Buying Boys’ Underwear For My Daughter

Tom Burns wonders what the hell is wrong with the manufacturers of children’s underwear.

I can’t imagine that any dad is entirely comfortable taking their daughter underwear shopping. Blogger Jim Higley did a great article back in April about taking his older daughter on shopping “dates” to Victoria’s Secret, and Higley really conveyed that wonderful, uncomfortable panic that can overcome a dad who’s forced to stand too long in the lingerie and unmentionables section.

While moms have their own unique on-the-job difficulties, I know way too many dads who are perpetually nervous about unwittingly coming across as a pervert or a pedophile, thanks to stupid societal prejudices about the perceived dangers of men interacting with children. And, though I disagree with all of those stereotypes, I will admit—when I linger in the girls’ underwear section at Target, my personal levels of social anxiety go off the charts.

Fortunately, unlike Higley, at the moment, I’m getting off fairly easily when it comes to taking my daughter underwear shopping. She’s only five years old, so I’m (hopefully) years away from flop-sweating and avoiding eye contact while I hold a purse next to the Victoria’s Secret changing rooms in the mall. Right now, we just go to Target or Kohl’s, she sees a six-pack of underwear with her favorite characters on it, I toss it in the cart, and we’re good to go. Character underwear makes undergarment shopping super-easy and predictable for the parents of young children.

Or so I thought.


Our underwear shopping system seemed to be going fine until my daughter discovered the existence of the BOYS’ underwear aisle.

“DAD! Come over here!”

I followed her voice and found my daughter standing, slack-jawed and indignant, looking at the much, much larger and more varied selection of character underwear in the boys’ aisle.

“They have Lego Star Wars underwear! And superheroes! OH! And Phineas and Ferb! Dad, can I get these? Do they have girl ones?”

And I had to stand and tell her that no, no, they didn’t make girl versions of these brands of character underwear and I didn’t really have a good explanation why.

The Girls’ underwear aisle at Target. Where’s Wonder Woman?!


If you’re unfamiliar with the world of children’s character underwear, here’s a quick breakdown:

In the GIRLS’ aisle, they have underwear featuring Disney Princesses, Hello Kitty, Monster High (a goth-themed toy line), and maybe a few Nickelodeon-branded kids shows (iCarly, for example). That’s it.

In the BOYS’ aisle, they have underwear featuring Star Wars(both LEGO and regular versions), DC Superheroes, Phineas and Ferb, Toy Story, Batman, TransformersThe Avengers – it’s a much larger character pool.

And, while I might (might!) begrudgingly admit that a majority of girls might not care for Transformers underwear, a LOT of the other so-called “boy” characters really do appeal to a wide cross section of children, both boys and girls.

For starters, Phineas and Ferb. EVERY kid I know loves this show and, even though the two title characters are boys, I don’t think the show has a gender-specific appeal at all. Phineas and Ferb actually has a nice selection of active female characters. And Toy Story? It’s one of the most successful children’s film franchises of all time and, while yes, it didn’t feature any sparkly princesses, I’m pretty sure that young girls made up a huge portion of its audience.

We did actually once find a pack of Pixar-themed underwear for my daughter, but even that was a little weird. They couldn’t just have WALL-E. They had to have WALL-E hugging EVE with a big red heart behind them. And Buzz and Woody couldn’t appear on any of the underwear, but Jessie and Bullseye could.

Do kids’ underwear manufacturers think that, if they put an image of a male character on girls’ underwear, that it will somehow turn the girls into boy-crazy sex maniacs? The logic completely escapes me.

What do kids’ underwear manufacturers think when they gender underwear?


My big issue is that my daughter is a HUGE comic book, Star Wars, and superhero fan, and, in my vast shopping experience, I have NEVER found any girls’ character underwear that spoke to any of those creative properties. FINE—If you think that having Anakin Skywalker on her undies will turn my daughter into a lusty, inhibition-challenged Jedi-chaser, then just let her have some underwear with Princess Leia or Ahsoka Tano on it, OK? But none exists.

There’s a pack of boys’ DC Superhero underwear that only has the logos of various superheroes on them. Why couldn’t they make those for girls? If the Superman “S” or the Batman bat symbol can appear on boys’ undies, why can’t you stick the same logo on girls’ undies and just call them Supergirl and Batgirl underwear? I couldn’t even find her any Wonder Woman underwear, even though I know my sister was the proud owner of Wonder Woman Underoos back in the ‘80s.

See? That’s what I’m talkin’ about.


Yes, it’s sexist, but it’s also just weird and sad. Why can a boy walk around with Yoda on his underwear, but a young female Star Wars fan can’t? It’s gender marketing at its very worst.

