I’m a product of corporate America, where you are taught things like, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” and that diversity and inclusion lead to better performing teams, improved financial outcomes, and enhanced overall corporate cultures. Well, four months into being a new father, I pretty much had to discard those ingrained convictions relative to my son’s wardrobe, which is about as diverse as a KKK rally in the deep south.
I failed to notice this lack of diversity upon acquisition and receipt of my son’s clothes, which for the most part were generously gifted to us by family and friends. Before my son was even born, we repurposed a closet for all of his stuff, to include the aforementioned gifted clothes, which I proudly hung on little hangers, mindlessly noting the “cute” animals that adorned most outfits. It wasn’t until a few weeks into changing this kid’s diaper numerous times per day, did I start to see an alarming trend of only a select few different species showing up on his animal print clothing, which represented roughly 85% of his wardrobe.
So, being an analytical guy, I took the liberty of performing an internal audit of all of my son’s animal print items, which included all clothing, swaddle blankets, sleep sacks, bibs, blankets, towels, and burp cloths (I excluded toys, stuffed animals, etc. and kept it to the wearable/wiping items). In total, there were 73 items with some sort of animal or beast on them (I include “beast” because monsters twice made an appearance in the audit). Of these 73 separate animal print items, only 20 different animals and/or beasts were represented. However, over half (50.6%) of the 73 items were represented by only five different animals: bears (15.1%), elephants (15.1%), giraffes (6.8%), dinosaurs (6.8%), and whales (6.8%). The data showed that on one out of every two animal print wearing days (APWD), my son was reppin’ one of these five animals, while on roughly one out of every three APWDs, he was rocking a bear or an elephant.
Big deal? It is if you care about your kid embracing diversity and not growing up to be a narrow-minded, discriminating jerk who worships a “pentaverate” of random animals. The estimated number of animals on our planet falls somewhere in the vast range of 3-30 million. While it seems that this estimate was performed by Democratic pollsters due to its bullish unbelievability, the wide range is because 97% of all species are invertebrates, or animals without backbones (i.e. sponges, mollusks, insects, Twitter trolls, etc.), the majority of which taxonomists have yet to discover. Interestingly, insects represent most of the undiscovered invertebrates (between 1-30 million), save the roughly 557 thousand identified species of bed bugs, formally known as Insectusinthesackus, at various Newark motels. Even if we eliminate the invertebrates, it is estimated that there are around 52 thousand different identified reptiles, amphibians, birds, mammals, and ray/finned fishes. So using my internal data set of 20 represented species, my son’s entire animal print wardrobe still only represents less than 4 hundredths of one percent (0.038%) of all reptiles, amphibians, birds, mammals, and ray/finned fishes! Greetings fellow KKK members, do you like my whale white-hooded onesie? Or should I wear my giraffe one? It has a much larger hood — as a new guy, that’ll impress, right?
Diversity, defined as “the quality or state of having many different forms, types, or ideas”, is hugely important to us as individuals and to society as a whole, as it helps people and organizations think with a wider breadth of perspectives. A recent McKinsey & Company study found that gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely, and ethnically-diverse companies 35% more likely, to outperform the national industry medians from a financial perspective. Yet, entire industries, such as the tech firms in Silicon Valley, are noticeably lacking both women and minorities, while the world, and shareholders, are starting to take notice. In response, companies such as Google are finally starting to invest heavily in diversity initiatives, not because it is the politically correct thing to do, but because clearly there is a current need for it from both a performance and optics standpoint. Diversity is here to stay, and it’s time for the infant clothing manufacturers to get on board.
Even if we get over the fact that my son, and likely your kid too, only wears 20 out of 52,000 options of animal prints, it’s not his fault; nor it is my own, my wife’s, my friends’, or my family’s fault — it is the clothing manufacturers’ fault (I’m looking at you, Carters). I’m not saying that they should start mass producing Asian Crested Ibis onesies or Tonkin Snub-Nosed Monkey sleep sacks, but c’mon, show us a little more range than the predictable lineup of usual suspects you’ve been rolling out for decades.
Why is it that just five animals represent over half of my son’s, and likely many other kids’, animal print gear? I don’t believe it is because I, my wife, my friends, or my family have a particular affinity for bears, elephants (editor’s note: my wife actually loves elephants), giraffes, dinosaurs, or whales; I do think, however, there is some economic theory at play here, where the producer (Carters) is influencing the consumer (poor suckers like you and me) decision model, and people are obviously only buying what the producer has made available for them to purchase both online and in stores — clearly, there are only about 20 different animal prints available, because my sample size of one is definitely not flawed.
So perhaps the clothing manufacturers missed the diversity memo that’s been going around corporate America with increasing frequency for the better part of two decades. Even if we give them a pass on this one, are they really helping our kids by essentially requiring them to wear a bear, an elephant, a giraffe, a dinosaur, or a whale more than half of the time? And why these animals? It’s not like these are the smartest, deadliest, most agile, etc., animal cohort; and they’re certainly not the cutest. While babies of all five of these species can be cute, there are other animal babies that may be more deserving to be in the “pentaverate” based on cuteness. Perhaps they’re the most recognizable animals, which is ironic, since nobody in the world has ever actually seen a living dinosaur — but I don’t buy this theory either, as peacocks, lions, and octopus, to name just a few, are pretty recognizable. So why are the clothing manufacturers consistently favoring these five animals and indirectly influencing our babies in the process?
