TikTok user @ericasaysstuff recently asked dads of daughters to share the moment they realized sexism is real or when they realized the over-sexualization of women starts incredibly young. One dad, Michael Vaughn, shared his experience in this viral video that has nearly three million views:
In the video he says, “It was 100% the clothes. And I knew it was going to be bad, but I didn’t know how bad. And then we got a onesie for our daughter that says: ‘Sorry, boys, dad says no dating’ — sized for a newborn. I guess I’m wondering who they thought was going to date our 0-month-old daughter. But, all the girls clothes are remarkably annoying for so many reasons…”
“…Why does everything have ruffles, why is everything hyper-pink, what does everything have glittery? Why can’t I just find a one-piece bathing suit for my daughter? Why are girl clothes smaller than boy clothes when they’re the same size? Like, I don’t get why boys get normal shorts and my daughter gets shorts with an inseam of negative two. Like, we legit buy boy pants for our daughter because girl pants are sausage casing leggings. I’m not squeezing a baby back into sausage casing every single diaper change. So, it was 100% girl clothes. Girl clothes are the worst?”
BuzzFeed spoke to Michael about the experience he and his partner Kelly has had clothes shopping for their 14-month-old daughter Eleanor.
Michael recently started making TikToks about ways to be a supportive, active partner and parent, especially if you’re a new dad. “It’s important to Kelly and me that our daughter be raised free from as much toxic influence as possible, and that influence started before she was even born. I don’t think it should be this difficult to find what I’d call platonic clothing for children. Not to speak in absolutes, but the clothes we buy our daughter that were intended for boys consistently fit comfortably, are more durable, and aren’t see-through. The clothes we’ve found that were intended for girls are usually snug to the point of being form-fitting (even in the same size), cover less, and feel pretty flimsy in terms of quality. There’s no reason for it,” he explained.
In addition, the sayings on baby clothes can also upsetting for parents. Michael said, “Anything about dating or dad protecting his daughter’s virginity goes far beyond the realm of normalcy for me. Some people think they’re just jokes, but I can’t find a single good reason to sexualize a baby like that. The boys shirts and onesies were just as bad (like ‘Boob man’ or ‘Ladies, please, one at a time’). These toxic mindsets start at a very young age, and have long-ranging and long-lasting impacts on girls’ self-image.”
Michael called it “maddening” trying to raise a daughter who will eventually make her own decisions about how she wants to dress, while also trying to trying to avoid giving her a future body image complex. “The most disturbing observation I’ve made is that it’s very easy to find clothes for girls that are revealing, and that’s not true for boys clothes. I don’t believe this is an accident. From the moment they’re very little, this is just one way society reinforces the toxic mindset that female bodies are intended to be displayed, and it conditions young girls to think objectification is normal.”
And there’s no valid reason for the difference in sizes when it comes to gender. “Even the CDC’s own growth charts show the average 3-year-old girl and boy are only about a half inch and half pound apart in size. You know what I want: Clothes that don’t have sayings that sexualize babies and children. Clothes that fit boys and girls the same when the size matches. Clothes that come in gender-neutral color options as a standard. And I want dinosaurs and functional pockets for my daughter. She deserves dinosaurs and functional pockets,” said Michael.
“To other parents raising daughters: You’re not the only parent who feels this way. Your concerns are valid. Just read through the comments in the video. The cool thing is you’re the parent, which means you get to be involved in what they’re exposed to, how they’re exposed to it, and how they learn to process and challenge those influences. This also means you get to set an early standard about what matters, like their talents and interests. In other words: Positive things that help define them that don’t involve their appearance.”
And, if you’re a dad and this is new to you, Michael has this message: “Please be humble and do some research. Grab your mask and go to the store. Actually look at the girls clothes and boys clothes to see what differences you find, especially between the same sizes. I recommend starting with the sayings on T-shirts, then comparing size 3T shorts for girls and boys. This research also includes asking the women in your life if they’d be willing to share their experiences being over-sexualized as children. Don’t push if they’re unwilling; many of those experiences are traumatic. If they’re willing to share, listen to their experiences and learn from them as well.”