So, what did I do? I let her buy and wear the boys’ underwear.

Why not? Yes, it hangs a little low in the back and, yeah, there’s the front flap, but, c’mon, NO kid (and barely any adults) ever uses that flap anyway.

And she absolutely LOVES them. Now she has Lego Star Wars undies (some of the boys’ ones DO come with images of Princess Leia on the butt), Toy Story undies, and a nice selection of DC Superhero underwear.

She adores the variety of her new character underwear and she definitely switches back and forth between brands – one day, she’ll rock the Disney Princess underwear followed by Chewbacca underwear the next day.

In her mind, Star Wars, Pixar, and superheroes aren’t just for boys, so wearing them on her underwear doesn’t feel odd at all. But, thanks to stupid gender marketing, there are whole generations of girls being told that these creative properties that they love ARE NOT for them. And, again, that’s sad and strange and seems to be leaving a whole lot of money on the table for the underwear manufacturers.

Believe me, sinister masters of the character underwear industrial complex, if you make Star Wars and superhero underwear for girls, they will sell. Because a) Young girls don’t view those as boy-only properties and b) As a parent, I will force my daughter to buy them if it means I get to leave the underwear section of Target any sooner, preferably without a pack of Miley Cyrus or iCarly underwear in my cart.


Originally appeared at 8BitDad

About Tom Burns

Tom Burns is a husband, a dad, and a veteran of the educational publishing industry, living just outside of Detroit Rock City. He’s also been a writer and contributing editor for a number of web sites, including 8BitDad, and founded - a website devoted to helping parents find the right books for their kids. You can find him on Twitter at @buildalibrary.


  1. I want to know what store you’re shopping at? The stores here give like 3 options for toddler boys but 50 for girls. If your bou doesnt like DC super hero, mickey Mouse, or Cars, you have to order off the internet. Maybe its just cause of the size. My 4yo is still in 2T undies . However i did stumble onto this article trying to help find girl star wars undies for a friend’s 4yo girl.

  2. Good article but I believe as a consumer, your dollar is your “vote”. By purchasing the gendered underwear (whether from the boys or girls styles), you are only showing the manufacturer that the gendered marketing strategy is working. As long as they are selling well, Target will keep buying them. A better option would be to buy the neutral undies and add your own decal somehow or to write a letter to Target or the manufacturer of the underwear to tell them how you feel.

  3. I’ve always been jealous that girls can get away with that no problem. But what about all the boys that want Frozen or Tangled underwear?

  4. Lyla Wood says:

    When I was at uni I had a female friend who was a huge Harry Potter fan. She discovered that a department store were selling a range of boys’ underpants with the Hogwarts house logos on the front. She absolutely loved them, and eventually decided to buy a pair of Slytherin. She confessed to me one day that they were actually extremely comfortable! I’ve always wondered why boys’ and men’s underwear are designed so differently – they’re actually designed to *cover* the bum, and little ‘short’ styles are really common, whereas the majority of women’s undies are designed to be skimpy, and unless you wear Spanx or ‘granny’ pants, it’s virtually impossible to find ordinary undies that actually cover the bum! I’ve often looked with envy at the coverage possible from men’s underwear.

  5. Underoos were excellent. I had R2-D2 and C-3PO as well as Wonder Woman sets. *sigh*

  6. Jenny Neiser says:

    I ran into that with my youngest. She wanted Monsters Inc., Toy Story and even Nemo. So we bought from the boy isle for a couple years. 🙂 I mentioned it to some friend and several of them had bought “boy” undies for their girls

  7. Sam Barnes says:

    I am an adult female, and hilariously enough, I find men’s underwear much more comfortable (when I want to rock a pair of briefs.) Nothing is more infuriating to me than undergarment shopping. So I am definitely not looking forward to doing it with my daughter. However, I’ll very likely just parade her down both aisles and just say “You can have whichever kind you like.”

  8. About 13 years ago, my stepson’s preschool tried to send him home for having on underwear with characters from his favorite show – Powerpuff Girls. Since there were no boys underwear with his beloved superheroes on them, his parents had let him get girls’ panties. He was 3… Who cares? Dad went to the school irate, and said his son would wear whatever underpants he liked – the rule that NEEDED to be enforced was him not showing his underpants, whatever the style, to anyone at school to begin with and it wouldn’t be an issue.

  9. Dude i feel your pain. This morning i was getting undies for my 3 daughter and i told her lets where the the princess undies for my princess and she flipped out . Saying she did not want to be a princess but be batman and she wanted batman undies. So long story shorter I went on line to find batman undies for little girls. and found this. Off to the boys dept. for us soon i guess.

