real weapons that really shoot. That’s what they think men are. Muscles and violence.

Thing is, with really young kids, they don’t care that much. I see parents forcing Dora on their kids in the toy store when they just want a simple doll. I even saw a thing on youtube of this mom who got her kids all Wiggles toys for Christmas, she was freaking out and the kids we’re mildly happy. Are you buying these things for your kids or for yourself? Do you feel like you’re fitting in better with the mom’s because your daughter is clad in Disney Princess like all the other little girls?

A BIG beef of mine that goes along with this is how these things completely gender our kids. Girls wear pink, boys cannot. Girls need the pink plates and boys need the blue ones, heaven knows what would happen if the boys used a pink one!! Girls play with dolls, boys cannot. I saw a mom the other day telling her son to pick out a toy. He picked out a MASSIVE pink car and she said no because it was pink. Good for that boy for seeing beyond the color. He liked the car. The mom was mortified…why???? I purposely dress my boys in pink to make a statement…Silas has a doll whom he loves. Who cares? What will happen? He’ll end up being a more tender person who doesn’t give a crap what people think?? OH NO!!! GOD FORBID!! Sorry…I’m getting all fired up. Ha ha.

Anyway, topic is open for discussion. I hope I challenged your views a little. Let me know 🙂

A big thank you to Jill. I was already aware of some of this stuff on my own but she really opens my eyes further all of the time.

Edit: There’s a glitch in here.  If you’re needing to shop thrift stores (or choosing) and you find a piece of clothing for cheap or whatever…or a good quality elmo toy…you know what I mean.  Do what you need to do for your family.  Like I said before, I’m not judging, I have no idea what’s going on if your lives 🙂

all images were taken from Adbusters


  1. I’m the one who felt down all the dolly’s pants in Zellers to try and buy Silas something anatomically correct! (didn’t succeed) And I made him an apron (*gasp* boys can cook?), too.

    And I agree with you, but our kids came pre-programmed and already in possession of their Barbie dolls. At least I drew the lines at Bratz. And middriff baring Barbies are pooh poohed!

    Willy-Bill currently has one green toenail and one orange one.

    I’m trying.

  2. Labels. What an interesting topic. Everything this family is wearing today is no-name clothing that was on sale or clearance. 🙂 I love sales and I love clearance.

    I’m not totally against things for labels though. Like… I’m not going to refuse to buy Gap or Old Navy or whatever label JUST because it says gap or Old Navy on it. We have our fair share of Old Navy clothes here. BUT… I DID NOT buy those clothes FOR the label. Does that all make sense. My oldest wears Old Navy jeans because they fit him the best that I’ve found. We have to have slims and they have to be long enough. He’s so tiny and long legged. So that’s that.

    Oh poor Barbie. If she only knew how horrible she was. I had some Barbies when I was little, maybe that’s where my SUPER (read: sarcasm) self esteem came from. Maybe that’s why I’m so self conscious. One may never know.

    I’m curious what you guys watch for cartoons, if you’re kids watch tv much at all. My kids don’t watch tons of tv.

  3. RMB – I agree, we have that stuff too…just not so much with the big label written on it advertising…my kids aren’t billboards.

    I guess I should have said that my beef is with the clothes that say GAP, GUCCI whatever on them in big freaking letters. And with buying something BECAUSE it’s that. I have nothing against buying a good quality article of clothing because of the quality and fit. Again it’s the big label on it for everyone to see I AM WEARING GAP!! I FIT IN!!

