Children, Clothing, and Swedish Societal Norms Research


from my semester abroad in Stockholm, Sweden



In the fall semester of 2018, I had the privilege of studying abroad in Stockholm. While there, I participated as a research assistant to Anna Cavallin’s two-year project titled Children, Clothing, and Swedish Societal Norms. I participated with two other students in her first semester of the project, where we were able to produce individual pilot studies in selected topics regarding her broader theme. 

I narrowed my topic to the accessibility and privilege of gender neutral children’s clothing in Stockholm and beyond. Through this topic, I was able to research various children’s stores across Stockholm, including analyzing its gendered divisions, affordability, and location. I displayed my findings in a user-friendly, virtual map, and also provided an extended research paper on my findings, including the theory I used, my methodology, and an analysis of my map and its components. 




Find the map my clicking here, which is also linked several times in my paper, and view the written portion below.









A Gender Neutral Utopia?
Analyzing Gender, Accessibility, and Class in Stockholm’s Children’s Clothing Stores



            The idea of gender equality, or jämställdhet, that Sweden has seemed to successfully master makes Swedish culture look utopian from an outside perspective. With its feminist government, equal parental leave, and inclusive sexual education, it becomes difficult to critique, especially when many cultures follow their model when attempting to be more progressive. However, it also becomes necessary to ask what gender equality in Sweden means—does it simply refer to equality between two genders, or is it more comprehensive and include genders that transcend this binary? Does it also include significant intersections of class, race, ability, and sexuality? While some of their policies ignore these intersections, it is clear that gender neutral childhood is being practiced more so in Sweden than any other country. Moreover, Sweden seems to carry the resources that make this approach feasible, whether through their gender neutral preschools or clothing stores that lack gendered divisions (Abraham, 2017). When focusing on children’s clothing, in particular, understanding how some stores are attempting to go beyond the gender binary and include clothing for all gender identities is an obvious step towards being more inclusive. Because clothing is so heavily tied to how children make sense of their gender, and how others perceive it as well, it seems that the sudden rise in gender neutral children’s clothing means that all families are able to accommodate their children who do not feel heavily connected to masculinity or femininity.

            However, it has come to my attention that the approach carries many modes of exclusion that are typically glanced over. I recognize that intersections of class, gender, and even ability complicate this matter and make the idea of transgressing from the gender binary a multifaceted process that is still in the beginning stages. Due to these nuances, I wished to explore how the idea of a gender neutral childhood, particularly through clothing choices, has not reached its utopian form yet. Exploring its complications in Stockholm and surrounding areas leaves room for both critique and improvement of the seemingly utopian society. In regards to the gendering, or lack thereof, of children’s clothing stores in Stockholm, I wish to explore how privilege, class, and accessibility limit the availability of gender neutral clothing for children. In particular, I will focus on class, the price of various clothing stores, and their locations in order to evaluate how gendered divisions vary based on these factors. Through displaying these findings in the format of an interactive map, where both various regions of Stockholm and the children’s clothing stores they include will be analyzed, I will begin a necessary discussion which examines how it is potentially a classed privilege to explore gender in a way that transcends the binary. Furthermore, I will investigate how accessibility and price point of these clothing stores reflect structures of gender in clothing and the selected locations. Finally, following Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity, I will examine how class complicates the choice and agency of performing one’s gender through my findings.



BACKGROUND

            To understand how clothing is a gendered concept, it becomes important to view gender in the way that Judith Butler theorizes it in her work. Butler states that gender is “an identity instituted through a stylized repetition of acts [and] through the stylization of the body and…must be understood as the mundane way in which bodily gestures, movements, and enactments of various kinds constitute the illusion of an abiding gendered self” (1988, pp. 519). Therefore, gender in these terms carries many possibilities—it can be a corporeal project, a performance with consequences, a performative act, and even an identity that can carry limitless transformations (1988). Ultimately, gender is visible on the body through performative acts, such as clothing, that embody both a cultural and historical idea of gender at that point in time. In this sense, gender is not only realized to the individual who is doing their gender, but also the people who are perceiving that gendered body (1988, pp. 525). Furthermore, gender is a project that can shift based on these acts but also either fit or not fit into a culture’s discourse of gender. This discourse can refer to what that culture views to be masculine or feminine, if deviance from traditional masculinity or femininity is celebrated or punished, and so on. Intersecting other identities, such as race, class, sexuality, and ability complicates this discourse, and this complication is why I decided to focus on class throughout my research, which will be discussed further in a later point.