  10. Pterodactyl says:

    That’s weird, but things should get better for her in a few years! I was just at Target shopping in the underwear section for myself and was surprised at the underoo-style panties available in my size with all sorts of characters – Batman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Cookie Monster, etc in XS and up. They were in the section set up to appeal for teens, I think. (I’m 27, but I still bought a pair!)

  11. Totally related to this article, I remember my disappointment as a little girl at all the cool characters boys clothing had compared to the girls. On the topic of kids underwear: Does anyone know if they only market the “days of the week” underwear to girls?

  12. I’m not sure I understand this article or why it is an “issue.” It seems that you are demanding that a corporation have available on demand what you want. That is consumerism. If they find a market for it, they will provide it. Do you really think someone sits around a corporation and thinks, “OOOO, let’s not do that: it’s transgressive?” If it sells, they will do it. The solution for any one shopper is; (a), ask, not demand, that your local manager consider it. If it is Target or Walmart, shelf-space is assigned by computer based on sales, so the manager will just be polite and shrug mentally; (b) find a boutique or go online and pay a little extra for something that not many people want. (It’s called supply and demand.); (c) start your own company, but be sure you get the trademark holder’s permission and pay them their fair share.; or (d) learn how to draw on underwear. Walking around a store complaining about how the majority taste oppresses you seems to be an odd way to spend your time. I wish Lamborghinis sold for the price of bike, but I can’t “organize” anyone to make it so.

  13. So sad that this is still happening, now already two years since I also wrote about this very inequity on my own blog, . You’d think that these clothing companies would get it, if nothing else because it would likely increase their bottom line! I salute you for taking the bold step of letting her buy and wear the underwear! You are awesome!

  14. Even though I have two granddaughters, I have never realized this difference in the underwear, usually plain and brightly colored has been the order of the day, thank goodness. It does surprise me to find that girls aren’t catered for in all the popular movie characters which both boys and girls love.Surprising that the manufactures aren’t aware of this.

  15. I have written about this very issue, and actually found a solution. In fact, the solution presented itself as a response to my article! After reading my complaints about the lack of “boy” characters on girls’ underwear, someone started an Etsy shop making some. My daughter loves them!

  16. Great read as a Mom of a Dino loving lady I find it hard to meet her need for T Rex under ware. Happy to see my little lady is not the only one rocking the front flap.

  17. tamara nadia says:

    I don’t have much to add, other than I had the same experience. My daughter (now 11) wanted Shrek, Scooby Doo, and Spiderman underwear when she was younger. We ended up getting the boy underwear. The fit was perfect, and she did not care that it was for boys. In fact, a few years later, I saw there was Shrek girl underwear, but it featured Fiona. And was pink. My daughter wanted Shrek and Donkey on her bum.

  18. You are describing my exact experiences with my daughter! She has just never been interested in the characters (or colors) on girls underwear. She’d much rather wear the themes that only show up in the boys department – LEGOs, Star Wars, superheroes, etc. It’s also a problem with pajamas and graphic T’s. We often raid the boys department too, but I would much rather find these characters in the girls department, because I don’t ever want a girl to think something is wrong because she doesn’t like what girls are “supposed” to wear. Or feel she shouldn’t like something because she only sees it on boy clothes. Girls need more options!

    Check out this mom who hand sews superhero appliques onto girls underwear:

  19. The plus side is that boys underwear fits little girls so much better, no riding up and no uncomfortableness.

    And to Tom B…. I have boys. We call the flap the penis pocket so they know that that part goes to the front but they’ve never used it. And I’ve never seen a grown man use it. To me, it seems like an awful lot of work.

    Also, why can’t we just have pink undies for boys? Pink is pretty. Everyone should have the opportunity to dress their loins in pink if they want to.

    • I forgot to include… I’m kind of anti-branding my kids so what I do these days is buy plain white underwear along with fabric markers and let the kiddos go to town creating their own custom undies. Who doesn’t want a pair of underwear with their name spelled across the bum? The bonus? They practise writing and drawing skills (and fine motor skills are severely lacking over here) in a way that’s fun and doesn’t seem like work.

      So decorating your own undies is practically the same as doing homework.

      • What a clever idea! You understand the underlying issue. The clothing and underwear industry is all about making money and if they stamp a Star Wars image on something and can raise the price a bit they will. The largest predictable segment for Star Wars is boys and when the next box office movie comes out, they find a likeable character and sell more undies.

  20. As the dad of a daughter, I have a questions for all the dads with sons out there.

    Does anyone actually teach their sons to use the flap in Y-front boys’ underwear? Do any dads actually instruct their boys how to use the flap or do you just tell them to pull it down?

