Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Training To Be Batman's Wife. Gender Lessons From Children's Clothing.

Here are two t-shirt stories about gender.  They cropped up almost simultaneously.

 The first one, by Melissa at Shakesville, is about t-shirts licensed and approved by DC comics:

On the left, we've got a men's shirt that depicts a scene inspired by Superman/Wonder Woman, which, you'll remember, was a romance themed title developed last year to appeal to women since why would we ever want to read a comic book that's not about kissing? (edit: it's actually from a cover of Justice League 12, however, because DC does sure love their crossovers) The text reads "Score! Superman does it again!"...

Also, Wonder Woman's a lasso-less "it" now, we guess. Yeah, that's why her arm's all weird at the bottom of the shirt; she's supposed to be lassoing Superman in the picture. But why present a powerful female superhero using one of her trademark symbols as a marker of sexual agency when you can instead present her as a stiff, rigid board to be scored upon?

On the right is a shirt from the juniors department of Walmart, which says "Training to be Batman's," and then "wife" in a different more stereotypically feminine font. It's a little known fact, but you are not allowed to spell the word "wife" in any font other than cursive.

The second story, from Canada, is pretty similar.  It is about onesies for infants for sale at Target:

Baby onesies at a Target store that label little boys as future superheroes and little girls as their dating partners has sparked online outrage after two University of Waterloo professors called attention to their message. 
Target Canada responded to questions from CBC News about the pyjamas in an email on Tuesday.
Company spokeswoman Kalynn Crump replied: "Target strives to treat all our guests with respect, and it is never our intent to offend anyone. We appreciate the feedback we’ve received and will continue to listen to our guests to ensure we offer merchandise that appeals to, and reflects, our diverse guest population.”
When asked if Target would remove the onesies from the shelves, Crump said Target didn't "have any plans to make adjustments to our assortment at this time."

There's the Superman S-symbol in both, but the message is a bit different for boy and girl babies.

The topic isn't the most important in the world but worth thinking about.  For example, try to imagine what would happen if we did a gender-reversal on those messages.  I doubt a single t-shirt or onesie would be sold.  Second, note the way the female messages are preparation for the female sexual role, even though these pieces of clothing are meant for children.  

But I get that these are jokes intended for the people reading the messages in the clothes, and most of those are adults.  Even the different script for the word "wife" in the upper picture is because the idea is that the reader will get surprised by that addition:  "So she's in training to be Batman?  No, but Batman's wife!  Heh."

In a way t-shirts and onesies of this type are training tools.