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Kids' Underwear and Gender Inequity


Kids' Underwear and Gender Inequity

Debra Jacobs

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Let’s talk underwear.

When my daughter was little, she skipped the princess stage. She refused to wear dresses or the color pink, she dressed up as Superman for two Halloweens in a row, and she did not like girls’ underwear.

Scouring the shelves of Target for underwear sporting pictures of superheroes or trucks or dinosaurs, we found plenty - all made for boys. The ones made for girls’ bodies included frills, flowers, and rainbows. 

Today, some companies make gender-neutral underwear or girls’ underwear without the princess motifs (see, for example, But they’re expensive and the larger stores still segregate underwear - and most clothing - by strict, culturally-defined gender norms.

Back then, we wrote letters to Hanes and Fruit-of-the-Loom.  My daughter dictated to me what she wanted to say, and then drew a picture of the underwear she’d like to have. 

Even though the letter didn’t change corporate policy, it felt empowering for her. She learned that she can take action when she sees an injustice.

Talk with your child about what underwear companies (or other clothing manufacturers) offer: “Is it fair that most underwear for girls has rainbows and unicorns, while boys’ underwear has trucks and dinosaurs? What if a girl wants underwear with trucks or a boy wants some with unicorns?”

Tell your child that one way to change this to make it fair for all kids is if many people write to the companies asking them to make similar items for both boys and girls. 

Then, with your child, write a letter, and have him or her draw a picture. Walk to the mailbox together to drop it in the mail.

If you receive a response from the company, great! Your child can see that at least someone read the letter and is thinking about his or her request.

Even if you don’t receive a response, the act of writing and sending the letter - taking action - moves your child one step closer to becoming an active change-maker.

(Photo above from: