Babies are Not Political Placards

I was walking to the library today, thinking about the next stage in my war with the ants, when I spotted a hipster mama type moving rapidly in my direction, pushing a stroller ahead of her. This species of humanity does seem to be growing here, which is all well and good, but I was rather startled when I saw the shirt that she had put on her infant. It said “My Mommy is Pro-Choice.”

Now, as we know, I am hardly an arbiter of fashion and good taste, but I found that shirt rather tough to swallow, on a number of levels.

First, it disturbed me because I think that everyone needs to form their opinions independently, especially about big issues like abortion. By wearing a shirt like that, you are suggesting that you support the right to choose. I happen to be a big fan of the right to choose, but I do not think that an 18 month old child knows what the right to choose is. Therefore, it’s a bit distasteful to me to see an infant wearing a shirt like that. If someone who understands the issue wants to wear the shirt, that’s awesome, but I don’t think that people should be using infants as political billboards.

I found the shirt offensive because I do support the right to choose, in all aspects of your life. Infants cannot choose what clothes they wear, and I think that parents have a responsibility to dress their children in clothing which does not blare out political views. You want your shirt to wear a shirt with a dove on it? Fine. People can take that however they want. But please, don’t put your infant in a shirt that says “no war in Iraq.” You’re taking the child’s right to make up its own mind away, and that troubles me.

I feel the same way about causes I support and don’t support; I’ve made up my mind independently on these issues, and I support everyone else’s ability to do that as well. Whether or not I approve of the cause or opinion, I still think it’s wrong to force a child to wear a shirt which spouts off about it. Especially since that child cannot speak to defend the cause or itself, if challenged. It’s not just tasteless, it’s also potentially really dangerous.

This seems to be part of a greater trend of baby as fashion accessory which I have written about before. This trend really bothers me, a lot, because children are living breathing entities with their own consciousness, and parents who think of them as accessories ought to be quietly taken out back and shot. I may not like children, but I can acknowledge that they are other living organisms with feelings and thoughts, just like me. Just as I am troubled when I see young children waving Westboro Baptist Church propaganda around, it bothers me to see children wearing political gear, because I know that in both cases, the child didn’t choose the views that he or she is promoting.

Hey, I understand that kids have to wear something. I spent much of my babyhood naked or arrayed in an assortment of florid outfits that my father picked out for me when he could pin me down long enough to put clothes on me. However, my father stuck with basic patterns, not political propaganda. And as soon as I was old enough, my father let me dress myself with minimal guidance. Perhaps not always successfully, as evidenced by this note from my third grade teacher: “Please tell s.e. to wear underwear with skirts or to stop using the swings.”

Most of the parents I know pick out tasteful and sometimes cool things for their children. There’s a fine line, for me, between clothing which indulges the parent more than it protects the child from the elements, but parents need to decide that on an individual basis. And I am really pleased that most of my friends stick with silly hip clothing, like onesies that say “poop deck,” rather than shirts like “my daddy wants you to vote for Kucinich.”

I imagine that most of my readers would be rather infuriated if I forced them into shirts that said “George W. Bush is Awesome!” And I also imagine that some people might be really angry in retrospect if they knew that their parents had forced them to propagate political messages. It’s intriguing to me that a lot of liberal gear is designed for babies, whereas I don’t see nearly as much right wing propaganda for infants. Interesting that the big bad conservatives aren’t jumping at the opportunity to promote their causes with shirts like “I love warrantless wiretapping” and “environmentalism is terrorism” for the tween set.

I know that most of my friends hope that their children will grow up to share their political views. However, I believe that most of them want their children to arrive at these views because they think that they are right, not because that’s how mommy and daddy think. I would also like to think that if their children arrived at different conclusions, that they would still be supported. I pity the child who grows up being forced to wear clothing which advances the agenda of ou parents, because I think that child will ultimately grow up as a weak person, unable to form opinions and defend them.