Restoration Hardware: Gender Offender
What happens when styling choices separate the boys from the girls?
Here’s a little secret we’ll share: we love catalogs.
Yes, they’re bad for the environment.Yes, they offer us stuff we don’t need. Yes, they promise us a life spent on windy porches, dressed in sumptuous woolens, sipping endless beverages from attractive mugs. We want to live on Garnett Hill. Who doesn’t?
But every now and then, we experience a cataclysmic catalogue crisis. Restoration Hardware’s Baby and Child Holiday 2011 issue has sent us into cardiac-catalogue arrest.
Question: How many rooms can be decorated in oatmeal, with mushroom accents and ecru highlights? Since when did taupe become the new pink? Beige the new blue? Linen the new plaid? Crème brulee the new floral? Barley-desert-with-a-hint-of-sand is no one’s favorite color. Are we right?
Here is a list of the actual colors listed in the catalogue: white, oatmeal, dove, natural and toast.Dare we hazard a guess that it’s white toast?
We’re not suggesting that color must correlate with gender. Yet in a catalog where the color palette ranges from gender neutral to gender neutered, we are questioning the decision to distinguish gender identity based on lighting, toys and artwork.
The stylists at Restoration Hardware have determined that little boys enjoy looking at “architectural reproductions of lithographs depicting Los Angeles on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution” and girls like pretty butterflies. Boys play at drafting tables and lounge on leathery, lawyerly sofas while immersed in their reading. Little girls wear aprons. Or, for a change, they look demurely into make-up mirrors.
To be fair, they also show girls setting the table.
Both the girls’ rooms and the boys’ rooms have nifty chalkboards hung at toddler height. Featured on the boys’ is a drawing of the Pythagorean Theorem. The girls’ has an announcement for a tea party.
Here’s a quiz: Which room do you think has inspirational words framed above the desk that say, “Brave, Valiant, Swift and Fast?” Which room has a picture of a bunny?
Gloria Steinem aside, we’re not making a case for Baby X, the red-checked overall wearing experiment in gender-free child raising. We live in the real world, we wear make-up and like a good cup of tea. But we also like books and trucks and a good football game. And have you watched Iron Chef? Apparently, guys wear aprons, too.
We aren’t saying that decorating your child’s room in a trendy, sophisticated, non-color palette is wrong. Wheat-nut-stone has it’s place in the Pantone pantheon.
It’s the seemingly innocuous styling screaming PINK and BLUE that is the real problem. Since when did the world slip so far backwards? Tutus for girls and airplanes for boys? This is insidious subterfuge. Forget the absence of color. How about the absence of social progress?
Consider Barbie and Ken, everyone’s favorite icons when it comes to gender stereotypes. Since 1959, Barbie has successfully morphed from teenage fashion model to computer engineer. Okay, maybe we should say she’s morphed into a “Super Fun and Super Cute Computer Engineer,” but still, by any measure, she’s accomplished more than pouring tea.
And Ken, for his part, has expanded his repertoire. Despite a storied career as beach bum and surfer, he’s also embraced his inner “Ballet Partner to Barbie” and his interest in personal grooming. We’re pretty sure the “Shaving Fun Ken Doll” would be happy to spend a few hours sitting at his vanity.
Where does this lead us? Back to Restoration Hardware’s Baby and Child catalog. Go ahead and urge us to paint our walls the color of Similac.We’re willing to update our ideas of what makes a warm and welcoming nursery.
But please move your styling into this century. Make an attempt to show that activities like travel, exploration, and math aren’t the sole purview of little blues and flowers and butterflies and mirrors aren’t forever an indication of pink.