            Butler’s idea that gender is always visible through the body (1988, pp. 523) becomes less clear for bodies that have not developed a certain sex yet—meaning, a child assigned male at birth versus a child assigned female at birth typically carry non-gendered bodies apart from genitalia up until puberty, in most cases[1]. Due to these bodily similarities, it is up to other embodied acts to do one’s gender for children. While many types of acts can perform gender, such as gestures and language (Butler, 1988), clothing seems to be the one that is most often gendered in society, both historically and in contemporary times. Clothing, in this sense, is used in a way to describe clothed bodies, or how bodies interact with clothing. Understanding this type of material culture in an embodied sense makes it possible to view clothing as not only an indicator of gender, but a way of doing one’s gender. Due to the seemingly limitless options people have to do gender, and particularly young children, who have not yet fully formulated their gender identities, it seems as if dressing one’s self to become a gendered self is void of limitations (Twigg, 2009). Essentially, this implies that performing one’s gender carries no consequences and nuances, which is inaccurate due to various structures of power and intersections of other identities. The gender binary comes to mind as being the most prevalent limitation to this false agency, as it is still inherently inscribed in most cultures. This dominant system states that “there is an expected ‘congruent’ relationship between one’s sexed body and their gender identity and expression,” meaning that there are only two sexes that are analogous to two genders—male and female, and therefore men and women. Rahilly applies this discourse to children when she continues, “babies assigned ‘male’ grow up to be ‘boys’ and babies assigned ‘female’ grow up to be ‘girls,’ and without many options in between” (Rahilly, 2014, pp. 341). So, although gendered transformations seem to be limitless, this binary creates a societal norm that babies must be assigned a certain gender at birth only according to their genitalia and that they must follow the roles that are associated to that assigned gender. Interestingly, this binary can still be in place even when individuals deviate from their assigned birth sex, particularly with trans men and women who are passing. It is those that fall “in between” that are most notably punished by society and its institutions, as most if not all of these structures follow a gender binary (for example, having to identify as male or female on one’s birth certificate).

            However, deviating from this binary has still been practiced, particularly when looking at children who are either raised in a gender neutral manner by their parents or who choose themselves to not follow their assigned gender by using different pronouns, wearing clothing of the opposite gender, or even wearing a combination of “girls” and “boys” clothing. Rahilly notes these practices when studying several children who identify as trans or gender variant and their parents who encourage this type of gendered exploration. This encouragement would come in the form of allowing their children to wear clothing and play with toys that are not associated with their assigned gender, but also allowing their children to identify in any way they pleased (2014). Ultimately, both the parents and the children were actively resisting the gender binary, and these case studies give hope that maybe it is possible to transcend this structure with little to no consequences. It, antithetically, becomes important to also note the families that are not this progressive, as told by Kane in her study (2006). In these cases, the parents were reinforcing the gender binary to certain degrees, most notably with hegemonic masculinity, and the parent’s active roles in their children’s lives therefore affected how their children performed their gender. Interestingly, Kane’s results showed that parents would encourage their children who were assigned female at birth to engage in gender nonconforming roles, such as sports or avoiding over-feminized clothing, yet parents would fear their children who were assigned male to engage in feminine roles, mostly due to a fear of homosexuality (2006). Moreover, parents were more concerned with their boys achieving a certain type of masculinity, which is enforced by the gender binary and, as Butler notes, the heterosexual matrix (Butler, 1990; Kane, 2006, pp. 172). This other component of keeping within the lines of heteronormativity also makes gender deviance more nuanced, as it plays out in differing ways for girls and boys, which becomes apparent in the styles of gendered children’s clothing. Class also becomes a significant factor when noting which types of families were studied in both Rahilly’s and Kane’s studies. Rahilly chose only families that were both accepting and encouraging of their children’s gender nonconforming ways, who happened to be all highly educated and middle class (2014). In Kane’s case, she chose families that did not have to meet this certain requirement, making them follow a wide range of economic, sexual, racial, and educational diversity (2006). In my focused research, this becomes important when looking at Kane’s economic diversity and Rahilly’s lack thereof; does this hint at the notion that raising children in a gender neutral way is a privilege, particularly of class?

