Friday, July 2, 2010

politics on kids

I recently (after posting my lovely links on cool lefty kiddie wear) perused an article that was very critical of parents who chose to put their politics on their littles, literally speaking.   It seems some folks get bent all outta shape at the idea of parents pressing and advertising their belief systems on their kids' t-shirts. 

This is a contention that took me a bit by surprise.  The surprising thing being, we ALL make personal and political statements about ourselves as people and as parents on the bodies of our children  every day. Rockabilly parents dress their kids all rockabilly.  Punk parents dress their kids all punk.  There are some parents with kids sporting mohawks or green/blue/pink/whatever hair and I'm going to bet the farm those parents are the ones attending the right-wing fundamentalist church down the road.  The baby girls with pierced ears reflect their parents' beliefs about femininity or gender and/or various other cultural beliefs.  The kids who only ever wear khakis and sweater vests or conservative looking Laura Ashley dresses reflect their parents' world views. The parents who only dress their babies in very girly or very boy-y clothing reflect their own values, just as surely as the parents who choose to ignore stereotypically gendered clothing.  Golf nuts dressing their kids in golf shirts and soccer nuts dressing their kids in soccer gear and hockey nuts dressing their children in Oilers (erm, I mean hockey) jerseys all make statements about their parents' passions (because I'm pretty sure my kids didn't actually come out of the womb sayiing "Go Oiler Go!"  and dressed in blue and orange.  That would be their mommy's and their papa's values reflected right there).  Parents who dress their daughters in sexy bikinis (which I personally find all kinds of revolting) and their sons in shirts that say "future pimp" (and yes, you can actually buy this shirt for your children!) reflect their own (high questionnable, in my not nearly humble opinion) morals.  So no matter what our beliefs are, our children reflect them until they are old enough to make choices about their own appearence preferences and political preferences.   So making a big deal of babies sportin' Obama onesies seems to me to be a bit, well, disingenuous. 

I personally would love to see the kids sportin' a "I'm trusting the man with the moustache" tees with a photo of Jack Layton (and by the by, if any of Jack's ad team is perchance reading this, I think a little humour would go a long way in distinguishing him from his robotic middle and right wing counterparts!). Or, "Go Green Go" with a photo of Elizabeth Whatshernose from the Green Party (because those are the political direction this household rolls, in case you hadn't already surmised).  And as you already know from my previous shopping links and the fact that I made our entire family be-rainbowed shirts for Pride - I'm all for kiddie "billboarding". 

All within reason, naturally.  Do I think people should be allowed to send their kids to school with "White Pride" shirts?  Um, no.   (I personally think people should get beat up for wearing "White Pride" shirts, but that's just me.)   Do I think it's appropriate for kids to be wearing "Hooters" shirts?  Give me a freaking break, people.

I guess what I'm basically saying is this - if it agrees with my own lefty politics, kids should be allowed to wear it.  Naw - I'm just kidding!  If people want to send their kids off to the playground with a shirt that says "My Daddy Voted for Stephen Harper", have at 'er.  (Just be forewarned that  probably isn't going to make them the coolest kid on the monkey bars).

Seriously though- if it's relatively age appropriate and not hateful - I don't see what the problem is with parental values being overtly reflected on a cute little onesie, given that they are covertly reflected in so, so many other ways.


  1. Politics is personal, I think is totally ok once as you say is age appropriate -- toddlers no, once kids get older and can read and have opinions then absolutely. Some will go the other way from thier parents just for the sake of it.

    I gotta admit the "My Daddy Voted for Stephen Harper" visual made me puke just a little...

  2. I am with Brahm on this - I think that the overtly political stuff should have the kids understanding and support. Otherwise, we parents are using them as means to (our) political ends, rather than ends in themselves and I can't get behind it - no matter how cute or "right-on" the slogan....

    Lucy at 2 pretty much selects her own clothes (sure - from the range I have chosen, but it is a wide range) so I can already see her moods and preferences already reflected in her clothes. Guess I am trying to get used to that expression early....

  3. hmmm - interesting. I hear ya - I just don't actually think the covert stuff is any less "political" than the overt stuff.

  4. true true... I appreciate the fact that what we have in our closets, or our kids' closets, necessarily reflects our class/socio-cultural milieu (how can it not??). I just think that any concerted attempt we make to make our kids our mouthpieces for our own hopes and dreams for the world limits them in ways I wouldn't want for ME. What if my dream for Canada isn't ultimately shared by my kid? (heaven forbid ;).

    I opt for comfort, durability, colour, and yes, attractiveness in the clothes L wears. And I figure that there will be a plethora of things she will be teased or lauded for in her life - and my political proclivities don't need to the focus when she is too young to understand, or to defend OR rebuke me. KWIM?

    BTW - I LOVE your blog - keep on keepin' on!!!

  5. How can I un-christen myself???

  6. I'm with ya, mama T. I'm very content to send my kids out in the world emblazoned with 'future feminist,' peace signs, and Che Guevara silhouettes. I don't think that in doing so I'm being any more overt or covert about my political orientations than are those parents to send their kids out with GAP embroidered across their chests. My children might not 'get' what they're wearing and what it means to me, but it gives them an introduction on a simple level to what matters to me. And the time when I can do this is limited. At 4.5 years old, Imogen is already very independent in her clothing selection (both in terms of acquisition and daily choice) and there's just no way she'll wear something she hasn't selected herself. I don't think there's any danger of a playground beating for being an assumed commie because of how I dressed them; by the time my kids hit school, I'm pretty sure that my influence on wardrobe will be all but gone!