  4. For the most part I agree with you, but since I just had a massive Tinkerbell party for my 6-year-old, there a few points I differ on. We are not a brand name family, television is not a large part of our lives but, unfortunately or not, the same cannot be said of many of my children’s classmates or even of my own and my husband’s childhood. I have met, gone to school with and been friends with people who had a limited experience of and sometimes a childhood completely void of pop culture stimuli and there is a separation there, there are generational touch points that they are missing and I don’t want to see my children having those awkward moments when everyone in the room “gets it” but them. That said I DON’T want tv zombie, gimmie stuff! kids and so far I don’t have them. I’m still comfortable with my children playing with barbies and with their tinkerbell dolls because they make up their own stories and play with them. As long as my kids are able to see past the brand labeling and create their own stories and adventures using the toys and dolls that they have as a framework for that play, its alright with me. My girls know who Hanna Montana is, they’ve watched SpongeBob and Dora but its just a part of their childhood experience, its kept in balance. My girls have told me and I have seen it in their actions, that they enjoy the hand made and heartfelt gifts more than store bought and when it comes time to give gifts, they think of what they can make for people before they think of what they could buy.
    I’m also surrounded by friends who are raising their kids with a similar philosophy – that helps. My girls are exposed to all the pop crap at school and they are able to wade through it with support from their family and with the example of some of their closest friends doing the same.
    The gender thing can be scary too. this years tinkerbell girl was all about superheroes last year – especially Batman, though it was comic books and not cartoons that pulled her in and my oldest’s best friend is more into faeries than her – he’ll be 8 this year. It takes strong parents to let their children explore in that way. Parents strong and comfortable enough in their own sexuality and in the belief that they can instill the same strength and confidence in their children against the closed mindedness and prejudices so rampant in society – its a tough job raising healthy, happy, intelligent kids.
    Oh man – sorry for the mega comment! 🙂 I had a huge conversation about this very topic with friends the other night so its all fresh.

  5. I’m soooo totally with you on the princess stuff. I think it warps little girls’ minds. And Bratz dolls make me furious! I also plan to shun such crap from my house as violent toys. It hadn’t occurred to me about the superheros being as bad as Barbie, but now that you point it out, I TOTALLY AGREE. Great point there.

    Back when I was nannying, I worked for a short time for caring for a three year old boy, son to two moms in a same-sex marriage. They taught me so much about the way that our culture influences gender roles. Richard Scarry books? Totally adorable, but totally sexist. They gave their little boy toys and clothing that he chose, as long as it wasn’t violent or offensive, regardless of whether or not it was “appropriate” for his gender. This meant that sometimes he wore pink panties and pink socks, and he often played in his play house with his dolls and made breakfast for his moms in his make-believe kitchen. I got a lot of stares venturing out of the house with a little boy in pink socks. But he was happy, so who cares?

    My husband and I have high hopes for letting our kids choose toys that they identify with, within reasonable parameters (like, NO Barbie, NO princesses, NO GI Joe). Something we always wonder, though, is what to do with the gifts that well-meaning relatives/friends give, when those gifts are outside of the limits you’ve set? What do you guys do?

  6. You all have great things to say, thanks for commenting, keep it coming.

    Debbie- Those toys always mysteriously end up in the thrift store box or on freecycle. I get so many parents that are so happy with what I’ve given them, those things are better off in homes where people can appreciate them, not at the back of my drawer taking up space. So I give it away, it’s more of a gift to me when I can bless someone else with it rather than it collecting dust in my home.

  7. Amen sista! I tend to gravitate towards GAP clothing for Ephram when I’m consignment shopping, b/c those are the clothes that seem to stand up to wear the best. But…I have turned away many great t-shirts because they said GAP on the front. Even when I had a couple of t-shirts given to me like that, I just couldn’t bring myself to put them on him. And when he has fancy brand name clothing…I don’t want them ruined, so I don’t let him really LIVE in his clothes. And who wants to grow up like that??

    I try not to let it bother me when Ephram trots through the house in my high-heeled shoes. Though I have to admit…at first that did give me pause! 😉

  8. PS It seems to me that all the kids who “didn’t fit in” in high school are the ones who are now doing interesting things with their lives. I hope I have the insight and the courage to support my kids through that experience, if that is where they find themselves.

  9. i am happy, oh so happy! this topic makes me so happy!

    not having disney, labels, superheroes, etc in my house worked well for us. and, my son happened to have the temperament of my dreams; when i explained why we didn’t have or do certain things, he got it and he now (at 10) respects himself and others enough to put thought into what he does/wears/buys/etc. that doesn’t mean he always makes decisions i agree with, but they’re his, and i have respectfully planted the seed in him and live by it myself, so i respect his decisions (as long as they are not harmful to himself or others, of course). not all children would be okay with NOT having what other children’s families/media put so much emphasis on, temperament wise, no matter what a parent does, there will always be children who struggle with this.

    and yes, those children with us weirdo parents who feed them hemp hearts and sushi and buy second hand clothes without outward labels may have “interesing” children, THANK GOD! my mother in law asked my son the other day if he would like to go “back to school shopping for some clothes.” his reply “what does that mean?”