            The intersection of class and gender has been theorized and discussed several times in a global context, where different classes produce different gendered perceptions, gendered expectations, gender roles, and so on. It can be argued that the collective of lower-class families hold more rigid ideologies of gender and the gender binary for a plethora of complex reasons—too many to note in this research. For example, the gendering and femininity of caregiving is also tied to class, as lower-class families cannot afford to resist this gendered ideology and have, for instance, the mother choosing a non-traditional occupation other than primary caregiver (Badgett & Folbre, 1999). It has also been studied that certain types of masculinity are class-based. Furthermore, because white, straight, and wealthy men are already inherently granted a form of hegemonic masculinity while working-class men, men of color, and queer men carry subordinated masculinities, many of the latter group will overcompensate their masculinities to be viewed as equal, or even superior, to their privileged counterparts (Pyke, 1996, pp. 531). This classed form of hypermasculinity could translate to more rigid gender roles, where labor divisions and child-rearing practices usually follow a traditional model of gender for lower-class families. Ultimately, it becomes important to introduce Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital in this research, as it connects both the intersection of class and gender to the material culture of clothing (1986; Silva, 2005). Cultural capital “legitimat[es] social differences and establishes that it is produced (as taste, knowledge and ability), as well as consumed, in certain legitimate areas sanctioned by ‘culture’ (e.g. painting and music), or in personal areas (e.g. clothing, furniture and cookery),” where all of these certain “tastes” are signifiers of family and, more broadly, class (Silva, 2005, pp. 84). Not only is the cultural capital of the highest class the most distinguished, cultural capital is only transmitted from parents to children, making it a hereditary notion that is essentially tied to classed families (Bourdieu, 1983, pp. 83; Silva, 2005, pp. 86-87). Moreover, Silva notes that cultural capital is also a gendered phenomenon, where it creates distinctions of gender in the family along with these classed distinctions (2005, pp. 94). Its connection to the body, finally, makes examining gendered, children’s clothing across different classes an interesting project of cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1983). The way that families choose to dress their children is, according to Bourdieu and Silva, an embodied form of cultural capital, making it differentiate between different cultures, classes, and genders. It also creates a classed limitation in how children will do their gender, adding, once again, to the notion that gender performativity is not entirely an act of choice and agency. In my tangible findings, this lack of agency is revealed through price and accessibility, but viewing it through this lens of cultural capital raises the possibility that it is also a matter of class-based ideologies. Ultimately, it becomes impossible to not view children’s clothing through the lens of class, even in a Swedish context, where class distinctions are typically ignored although they can become an important contribution to how Swedish society views gender.

            Fortunately, this notion of classed children’s clothing in Sweden has been touched upon by Fanny Ambjörnsson, who has studied Swedish children’s clothing and their habits in relation to the color pink in her book Rosa — Den farliga färgen (or Pink — The Dangerous Color). She notes that pink and other types of feminized clothing are distinguished according to class and, as Sweden more often colloquially uses, “taste.” Therefore, high “taste” in a Swedish context follows a style that tends to stray away from the color pink and over-feminized styles, as these appear to be vulgar or simply “too much.” This class-based form of clothing choices then becomes a form of cultural capital, where certain styles of clothing correspond to certain classes. Moreover, this middle-class ideal contrasts with the femininity seen in lower-classes, which is revealed through, obviously, the color pink, but also frilly details like sequins and ruffles. This “bad taste” is something middle to upper class families would never wish to partake in, as they fear it will code them as a lower-class family. Therefore, Ambjörnsson’s analysis reveals that Sweden does carry class-based styles and divisions of gender and, more notably, femininity, although class is typically not discussed in the country (2011). The fear of looking feminine for boys is also a classed issue, although it is apparent in both middle class and lower-class families. While most families do fear their boys participating in feminine styles or activities due to heteronormativity, it becomes clear that this is a larger risk in lower-class families, as being feminized as a boy is a form of subordination because notions of girlhood are seen as inferior compared to the notion of masculinity. This ultimately makes it potentially more dangerous for lower class boys, and men, to wear pink, whereas Ambjörnsson noted that there is a trend among upper class men to wear pink, as it is seen as “open-minded” and “feminist” (2011). Once again, gender norms are blurred for middle to upper-class groups but are reinforced for those in a lower class, making it apparent that there is a connection to class and gender neutral clothing. Interestingly, her insight makes this notion relevant in a Swedish context, but also raises the necessity to expand these ideas into formulated research, which is where my project becomes important to adding to the lack of discussion on class-based issues and how they relate to gender in Sweden. Through understanding that the performativity of gender, particularly in children, is not completely an act of free choice based on class-based hierarchies and limitations, I set out to translate this ideology into the physical, economic, and social barriers to types of children’s clothing that defy the gender binary. Through researching several components, including a store’s location, price point, and gender neutrality, as well as the class of the different regions I chose, the heavy connection to class and gender, and more notably, gender neutrality, is revealed through the lens of Swedish children’s clothing stores.