    I will admit – I don’t know any grown man who actually uses the flap, so I’m curious if there are dads out there who encourage their kids to use the flap. If not, the flap is essentially useless and could easily be eliminated, right?

  21. well as we are talking about boys underwear. i say most male underwear is infact feminine. the crotch space is minimal, and i believe is the major cause of the curvatures we see in pe.nises.
    two corsets which deform the body, still exist in the world.
    1. most underwear
    2. footwear ( a never shoed foot has the splayed shape of a duck’s foot. so why do the lasts, moulds of the foot that shoe manufacturers construct shoes upon, look so different). does male or female footwear look splayed like this (kuhmaul, cowmouth,bearpaw unisex shoe)

    i feel this is particularly deleterious during the growth spurt phase of puberty.
    tight underwear on boys will bend a flaccid pe.nis over the scr.otum, if the pe.nis overhangs sac. for flaccid pen.ises that dont overhang, the restraining fabric in addition to causing curvature will retard growth of the penis.
    the penis takes the shape caused by the pressure of tight underwear. just as the toes take the shape of tight footwear – and toes have bones in them, pe.nises do not.

    so, briefs or figurehugging type boxer shorts dont have enough space in the crotch for men.
    remedy: loose and preferably lowcrotch boxer shorts for boys

    • Indeed, since I changed to boxers life has been more comfy, not to mention cooler down there. The typical y front cut? I think suit women since there isn’t much to stick out, males need extra room and especially additional airflow for the testicles to keep them lower temperature as required.

      • Archy, i just noticed that you wondered upthread if there was lingerie for men (id prefer to have the option of chronological thread viewing).
        Masculine gay men, and also feminine gay men (because of 19th/20th CE incorrect associations with homosexuality and being womanly) wont go anywhere lingerie (or the rest of ‘women’s’ clothing).
        So Accordingly, It is we male transvestites who have the greatest range of male underwear eg.

        Personally while i have ‘womanly’ underwear, it is for special occasions. And if i have to wear underwear, i prefer to wear loose boxer shorts as for my groin they are functional for the reasons that you and i have listed

        • Lol that style of underwear makes me laugh. I always thought boxers were the sexiest for men, maybe boxer briefs.

  22. Maybe things are different these days but in the old days one of the struggles was to get your son to change his underwear. Guys back then were more interested on just getting dressed to go and play. Getting dressed meant grabbing whatever was closest, clean or not. Cool underwear made it interesting and motivated the kids to put on a clean pair.

    Ya’ll have to be honest here, a lot of parents purchases are based upon the parents taste, what they think is cool or cute. A lot of parents live vicariously through their kids because what kids are offered today were not available back when they were children.

    IMO, a parent should monitor what kids pick but not necessarily determine their taste in clothes. And from what I’ve seen, some adults would be better off if there were geranimal clothes for adults

  23. True story. Many years ago I’m at the store with friends of mine and their young son (I think about 8 or so). Anyway. he sees a package of girls Wonder Woman Underoos and starts carring on that he wants them. Now, at the time Wonder Woman was a popular TV show (With the Lucious Linda Carter in the title role). So while his son is throwing a tantrum screaming “I want Wonder Woman!” an older gentleman leans over and says “Young man, I too have wanted Wonder Woman foe Quite some time now, but you don’t see me crying about it.” We just about fell on the floor laughing!

  24. I’m encountering this with my newly toilet-trained twin daughters, for whom picking out undies is a big treat. They both like the assortment of fairy-themed stuff (hard to avoid) and Angry Birds panties (yay!), but one is really into the movie “Cars” right now and wants some of those. I looked online and couldn’t find any, so we’ll probably just get some Cars-themed boys underwear and let her use them. Doesn’t bother me at all aside from potential confusion over what the fly is for. I have to admit, though, I don’t think I’d feel the same if it was a son wanting Tinkerbell underwear and just letting him pick from the girls section. I know there’s something screwed up about that, but there’s more of a social price to be paid (by child and parents alike) for a boy wearing girl underwear than vice versa.

    I think it’s sort of like the “pink aisle” in toy departments. I’ve seen much ado about that, but the reality I see is that girls are encouraged/allowed to play with toys from every aisle, plus the pink stuff “just for girls”, while for boys, it’s basically a forbidden zone. Rather than locking the girls in, in keeps the boys out.

    • “I have to admit, though, I don’t think I’d feel the same if it was a son wanting Tinkerbell underwear and just letting him pick from the girls section. I know there’s something screwed up about that, but there’s more of a social price to be paid (by child and parents alike) for a boy wearing girl underwear than vice versa”

      Why do you think this is? Why more of a social cost for a boy than a girl?

      Do you think the pink aisle is a forbidden zone, in that the boys might want to shop there but are not allowed? Or that they know they’ll be mocked for “being like a girl” something that is apparently not ok. It’s ok to dress “up” the privilege ladder (tomboys are ok) but not down and to align with or identify has having feminine traits?

      Our sons both loved pinks and purples and wild extravagant dress up clothes, My Little Ponies and so forth and we happily let them have whatever they wanted until they decided (or realized it was a social mistake to like those things) they didn’t want them anymore. I say let them wear what they want to wear and then, if they experience push-back, ask them to think about it and help them make their own decisions.

      This doesn’t even begin to touch the topic of mass multi-layer marketing of movies and tvshows into freakin’ underwear instead of say…plain underwear. Ugh.

      • I think there’s stigma for gender bending in either direction, but I believe it’s more taboo for boys/men to adopt feminine characteristics or interests than vice versa. I’m not saying that’s justified in any way, just stating my opinion of how things are, at least in the culture I live in. I don’t worry that my pre-school girls would face difficulties for being “tomboys” like I would that my sons (if I had any) would face for being feminine. If they (my hypothetical sons) grew up to clearly have their own innate preferences for feminine things, I like to think I could be tolerant and accepting of that, but I would not start them down a road of cross-dressing when they’re too young to have any idea that’s what they’re doing, but not too young to be stigmatized as a result. If I had that same concern about consequences for my daughters, I wouldn’t let them wear boys underwear at this age, either, but it’s just not a concern. I imagine there are other communities where there would be enough pressure to give me pause, but fortunately I’m not in one of them.

        • “f they (my hypothetical sons) grew up to clearly have their own innate preferences for feminine things, I like to think I could be tolerant and accepting of that, but I would not start them down a road of cross-dressing when they’re too young to have any idea that’s what they’re doing, but not too young to be stigmatized as a result. ”

          But a child who just likes pink, or things that are (for some ridiculous reason) assigned “feminine” isn’t cross dressing, it’s a child liking pink. It’s a thing, in a color that society has for some reason decided only women are supposed to wear. And that is sexism and also a kind of misogyny.

          It’s ok for women to dress “up” to power but not for men to dress “down” to be like women. Being like a woman is one of the worst things a man can be in this culture. Homophobia and sexism are siblings.

          The pink underwear doesn’t mean he, at 3 is cross dressing. It means he likes pink or he enjoyed watching Cinderella. The more you tell that kid he can’t wear pink, the more of a desire for it you might create…or a internalized hatred for things he used to love.

          It’s adults who have the hangups not the kids. And we put that crap on our kids. Sick, sick stuff.

          • Julie wrote: “The pink underwear doesn’t mean he, at 3 is cross dressing. ”

            I agree the child doesn’t consider it cross dressing, but I’m also inclined to agree with Thomas B’s comment that: “Ya’ll have to be honest here, a lot of parents purchases are based upon the parents taste, what they think is cool or cute.” So a 3 yr. old may not be capable of cross dressing, but his parents can consciously make a choice to cross dress him, which I think is a cruel choice to make.

            There’s more to it than just pink. In theory, there’s not much reason there can’t be gender-neutral underwear for pre-schoolers, in color, cut, or material. I don’t object to the idea in principle and would even welcome it. In practice, that’s not an available choice to me as a present-day American parent, unless I learn to make my own, which isn’t going to happen. So if I had a son that liked pink, I suppose if I was super-accomodating I might search for some plain white boys undies and dye them for him, because pink per se doesn’t bother me as a choice. To get the pink undies that are out there, though, it means a different cut and shape, characters they may not like even if they like pink, and quite often, some frilly embellishment to the waistband, all of which are unambiguously feminine. I can rail against the culture I live in for making it so, but it’s like railing against a rattlesnake for being poisonous. My son could grow up to be a cross-dressing herpetologist and I’d still love him, but I’m not going to send him out in panties to play with rattlesnakes as a preschooler to prove to everyone how tolerant and open-minded I am.

            If you have set the bar for misogyny, sexism, and homophobia so low that your lefty liberal friend who doesn’t think he’d buy panties for a non-existent son clears it, I encourage you to consider moving the bar higher.

            • I agree the child doesn’t consider it cross dressing, but I’m also inclined to agree with Thomas B’s comment that: “Ya’ll have to be honest here, a lot of parents purchases are based upon the parents taste, what they think is cool or cute.” So a 3 yr. old may not be capable of cross dressing, but his parents can consciously make a choice to cross dress him, which I think is a cruel choice to make.

