These kids' shirts smash gender stereotypes to smithereens.

August 04, 2018 2 Comments

These kids' shirts smash gender stereotypes to smithereens.

We tell our boys, “Be a man,” and our girls, “Act like a lady.” And when we do, we aren’t telling them to act like grown-ups. We’re telling them to adhere to a strict set of gender roles society has set out for them.

We all know these tropes: Boys don’t cry. Boys act tough. Boys don’t get sad, boys aren’t scared. Boys aren’t pretty. “Don’t be sweet,” my friend’s mother used to tell him, which was code for “don’t act feminine.”

Girls should be quiet. Girls should be submissive. Girls shouldn’t get their dresses dirty or assert themselves. Girls should be nice. Be polite. Suppress any negativity and always, always, always be sweet.

Well, Free to Be Kids has something to say about all that: it's total nonsense.

Girls Can Be shirt ( Shop Now > )

All kids should be free to pick and choose who they want to be. And that means that emotions, actions, and feelings -- or the expression of them -- aren’t restricted to one gender. It means that kids are free to be who they want to be, who they need to be, to become the brave, happy, healthy, wonderful adults we need to change this world.

So when we saw these “Boys Can Be” and “Girls Can Be” designs by Elise Gravel, a brilliant French-Canadian illustrator, we knew we had to be the ones to put them on t-shirts.

Boys Can Be shirt ( Shop Now > )

Elise’s works perfectly -- and oh so adorably -- capture a huge range of feelings and roles that society says our kids shouldn’t have because of their gender. And they are so spot-on that for the first time ever, at this company where we have designed every single one of our graphic tees in-house, we immediately reached out to Elise and negotiated the exclusive rights to put Boys Can Be and Girls Can Be on t-shirts (and rompers, and dresses, and all the other goodies).

(Which, by the way, means that if you see this design or a knockoff of it elsewhere, the artist is not getting paid for it, so steer clear!)

Because, see, as hard as we try to raise our boys to know it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to be sensitive, it’s okay to be gentle artsy dreamers, society crams other ideas down their throats. So we need to tell our boys that it’s okay to be who they want to be. To follow themselves wherever their passions and emotions lead.

Boys Can Be shirt ( Shop Now > )

And sure, it’s great when your mom or your teacher tells you it’s okay to be whatever kind of boy you want to be, but sometimes it’s nice to have a little back-up. Like a t-shirt that lays it all out -- a karate chop to all the Macho Man and Ladies Man and sports star t-shirts that mainstream children’s clothing stores roll out season after season.

Know a boy who loves to feel pretty? Who loves to wear sparkles and skirts and pink? We want this shirt to back up the positives messages that people in his life are hopefully already giving him: that is totally awesome. Because it’s part of who he is, and he is awesome. And if there are any people in his life telling him different, well, maybe they’ll learn a little something from his shirt too.

And as hard as we try to tell our girls to be leaders, to speak up, to be brave -- well, it’s not really working. The #MeToo movement shows us how our girls are taken advantage of. Women are more than half of college students, but only serve as about a quarter of college leaders. Guess what? That’s because of messages our girls internalize about who and what they can be. So let’s tackle those messages head on.

Girls Can Be shirt ( Shop Now > )

Yes, girls can be tough. They can be leaders. Yes, they can get dirty and loud and angry. And again, we parents are guilty, too: we tend to view a girl’s tantrum as worse than a boy’s. We don’t want to see cranky faces! But girls can be all of these things. Girls should be all of these things. Why? Because they’re human. Because they deserve the whole spectrum of human emotion and experience. They shouldn’t be limited by their gender or sex.

Free to be kids. That’s us. That’s what we stand for. Free to be, free to feel, free to act and free to do. Our kids shouldn’t be limited by their sex or gender. We shouldn’t stand in their way. And these shirts encapsulate that perfectly. Stand back, world. Because gender roles are silly, and kids can be whoever they want to be. Boys can be sensitive, artsy, pretty, kind, and caring. Girls can be angry, loud, tough, strong leaders.

And don’t let anyone tell you -- or them -- otherwise.

2 Responses


October 03, 2018

Pardon, by your t-shirts (grafic t-shirts) are overtly sexists – to the boys. Boys are not alowed to roar, but Girls are? Boys are not Your Honor, but Girls are? Boys just have to be kind and “safe” to the girls – these are the only messages you have for the boys. Where is the inspiration for the boys to pursue their dreams, their creativity – these messages are all over your Girl t-shirts? You are sexists and hating of the boys! Shame on you.


August 07, 2018

I’m in full support of these shirts, but the usage of the colloquialism “act like a lady”, is used incorrectly. When parents tell their daughters to act like a lady, they mean to not be rude, use their manners, or to cross your legs so you don’t show everyone your underwear. I tell my son all the time to be a gentleman. He knows that means to be courteous to others, to respect his teachers and classmates, to be a good citizen. He knows he can be anything he wants to be.

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