METHODOLOGY

            This project carries several components, including: the class of an area, the affordability (or lack thereof) of a children’s clothing store, the accessibility of this store, and how “gender neutral” the clothing store appears to be. With these intersections, deciding how to most effectively portray my results was a large factor in my research, as I wished to visually display what children’s clothing stores, and more specifically, what types of children’s clothing stores, were available in certain boroughs and surrounding municipalities of Stockholm. I finally decided on displaying these results in the format of an interactive map, which would both highlight the specific regions I studied and the stores I chose for my research. Displaying both factors on a map is not only user-friendly, but it also automatically shows what stores are available in which regions, making correlations and inferences about how the class of a region is related to what stores are available, both in physical location and the average price of a store, easy to see.

            The regions I chose to study in this project are, in no particular order: Täby, Skärholmen, Södermalm, Östermalm, and Solna. When deciding these, I wished to research regions that held economic diversity. I measured this by the average rent of a region, as this credible data is available for districts within Stockholm and its surrounding municipalities. While I used this data (which was, more specifically, 2018’s results for average rent per square meter for Stockholm’s districts and Sweden’s municipalities) to gather the five regions, I also knew certain regions I wished to study before analyzing rent levels. My inspiration for this research sprouted from observing a few children’s clothing stores in Södermalm that seemed to follow a gender neutral approach, and because the stores were surrounded by other highly expensive clothing and beauty stores, I was interested to see if this gender neutrality was connected to class. So, while using Södermalm as my focal point, I added the other four regions, either more expensive, like Östermalm, or less expensive, to my research.

            After deciding the regions I was going to incorporate into the map, I then had to choose which stores I were to study in each of the locations. To begin, I simply searched which children’s clothing stores were available in each region. To narrow my results, I only focused on clothing that is marketed for children after they are infants and before they become adolescents, and this age was around two to eight years old, respectively. I also eliminated all thrift stores from my research to focus only on how a store markets themself; however, including this in future research would be of great interest. Due to the small framework of this project and the limited amount of time, it was impossible to study every single clothing store available in that region; instead, I made my limit two to five clothing stores per location. Through deciding which ones to keep and which ones to omit, I decided to not showcase two stores that are almost identical in store type and gender neutrality (for instance, I could have studied both H&M and Lindex, but I only chose H&M as they are both large, chain stores that carry similar types of clothing). These decisions only had to be made for regions that carried more than several children’s clothing stores; regions such as Skärholmen only carried two children’s clothing stores: Polarn O. Pyret and H&M. So, with these decisions in mind, the stores I chose to include are, in no particular order: H&M, Polarn O. Pyret, Mini Rodini, Villervalla, and Molo. While this does not seem like many for five regions, most of them are located in more than one region on the map. See the map, which will be linked everytime I mention data from the map, to see which stores belong in which regions.