  10. Thanks for the food for thought. I mostly agree with you and your statements. Do you know of any brands that are not sweatshop made? I would be interested to find out.

  11. Jenivere – Ya Gap stuff is really great quality. We have some of it 🙂 I never “fit in” and it didn’t do much damage to me aside from the teasing, which did quite a bit. I dunno how I’ll handle that. If my kids are getting bullied for any reason I’m going to raise hell in their school.

    Jilly – I’m glad I made you happy. Con is a great kiddo, he constantly amazes me.

    Melanie- hardly any I think. The only one I know for sure is American Apparel. Their kids clothes are great quality too…and no name brands on the front, just plain clothes.

  12. I totally agree with the underlying concept Leah, but I do have a word of caution. I was not allowed Barbies as a child because they were not “nice” and they had boobs etc. My parents made a big deal of it. Guess what I longed for. That’s right, why couldn’t I have a Barbie?! I secretly liked her boobs and boyfriend and pretty clothes, not to mention that pink car. I was infuriated when (I guess to make a point) my parents bought a Ken doll for my younger brother and a Dark skinned(I guess the skin colour cancelled out the boobs) barbie with custom made Pakistani clothes for Holly. Kids want what they can’t have. I never bought Avalon a Barbie but when other people did I said nothing about it. Eventually, when all the clothes were lost, not to mention limbs, they were quietly tossed away. I have kept my kids sufficiently occupied with other things that these silly toys never became a big deal. They have gotten into a couple of toy fads. A few years ago it was “Littlest Pet shop.” When Avalon said she was jealous of a classmate who had some ridiculous number of them I explained what a fad was. I made a deal with her that if in a couple of months, she still wanted more than the couple she had received as presents then we would know she wasn’t just caught up in the fad and she could buy another one. A couple of months went by and sure enough even she had to admit that she had gotten over her desire. My basic rule with her has been that if she is obsessed with something then it will be off limits, because we shouldn’t be obsessed with “things.” So far she hasn’t got caught up in brand name clothing but the same rules will apply. You might not have many issues with clothing with your boys. So far Sebastian, if I let him, would wear the same outfit for the rest of his life. I have found him in the morning running out of the house in the bathing suit he wore the day before and as pajamas. He is too busy biking and playing to care about these things. Incidentally he had a favourite doll too. Maybe that is why he is so great with his baby sister.

  13. OMG, i totally agree. I can’t stand character/licensed products. It’s all marketed to kids – clothing, shoes, toys, school supplies, even food!

    My daughter almost begged me for some Hannah Montana shoes the other day and I just about vomited. Thankfully she does not like Barbie or Brats dolls (why would anyone want to promote being a “BRAT” in their home anyway?) I’ve tried hard to not promote the Disney princess stuff too, but I know many girls that worship all that stuff.

    I feel that kids need their own identity too and that licensed/character products only teach them to follow the crowd. I’ve never been one to follow the crowd, so I hope I can teach my kids the same thing.

  14. ADD of course you agree lol…we’re the same right?? I’ve never followed the crowd either so I guess it’s easier for me to not to right now with my kids. And you’re right…why would you promote being a brat?? A slutty one at that…those doll’s skirts are stinking SHORT!!

    Carmen *GASP* you read my blog??? YAAAAYYY…that’s my cousin everyone. Your parent’s reasons for not allowing Barbies is kinda funny. Very much that side of the family hey? I’ll try my hardest to not do that to the kids. I can tell Avalon isn’t really effected by the stuff much. She’s such a sweetie…give her and Seb some hugs from me….and a MASSIVE chew and kisses and squishes to Kalista :).

  15. Although, I have to say this is one topic we really don’t discuss at my house, because my autistic and Aspie kids don’t really care about all that. Labels. They would wear burlap sacks if that’s what was in their drawers. They want what’s comfortable, not popular. (Heck, some days they don’t even care about practical! Little Miss will wear taffeta to put the dishes away!) It’s an interesting phenomenon, because they watch the commercials intensely, and quote them at length, all their taglines, etc . But then they don’t really care what they actually end up with.
    (Except for the Build A Bear episode which was just SUCH a display of age appropriate behavior we had to encourage it. Had to. )

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge