Kids Challenging Gender Barriers, One Pair of Batman Undies at a Time

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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. Wait, did you say annual underwear industry meetings? I think we found your next step dude. Figure out if they give press passes for that sort of thing!

    I think you’ve hit it on the button – the key is for consumers to create new data. And like you said, it’s a tough decision when it makes more work. Maybe we need a petition (which I hate to say since I think that can be such a trite angle) or just something as simple as a pre-made e-mail that people click a link, it opens the e-mail, then they just add their name and send. Because although you’ve spent countless hours thinking and talking about skivvies, the average person just throws their hands up and says “whattaryagonnado?!”

    Thank you for making pantygate a thing. While we think about giant leaps in the fabric of gender equality, sometimes the best place to start is at the pantyline.

  2. What about boys that want underwear with the awesome girl from Brave, or kick-butt Dora, or dress-up clothes. We forget that the bias goes both ways! I wanted to find dress-up clothes for my nephew, and while you can get a box of ten princess dresses for 10 bucks for girls, one spiderman dress-up costume for a boy is $50! So, let’s make sure and focus on ALL GENDERS here. Poor little boys want to dress-up and wear Brave underwear too!

    • Lori – I totally agree with you, although I think the bias is actually worse for boys who want to dress in “girls clothes.” Here’s a fantastic (and heartbreaking) article that a friend wrote about the social pressures that face young boys who embrace properties Dora and princesses –

    • Lori – I was thinking about this as well. There is hardly any boys’ clothes out there, underwear or otherwise, that that does not encourage or reinforce traditional ideas of masculinity (superheros, gi joes, fire trucks etc). This might be fine for most boys but some boys might want images of butterflies and Disney princesses. There should be more availability of clothes and toys for boys and girls who may blur or violate the gender binary.

  3. I like this. I wish someone like you had been around when I was a kid. Back then you couldn’t even find BLUE girl’s underwear, let alone Star Wars. The best I could get was “the Lion King” which was yes, based on lions, but MALE lions. Ha.

  4. So, Tom, have you concluded it is not really a conspiracy theory after all ? You have concluded that the consumer market offerings respond to, mostly, consumer preferences?

    By the way, despite being an ex-construction contractor… I was taught to use a sewing machine in grade 7, and can make a pretty mean apron. Not exactly challenging. Have you checked out what the fabric stores have available in materials that meet your needs? Ever considered filling what you have determined is a niche need through on-line marketing yourself?

    • I never said it was a conspiracy theory – well, I did, but I was clearly joking – but I don’t think it simply comes down to consumer preferences dictating offerings at all. There are CLEARLY consumers that would prefer more options and less-gendered options when it comes to character underwear.

      I had one manufacturer send me a huge email with excerpts from all of the customer comments they reveive on their website, begging for Star Wars for girls, Dora for boys, etc. BUT those manufacturers aren’t controlling what gets into stores. The retailers do that. And the retailers don’t do market research and they’re not polling consumers for their preferences. They’re buying popular character licenses and hoping they sell well. I don’t think that’s an evil conspiracy. I think that’s sloth. It’s pandering and it’s lazy. I had more than one manufacturer tell me that major retailers don’t trust online sales figures. They see those sales as fringe purchases, weird Googlers looking for weird not-popular items. I think that’s ridiculous.

      And, while I’d love to start sewing my own undies and become the gender-neutral character underwear king, if you ever saw my one attempt to sew a Halloween costume for my daughter… you’d know it wasn’t in the cards.

  5. Amazingly, the DC Superheroes for Girls underwear mentioned in this article are now completely SOLD OUT. A Mighty Girl has a nice write-up about it on their Facebook page now –

    Hopefully, this is just the start of consumers giving retailers and manufacturers new data to work with…

    • As I mentioned, Fruit of the Loom has completely sold out of their brand new DC Superheroes for Girls underwear. People have now started posting their requests for more DC girls underwear on Fruit of the Loom’s Facebook page. If you want FOTL to make more underwear like this (and if you want them to encourage retailers to carry them), so why not tell them yourself?

  6. Linda Baker says:

    Tom – you are a hero to all little girls and boys who want to be individuals – I’m proud to know you and call you a friend – keep up the good work!

  7. hi, coming in to this conversation late… was too busy searching for gender neutral underspants.
    i found this site, although i still need to find out if they are a legit company. (always have reservations about sharing credit card information)

    i know an almost 7 year old that will love these stripey underpants! wish they came in my size too.


  1. [...] After weeks of research, phone calls and e-mail conversations with underwear manufacturers, Tom has a follow-up on The Good Men Project today. [...]

  2. [...] Kids Challenging Gender Barriers, One Pair Of Batman Undies At A Time- It’s amazing to me how a thing such as little girls wanting to wear Star Wars underwear can open up such a complex debate. I have a solution to the issue,though. Instead of waiting for large manufacturers to cater to the need for this niche (and probably using unethical work place practices to do so), you can either make your own undies or hire someone on Etsy to do it for you. You can find both patterns and great kids underwear there (as well as sellers who would be willing to do custom orders) [...]

  3. [...] two articles for The Good Men Project – “Buying Boys’ Underwear for My Daughter” and “Kids Challenging Gender Barriers, One Pair of Batman Undies at a Time” – I talked about the limited gender options available for children who enjoy character [...]

  4. [...] imagine, the story touched a nerve and was quickly distributed through the entire interwebs by The Good Men Project and Huffington Post. People were espeically vocal about the issue. Burns wrote: Largely, I’ve been [...]

  5. 8BitDad | says:

    [...] written by other fathers around the internets for the week leading up to February 10th, 2013: Kids Challenging Gender Barriers, One Pair of Batman Undies at a Time / Am I A Helicopter [...]

  6. [...] written by other fathers around the internets for the week leading up to February 10th, 2013: Kids Challenging Gender Barriers, One Pair of Batman Undies at a Time / Am I A Helicopter [...]

  7. […] more on similar topics, please read: Buying Boys’ Underwear For My Daughter Kids Challenging Gender Barriers, One Pair of Batman Undies at a Time Girls’ Superhero Underwear Is Selling Out Online: Are Retailers […]

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