Clothing, Identity and the Case of the ‘Genderless’ Baby
As much as clothing serves as a means of identification, it is equally useful as a way to conceal, or at the very least render ambiguous one’s identity, which illustrates just how deep-seated our sartorial markers of class, gender, and identity are, and that, in spite of the changes fashion has undergone throughout the decades. Certain colors, and specific garments strongly suggest sex and gender identity as much as others’ point to class and group affiliations. For instance, somewhere down the road, pink has come to symbolize the female sex while blue is strictly reserved for boys. The story of Storm, the 4-month old Canadian baby whose parents have chosen to keep his/her sex hidden – “a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm’s lifetime (a more progressive place? …)”, explain the parents – has sparked a heated debate on gender identity and conformity; inadvertently illustrating how the way we dress shapes public perception.
Interestingly, keeping Storm’s sex a secret is simple enough as parents Kathy Witterick and David Stocker have demonstrated. Avoiding pink, fuchsia, and blue, they have instead opted to dress the 4 month-old in gender-neutral clothing, like a red-fleece jumper which contrasts so beautifully against Storm’s flaxen hair in the above picture. Without any clear sartorial cues, we are left wondering, since attempting to guess a baby’s sex based on the assumption that a name refers to one sex or the other – which this parent who also withheld the sex of his two children in the 90s calls “the flimsiest of evidence”- is no substitute for the strong sartorial markers that have come to shape our concept of gender. Aside from illustrating our apparent obsessive need to classify individuals according to predefined social constructs, or perhaps our far too conventional views on parenting, Baby Storm’s story also exemplifies how wardrobe can serve to either promote or eschew these same social constructs simply by virtue of how it is utilized.
Photo credit: thestar.com