              I, as a parent, would not force any particular clothing style on my child. I know of no parents that do, or would do anything to their child to make it harder for them to fit in, including gender queer clothing or costuming forced on them. Who are these parents? Are there cites? Cause I don’t know of any. Here’s why I wouldn’t do it, because I myself know, all too well what happens to kids who don’t conform to gender norms in this country, even in a liberal oasis like Austin. They get mocked, shunned, beat up, and even killed. And it’s wrong. I have personal experience with this and it’s wrong.

              I would be terrified for my sons if they came out as gay or gender non conformist mostly because of the basic attitude and beliefs of our culture around sexuality. Not because I would be ashamed of them, but because I know how ill they’d be treated. But I’d go to the mat to defend their personalities and identities. My son wanted a pink bike helmet. I asked him as neutrally as possible, twice, if that’s what he wanted. Yes, he said. Ok then. THankfully he had no issues about it with peers. Would I force him to wear a pink sparkle helmet to fit my own political beliefs? No, because my political beliefs don’t include forcing someone to wear something particular.

              I can rail against the culture I live in for making it so, but it’s like railing against a rattlesnake for being poisonous.

              The only way to change culture (which can and indeed does change, just see our current sitting President, gay marriage laws, drug laws, the mention of “Stonewall” today in the Inaugural Speech, the legality of races to marry each other, and more) is to rail, activate, cajole, educate, push and not fucking give in to people who say “Thems the breaks, boys and boys and girls are girls and blacks are less than whites, and gays are evil and so forth and so on. I will not stop railing and pushing for equal rights, freedom of expression and a deeper understanding of how our culture socializes all of us. Culture is a living changeable thing, evolving. I take action where and when I can because that’s the only way to make change. A rattlesnake is a rattlesnake. If the people back in Stonewall times had not railed, thinking oh well, a rattlesnake is a rattlesnake, where would be be?

              My son could grow up to be a cross-dressing herpetologist and I’d still love him, but I’m not going to send him out in panties to play with rattlesnakes as a preschooler to prove to everyone how tolerant and open-minded I am.

              I would not send my child out in any outfit just to use the child as a symbol of who I am. But if my child, as an individual, showed me who they were and were in agony not being who they were, I’d let them risk (as safely as I could) to be who they are. If that meant wearing pink, so be it. If it meant letting him have an airsoft gun and wear camo (which he’s wanted to do) so be that even though that’s a 180 from my values and fashion style. There is no forcing a child to be who we want them to be, they are who they are. I know a lot of parents of trans kids. They all showed signs of that at very early ages. The choice is-allow them to be who they are and express who they are and be at ease in the home and in the world (knowing there are significant risks and will be cultural pushback from small to large) or deny them their identity, even trying to explain that you are just doing it for their own good and they still will be trans, still will be miserable and they won’t trust their parents. I’d rather rail and allow my kids to maintain a sense of inner and outer integration.

              My kids are gender conforming for the most part so that’s not a part of my life. But I advocate for those who aren’t.

              If you have set the bar for misogyny, sexism, and homophobia so low that your lefty liberal friend who doesn’t think he’d buy panties for a non-existent son clears it, I encourage you to consider moving the bar higher.

              Way to take my general statements personally. I don’t have any such judgments about you personally, Marcus. I understand exactly how hard it would be to allow a child to wear something so non-conformist that it might cause them problems. You have no idea how much I get it, understand it, have been complicit in it, try to work every day around my own issues, privilege etc. I’m in the system and culture too, and have been affected by it as well. If my son wanted to wear a dress to school it would be a difficult and fraught process, Marcus. For me. That doesn’t mean that the general culture is right. Or that we can’t work to change it.

              There is homophobia and it’s connected to misogyny and yeah, panties and underwear are very minor and seemingly innocuous players in that. Doesn’t mean I can’t note it and work against it. And I wasn’t accusing you of being a bad person. You are owning your own reactions and exploring how you feel about it, which is great.

              This? “The more you tell that kid he can’t wear pink, the more of a desire for it you might create…or a internalized hatred for things he used to love.

              It’s adults who have the hangups not the kids. And we put that crap on our kids. Sick, sick stuff.”

              Wasn’t about you. It was about other adults I know and know of and read about who do some serious damage to their kids. You don’t. Ask me if I”m referring to you, ok?

  25. In my experience, most 5 years old boys would rather run around without underpants…but that’s boys, gotta love ‘em.

    I have a little hesitation about going too far with the gender-blend at pre-sexual ages. Watching the last generation or two grow up in the gender-blender, I’m concerned about over-androgynizing our girls because as soon many of these girls raised as ‘tomboys’ hit the tween and teens they start questioning their sexuality more and start wondering why the boys don’t look at them…and the self-esteem issues begin. The same self-esteem issues happens with our boys, when we’ve over-feminize our boys.

    Just a personal aside, I am more squeamish about boys in pink ruffle underpants than girls in batman underoos.