            Finally, analyzing the stores themselves also produces multiple factors that must be measured, especially for such a subjective approach. Firstly, I wished to understand the affordability of the stores themselves, so I decided to measure this in average outfit price of a store. This was measured by selecting a shirt, a set of bottoms (pants or skirt), and a coat from each store and calculating the total price of the three. This total became the average outfit price. While this was not completely done at random, and also while it is not literally an average (which would require me to calculate the average price of all shirts, of all pants, of all coats, etcetera), I attempted to select pieces that were resembling of other pieces from the store so the results were “about average.” Also, this process was done through searching the store’s websites, which is more comprehensive as clothing stores carry more inventory on their website than they do in stores. Next, I analyzed the gender neutrality of a store, which I measured using the term “gendered division.” I then ranked a store’s amount of gendered division on a scale of nonexistent, low, medium, and high. Because some stores would carry nuances with gendered division, some would be ranked as “medium to high,” for example. Determining this component was probably the most difficult, as I simply used my own judgement to determine a store’s amount of gendered division. To make it the most objective, I decided to measure it on certain factors, including if there was a “boys” and “girls” section in stores and/or online, as well as finding certain gendered trends, like if there was still obviously gendered clothing even if there was not a boys’ and girls’ section. I determined this gendered clothing by examining the colors, where pink and warmer tones are signifiers of more feminine clothing and blues and cooler, darker tones are signifiers of more masculine clothing. Moreover, this gendering was also measured through silhouettes, where ruffles, skirts, and dresses are signifiers of girls’ clothing and the lack of these details are signifiers of boys’ clothing. I also analyzed icons and details of the clothing, where traditional girls’ clothing would contain sequins, glitter, or other stereotypically feminine icons such as flowers, princesses, or cute animals, and traditional boy’s clothing would lack these frilly details and carry stereotypically masculine icons, such as superheroes, dinosaurs, robots or cars. Ultimately, the more a store carried these traditional gendered signifiers shown through their clothing, it would be considered as carrying a higher level of gendered division. When a store lacks these signifiers and attempts to create clothing that falls in “the middle,” it would carry a lower level of gendered division. For stores that seemed to fall in the middle of being gender neutral and highly gendered, I would take a more scrutinized look, like seeing what types of clothes are styled on certain bodies, if a dog graphic appears to be more feminine or masculine on two different shirts, and so on. Unfortunately, the biggest limitation to this method was deciding whether to do this research in stores or online. I started my research wishing to do all of my data collection in stores; however, I only did this for three stores (Mini Rodini, Polarn O. Pyret, and H&M). Yet, it is common that online websites for stores are categorized in similar manners as the stores themselves, so using both the stores and their websites was not a huge setback to my research. The only reason I chose to use the online versions more often is due to time and convenience; finding average outfit prices and getting a general overview of the gendering of a store proved easier online than in the physical stores.

            I transferred this data to the map by marking both the locations and stores found in each location, and I differentiated them by color—dark green being the most expensive rent, and dark red being the least expensive rent. Östermalm and its stores are resembled by dark green icons, Södermalm by light green icons, Täby by yellow icons, Solna by orange icons, and Skärholmen by red icons. The location itself would be signified by a house icon, and clicking on this icon would reveal the average rent per square meter for that region and which stores I analyze for that region. The latter is also shown on the sidebar of the map, where each store is listed with its respective location. The stores are signified by a shop icon, and clicking on this icon would reveal a number of details: the average outfit price, accessibility, a brief description of the store, other locations on the map, the gendered division rating, and more details regarding the gendered division. Accessibility was measured based on both price and location; the less expensive and the more locations the store has would mark it as highly accessible, whereas expensive clothing and less locations would mark it as low on this rating. In the “more details” section, I listed what factors of the store make it highly gendered or gender neutral, including my own observations regarding color, silhouettes, and details/icons. I would also make note if the store carried deviations from the gender binary or how stores styled their clothing to reinforce this binary (such as including gendered mannequins). I include as many details as possible so the map can exist by itself; however, this essay can accompany it to highlight background regarding class, gender, and Swedish norms around children’s clothing, to reveal my method of research, and to, most importantly, reveal what the findings mean in relation to how gender neutral clothing is, in fact, a privilege of class.



DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS

            The map is an in-depth display of my findings, including to what extent the stores I studied are gendered, what stores are available in which locations, and how the price of these stores reflects (or does not reflect) the gender neutrality of the store. Refer to the map to see my specific findings. In this portion, I will briefly discuss my results and how they are a first glimpse into seeing the general overview of children’s clothing stores in Stockholm and how they are intersected with class.

