Lands’ End caused quite the stir this past summer over their science t-shirts. As part of their 2014 clothing line, they had a series of science themed shirts with diagrams showing the planets or detailed skeletons of dinosaurs. However, when a woman wanted to buy one for her science loving daughter, she discovered they only sold the science t-shirts for boys. Girls shirts were limited to more stereotypical pinks, rhinestones, and cutesy pictures.
When the woman’s letter expressing her disappointment with Lands’ End went viral, the company found itself in the midst of a social media storm. Soon thereafter, the company relented and announced that they were starting production of versions for girls and the shirts would be available later that summer. The shirts quickly sold out.
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a post on Facebook that the t-shirts were available. Remembering the story from the summer, I decided that I wanted to support the message that science is for girls too, and so I ordered one. Now to be honest, I have no idea what it means for a shirt to be “for a boy” or “for a girl” when the kid is just six years old. Perhaps something in the stitching? No matter, I ordered one anyways.
My daughter loves Dinosaur Train and can tell you all about different dinosaurs, but I wouldn’t exactly call her “science loving” like the daughter of the woman who wrote the letter. I tell her a lot of about astronomy and evolution and the states of matter, and she listens with interest, but she also loves coloring, mermaids, and dressing up like Elsa in Frozen. Given the choice, I’m sure she would choose the type of pink t-shirts with rhinestones that Lands’ End was marketing for girls.
This is fine. I like science, and I want my kids to have access to it, but I don’t want to force it on them. She was excited to hear that I had bought her a t-shirt, but I wasn’t surprised when her face fell a little bit after seeing that it was a picture of the solar system. I liked the idea of her owning the t-shirt but wasn’t expecting much.
But, she does wear it regularly. It has some pink and purple in it that matches her clothing, and it is long sleeved, which is perfect for Fall.
A few days ago, my daughter came home with a piece of paper that had a picture of the sun with a face and an elaborate pattern around it. She likes coloring, and there was nothing unusual when she started to fill in the design with sweeping colors.
What did surprise me, however, was that she then decided to draw the earth and the moon around to the size. Then she drew Mars. Mars?
“Are you learning about space in school?” I asked her.
“No,” she said.
I pressed her on why she decided to do this, and she said she just knew it. It was on her t-shirt.
Well, that was nice to hear, but it still seemed a little too good to be true.
The real shock came today. This morning, she dug out the piece of paper and decided to keep working on it. She wanted to put in more planets and added Saturn. Then she wanted to know more names of planets. She wanted to know what color Mercury should be, but she got upset when I said gray. The moon was already gray, and she felt that each planet should be a different color.
After a discussion about the planets and why Pluto no longer counted, she meticulously added pictures of Jupiter, Venus, Neptune, and Uranus.
Then, I noticed that she had updated her drawing of the earth by coloring in half of it black. When I asked her why half of it was black, she explained that was the side of the Earth that was in night time. This is something I have often talked with the kids about when it is night time, but I had never seen her articulate it in this way.
And she still wasn’t done. She added stars and then colored in the entire background black like space. And she still tells me that the only thing she has been doing with space is wearing her t-shirt.
For a kid who loves drawing pictures of mermaids and playing “princess” and “school”, I found this really heart warming. I just wanted to show my support for the idea that science is for girls too. But I’m glad to see it is for “my girl” too.