    • Underroos are bad for older boys, they need airflow over the testicles during puberty n onwards. I wear jersey knit cotton boxers which have a lot of airflow and are very very comfy, I’d hate to go back to the awkward underoos that make your testicles hot and annoyingly make it difficult for the penis during the day during the normal erection cycles that take place (less need to adjust your boxers vs your underroos).

  26. Do we have a double gender-standard for girls?

    Just food for thought, I wonder if a father would respond the same way if his 5 year old son asked for some pink princess panties with ruffles on the hiney.

    • That issue came up in the comments thread when this article originally ran on 8BitDad and I think you have a terrific point. I think that it probably would be much more socially acceptable for a girl to wear boys underpants than for a boy to wear girls underpants. And that’s really sad.

      Part of that has to do with a total gender-double standard, and another part has to do with the ultra-gendering of clothes for kids. I know dads who have young sons with asked for princess dresses for Christmas, who have playtime skirts they wear at home, and who love wearing nail polish, and, for the most part, they are totally fine with their kids embracing feminine apparel. But I also know that they occasionally get defensive and anxious for their sons when they go out in public. It just seems so insane to asign so much importance to sex and gender-cues for these children who are completely pre-sexual.

      The sad fact is – if you asked me, honestly, who is more in danger of being teased – my daughter in her Avengers underwear or their son wearing Hello Kitty underwear? – I’d have to go with the son. Because, for whatever reason, large segments of society view a girl in boys clothing as something cute (a tomboy!) and view a boy in girls clothing as something weak or deviant. And that’s disgusting.

      I would hope that I would be as comfortable taking my son over to the girls underwear aisle as I was taking my daughter over to the boys aisle. It’s a bullshit double-standard. But that double-standard exists and it needs to be combated. And I admire the hell out of anyone who has had to combat it in their own lives.

  27. Fantastic Article!

    I’m convinced that kids clothes/underwear/etc are designed to appeal to the most rigid, least comfortable-with-their-own-masculinity-or-femininity parents there are, and the rest of us are forced to go along.

  28. Great job! And the fact that your daughter like Star Wars and superheroes speaks to your success as a parent. If only other parents would be so open and let their children decide what they like instead of what gender roles say that should like.

  29. Gender-neutral clothing for ALL ages would be amazing. Unless I venture outside the women’s section – which I sometimes do, often with a wan smile for the checkout assistant who comments on the ‘nice gift’ for my nonexistent brother/boyfriend – the majority of clothing for my age group is a weird fluoro colour festooned with bows or rhinestones, doesn’t have pockets or any element of practicality, and is made of a half-scrap of fabric with mesh/lace/gaping holes. Is it too much to ask for a pair of shorts that don’t reach right up my bum?! And some superman underwear too, please 😉

  30. Errr….why is pedobear on that image? Was it intended to be like that?

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      We didn’t make the graphic, it came with the article, but my guess would be that it’s a comment about the overt sexualization of young girls via underpants made too sexy. I have seen thongs in size 8/10 for little girls. It’s pretty fucking disturbing.

      • Yeah anything lacey or thongs/gstrings/etc for kids is disturbing. Clothing like that is made to be seen, lingerie should be for adults…I dunno why any parent would buy it?

      • I agree and the disturbing part is, there’s a market for this. Who’s indulding these kids at such young ages and buying the sexy thongs for little girls? Little boys and girls aren’t the consumers and decision makers…it’s the parents.

        My niece went through the Pixar Cars phase and Scooby-Doo phase, I think she even had girl-crush on Shaggy, but those movies are geared towards kids. At 6,7,8 years they are just relating and identifying with what they see…but little kids decision making skills aren’t great at that age.
        What happened to parents saying “No thongs, N.O. means no?” Parenting isn’t easy these days.

        • I think it’s important to note that sexy underwear isn’t made for “kids”, it’s made for girls. This isn’t an issue for little boys. The same thing with Halloween costumes. Little boy Halloween costumes don’t have the same issue of “sexiness” that little girl Halloween costumes can.

          • Boys to be soldiers, girls to be sexy people. It’s weird how restrictive clothing is for kids though I spose there isn’t really much lingerie for men, nice looking boxers? I’ve only seen people care about nice underwear for women in regards to lingerie n sexuality. Thankfully there are campaigns boycotting lingerie stuff for kids and hopefully that’ll stop foolish retailers stocking such clothing.

            • There are more types of sexy underwear for men! Much of it has come out of the historically gay community but more and more women are appreciating sexy underthings on men and seeing men as sexy or both partners decorating each other. One of the lovely things about feminism is that gender roles get looked at and picked apart.