            Based on my results, it is apparent that the two stores that appear to be the most gender neutral, Mini Rodini and Villervalla, are only available in the two most expensive areas on the map: Östermalm and Södermalm. They not only lack gendered divisions in stores and online, where there is no “boys” or “girls” section, Mini Rodini also chooses to not use mannequins in their store, which degenders the clothes even more. Furthermore, little to no designs in both stores are inherently feminine or masculine; Mini Rodini’s decision to make playful designs that could be for boys, girls, or anyone that falls between reflects this, and Villervalla’s decision to make shirts with the same design in multiple colors also reflects this inclusivity. While Villervalla appears to be a bit more gendered, where typically children that appear to be girls are styled in pink, purple, or dresses, these girls are also seen to be sporting more masculine colors and not always dresses. However, the point that it is riskier for boys to wear more feminine clothing than for girls to wear more masculine clothing is also reflected through their styling, as children who appear to be boys never wear pink or dresses in their campaigns. Interestingly, this slight gendered division is reflected by the price of the store. Mini Rodini is the most expensive store on the map, with an average price of 2,397 kr, while Villervalla is only 1,247 kr, which is interestingly the second cheapest store in my list. Mini Rodini appears to follow a true gender neutral approach; its individual styles typically never are only masculine or feminine, and this is shown through the gender neutral color of yellow, the decision to style their clothing in all genders on their website, where at times it isn’t possible to tell their gender, and including designs that are neither feminized nor masculinized. Villervalla, on the other hand, still follows the gender binary in some sense by including masculine colors of blue and green and feminine colors of pink and purple. This gendering correlates to the affordable price; however, its two middle to upper class locations also reflect their attempt to be gender neutral. The fact that these stores are not located in areas with lower levels of rent and also, to some extent, not affordable to families who cannot afford the rent in those areas, does prove that gender neutral children’s clothing is only available to people who can afford it, making the choices for children’s clothing to perform their own gender limited in lower class families.

            To move down the gender neutral scale, Polarn O. Pyret is marketed as a gender neutral children’s store, yet it is available in all of the locations I studied on the map. This comes as no surprise, as the store is a very popular and common chain store of Sweden, and interestingly, the level of gender neutrality reflects this type of accessibility. While the store carries no gendered division, as clothing is simply divided by color and age, there is still an underlying gendered distinction between certain styles and how the store is merchandised. These “colored” divisions imply gendered divisions, where warmer tones (even warmer blues) would always be more feminine, and cooler and darker tones would be more masculine. In these divisions, either more feminine icons, such as poodles and flowers, or more masculine icons, such as dragons and cars, would exist. Furthermore, these types of clothing would be styled on gendered mannequins (girls would have longer hair, boys would have shorter), which reinforces the binary. For many parents and children, shopping at this store in a gender neutral manner becomes difficult when such obvious signs of masculinity and femininity are still present. More progressive parents can attempt to get their children to choose styles that deviate from their assigned gender role; however, this is, according to previous research, more common in middle to upper-class families (Rahilly, 2014). Ultimately, this seemingly hidden binary limits children’s agency in performing whichever gender they choose, which is reflected by its high accessibility. However, the fairly expensive price point of 1,347 kr for an outfit, making it the third most expensive store on the map, also only allows this store that is gender neutral to an extent available to families who can afford it.

            The last two stores, H&M and Molo, seem to follow the most gendered approach, where girls’ and boys’ clothing are made extremely obvious through the decision to carry a “girls” and “boys” section and their over-feminized and over-masculinized styles, with hardly any gender neutral styles in between. H&M is the most affordable with an average outfit price of only 647 kr and the most accessible as it is available in all regions on the map, but also throughout the entirety of Sweden and the world. Based on this accessibility, I expected it to carry the most gendered division, and not surprisingly, it did. Both the store and the website make the gendered divisions extremely obvious through their clothing styles, where there is hardly any, if any at all, a piece of gender neutral clothing (more details about this gendered division can be seen on the map, in the H&M locations). However, this may be the only option for many families, as its extremely cheap prices are accessible to all classes. Being able to only afford H&M and not gender neutral stores like Mini Rodini reveals the classed privilege I have been researching for the past few months, once again limiting a child’s agency in expressing their gender in whichever way they please. Molo, on the other hand, still follows this model of gendered division; however, it is the second most expensive store on the map, where its average outfit price is 1,677 kr. Interestingly, this store is also only located in Täby, an expensive region to live, and Solna, a less expensive region to live. These two regions are also the furthest from Stockholm’s city center. Nonetheless, Molo is this expensive due to their sustainable approach, yet they still follow a highly gendered approach (refer to the Molo locations on the map for more details). This raises the question of whether Molo is an anomaly, where it does not follow the trend that highly gendered stores happen to be more affordable. However, this high price can also be reflected in some of its gender neutral practices, where a few pieces of clothing exist in both the boys’ and girls’ sections. This also raises the question of if the gender neutral approach to children’s clothing being expensive also implies that highly gendered stores must be cheaper. Instead, it may be of importance to frame how only gender neutral clothing is priced, not how highly gendered clothing is. Because children’s clothing has seemingly always been this gendered, more expensive clothing does not have to be gender neutral; rather, gender neutral clothing is typically, if not always, very expensive, while gendered clothing is available in all price ranges.