              • More than what women have or more than I have suggested? I’ve only seen boxers, y fronts, boxer briefs and that’s about it.

            • Again, the lingerie stuff isn’t for “kids”, it’s specifically targeted at little girls. Same thing with Halloween costumes. Little boys aren’t sold costumes about being “soldiers” strictly or even largely. Little girls are sold costumes that try to sex them up in many formats.

              I understand little boys face their own challenges. Although I don’t understand why what little girls are pitted against can’t be discussed in it’s own right without you feeling you need to mention boys. It’s like it’s almost threatening to you to strictly talk about one gender over the other. I think we are all intelligent to understand that both genders have their own challeneges. But lets not use that to only skim over the discussion for one side by dividing the conversation all the time into two sides.

              “Kids” don’t have sexy underwear marketed to them. Little girls do. Recongnize that distinction and then we are recongnizing the problem in reference to the here and now.

              • Because this is a discussion about both genders underwear, not just girls. I am making a general comment at my distaste towards such limiting underwear, and also disgust at anything sexual for kids. One of the most pathetic things I’ve seen is an Ironman costume for women/girls being a bikini! Ironman is meant to be head to toe covered!

                Not sure I’d say little girls are sold costumes largely to sex them up, vast majority I have seen are princess this, princess that, fairy this, fairy that. For adult women costumes tend to be mostly about sexuality though. I haven’t looked too much at costumes recently so this may have changed, and Australia may be a lil different. Probably 90% of the costumes I see on little girls are princess ones, and boys usually something along the lines of spiderman, soldier, some form of superhero.

  31. Props on the Ahsoka Tano reference. I was trying to collect Nightsisters gear at one point. Asajj Ventress is apparently in the girls’ section of star wars gear….

  32. This is great, Tom. My daughter finally has Angry Bird underwear to have an alternative to her Spider Man boxer shorts. She wears her mother’s t-shirts for pajamas, and has been known to steal her brother’s Toy Story underwear. She refuses dresses and skirts, and prefers hoodies and jerseys to anything else. She’s 5. The Angry Bird underwear are the “girliest” thing she’ll choose to wear.

    • That’s awesome. I’m going to have to get my daughter some Angry Bird underwear. She’d love them.

      The big thing that bothers me isn’t the sheer fact that they make “girly” or “super-masculine” clothes for girls and boys. If a kid wants to be dress uber-frilly or dress like a lumberjack, more power to them. Sparkily princess dresses and Lightning McQueen tracksuits both deserve to exist (I guess).

      What bothers me is how limited and narrow gender marketing makes clothing options for young kids. Clothing manufacturers seemingly can’t imagine a world where a young girl or boy might want BOTH options available to them. A boy should be able to dress like a ice dancer OR a NASCAR driver if he wants to. But those options simply aren’t made available by a lot of the major chain stores. (Gender neutral kids’ clothes do exist, but they’re sometimes hard to find and/or really expensive.)

      Heck, I tried to buy my daughter a winter coat at Old Navy and every single option was either pink, purple, or covered in rhinestones and/or fake fur. Why couldn’t I just buy her a green coat? Or a brown one? There is just a disturbing lack of non-gender marketing clothing options available for kids these days.

      And I refuse to accept that the reasons for the limited gender options are purely economic. If there are studies out there, I’d love to see them, but I’ve NEVER seen Avengers or race car clothing made for girls. I doubt that there’s any sales data out there that suggests that Star wars underwear for six year old girls simply won’t sell.

      Robert – I say just take your daughter to Target and let her go hogwild in the boys underwear aisle. They fit fine – maybe a tiny bit baggy – they’re comfortable, and my daughter ADORES them. She’s the envy of all the girls in her class who wish they could have their own pair of LEGO Star Wars underwear too.

  33. Michael Rowe says:

    Your daughter sounds like an absolute rock star, and you’re a terrific, terrific dad. What a refreshingly smart, interesting, and original piece on parenting. Just wonderful!

  34. Way to go Tom! Still a great article. I, for one, want to see some neutral-colored, superhero-clad girls underwear. I don’t even have a girl – but I know plenty of people whose daughters like Batman and Superman.

  35. My objection to Miley and iCarly was mostly just an age thing. I didn’t let my daughter watch either of those shows when she was 5. I felt they weren’t entirely appropriate for her yet… they seemed decidedly tweeny to me. Maybe I was wrong in my assessment, but it didn’t make sense for me to have her buy underwear featuring characters from those shows yet.

    And also – and again, this might just be me being weird – but, while I don’t have a big problem with cartoon characters adoring my daughter’s undies, the idea of her having a photograph of a real person on her butt…. just doesn’t feel right.

  36. What do you have against Miley and iCarly?


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