            Finally, my findings from the municipality of Täby are not what I was expecting (refer to the map to see these findings (all yellow icons) in more detail). Täby, although very far from city center, is a more affluent area of Stockholm, and I thought this affluency would be apparent in the options for children’s clothing. However, the only children’s clothing stores in Täby centrum, including ones I chose not to study, appear to be gendered, apart from Polarn O. Pyret, which, from my previous discussion, still carries gendered clothing. This raises the concern that maybe not all affluent areas of Stockholm will still follow this notion of “high taste” that seems to stray away from over-feminine styles—H&M, Molo, and Polarn O. Pyret all carry clothing that goes against this ideology. This result could be expanded by looking at other components of the regions, such as political preferences, that can hopefully be examined in future research.

            Overall, the map makes it clear that based on the stores and regions I chose to study, gender neutral clothing for children is more available to those from middle to upper classes, both in terms of location and price range. While heavily gendered clothing is available everywhere and to everyone, this finding raises the concern if lower class families are partaking in this type of clothing more often, or if it is distributed equally among the classes. Based on my previous research on how different classes carry different types of cultural capital, and therefore gendered ideologies, this possibility fits with my hypotheses. However, I find this research to be more crucial in revealing the low accessibility for gender neutral clothing, as I believe this issue to be more urgent. Because lower-class families in Sweden have less resources to gender neutral clothing for their children, does this make it more difficult for them to practice this child-rearing approach? When combined with ideologies that lower-class families tend to have about the gender binary, does it then become apparent that gender neutral children’s clothing is both an issue of accessibility and of already existing ideologies? Obviously, this statement can be furthered and even complicated with other practices, including children’s toys and education; however, this research solely focused on children’s clothing due to how heavily connected it is tied to doing one’s gender.

CONCLUSION — LIMITATIONS AND FUTURE RESEARCH

            While my findings have displayed a broad overview of the children’s clothing that is available across economically diverse regions of Stockholm, the limited resources and time devoted to this study produced limitations that could be resolved in future studies. For example, I only made observations and inferences from the correlation between store location, price, and amount of gendered division. With the correct approach and resources, this data could be even more useful if statistical analysis were completed. With more data, of course, the correlation could become stronger, such as including more clothing stores and even more regions of Stockholm, or even further municipalities of Sweden (for instance, Malmö, a more racially and economically diverse area). Furthermore, my measurement of economic diversity could have been strengthened with more factors, such as average income level; however, I believe that using average rent was suitable as it portrayed what kinds of families could afford to live in that area, therefore what kinds of families could afford to shop at certain children’s clothing stores. I have hopefully started the beginnings of an important discussion among Swedish culture that is often ignored—how class plays an important role in the economic accessibility of a gender neutral childhood. Due to being one of the first attempts at doing this when looking at Swedish children’s clothing, in particular, I hope this study can be continued, either with more data collection or even looking at other important intersections. Does race, religion, ability, or sexual orientation also play a similar role in providing the resources for a gender neutral childhood? How might these also intersect with class to make the seemingly free choice of dressing as a child to do their own gender more complicated than what I explored in this current study? Will looking at more stores and locations in Sweden and beyond reinforce or challenge these results? With the next few semesters of this two-year long research project, future research assistants can make more interesting insights which can hopefully add to the lack of discussion on this pressing issue. Ultimately, it can become a call-to-action to attempt to make gender neutral children’s clothing not only fit for middle to upper-class families.




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[1] This point is not inclusive of all bodies, including intersex children.