If one looks at this question through the lens of the “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” idiom, it appears as though Carters, et al. are deliberately sabotaging our youth by discriminating against the large majority of backboned creatures for production efficiencies and bottom-line profit. As someone who has run multi-million dollar business operations, I understand and appreciate that they can’t accommodate all animals; as a new parent, however, I find it unacceptable — as if they’re somehow cheating my son out of Noah’s full complement of animals — and it pains me to think how he may turn out if I continue to allow him to fall victim to their Jim Crow-esque ways — but I will give it a try…
So Carters, you want my kid to grow up to be like a bear? Sure, cubby bears are adorable, and it’s even a nice shout-out to the Chicago Cubs, but is that all you got? I guess it would be nice if my kid could catch fish with his bare hands and adeptly climb trees while smelling a potential meal from three miles away, but I think those are about all of the positives in this scenario. If my kid grew up to be like a bear, it would become quite confusing when I asked him something like, “Hey buddy, do you want to go to the mall?” Whereas I would be expecting a nice leisurely stroll through Foot Locker eating an Aunt Annie’s pretzel while shopping for new Jordans, my son would likely expect to go to Alaska and get seconds on the wayward hiker that his buddy just savagely clawed to death — sorry, not for me. What if I scored Super Bowl tickets and wanted to take my son with me for the early February showdown? Sorry, no can do, as every November through March, he’s asleep and can’t even be bothered to eat, drink, urinate, or defecate for up to six months — I’ll pass. What about bear role models? Surely there is someone within the bear community after which he could model himself. That’s also a no-go, as one of the Mount Rushmore of the bear community is Winnie-the-Pooh, a slow-witted, accident-prone, daydreaming, honey addict — nope. (Editor’s note: my wife believes Smokey the Bear is an acceptable role model for children; I, however, find his message of “only I can prevent forest fires” to be flawed, as “I” have no control over drought, the sun’s intensity, and the direction of the wind).
Okay then, let’s give elephants a whirl…The executives at the clothing manufacturers think my son should emulate an elephant, huh? Well, they are the largest land animal in the world and do sport a sweet, multi-functional trunk, so these attributes would likely be a plus on the gridiron or basketball court; but that positive is countered by the fact that elephants are the only mammals in the world that can’t jump, so I take all of that back. In light of the fact that elephants spend 12-18 hours a day eating, and that they can eat between 200-600 pounds of food per day, it clearly would be cheaper to raise a normal baby boy versus an elephant. Given that elephants have exhibited impressive mental prowess (they’re no Dumbos) chiefly due to the size of their brain, which is the largest of any land animal, it is likely that my elephant son will want to go to college, which I encourage; however, given that my studious pachyderm likely wouldn’t be on a football or basketball scholarship due to his aforementioned inability to jump, this scenario is not appealing due to the forecasted extravagant cost of his meal plan alone. Other negatives include the fact that elephants have a soft padding on their feet which allows them to walk almost silently — not something I want my boy being able to do as a teen late at night when he tries to sneak into our house after shotgunning 600 pounds of beer with the boys — although it is better than him “trunk driving”, I guess. I also can’t imagine cleaning up after this kid, who would constantly track mud all over the house after he took a “bath”, or when he needed “sunscreen”, or if he just needed to “cool down”. And even though my son’s skin would be one inch thick as an elephant, I could forget about any good-natured razzing of him because elephants are highly caring and sensitive animals. I can imagine talking smack to him about his fear of mice or something, only to hear the rumbling of his playground herd, storming to our house like Hannibal’s army, ready to caress him with their trunks out of compassion; or worse, my sensitive baby Babar would just go into a fit of rage after failing at hopscotch or double-dutch (be damned that jumping ability!) before the herd even heard he was upset, ‘ya heard? While it is great that my elephant son could possibly live up to 70 years and be able to take care of me when I’m older, the fact of the matter is that he likely won’t have time, because he will be either ducking ivory poachers or tending to his expectant wife during her 22 months of pregnancy — pass.
So what about giraffes? Well, let’s be honest, really the only thing the giraffe has going for it, aside from its bad-ass ability to defend itself against lions, is its extremely long neck. Certainly, this would be very beneficial in situations such as assessing the length of a traffic jam or perhaps giving yourself some “assistance” on a math exam, but that’s about it. Even these benefits are outweighed by the downside of the costs that they would bring if my son were a giraffe (“necks” generation), such as having to buy the kid a convertible so he could drive his friends effortlessly around traffic jams, only to have to go pick him up later in my own car because he ran out of gas, due to his inability to put two-and-two together — from cheating at math — and associate the needle saying “E” with needing more gas. Additionally, his wardrobe would have no range, as really the only thing he could wear would be turtlenecks, which few people can really rock, so his dating game would also suffer (no “necking” for him). I would constantly be worried about the spots on his skin changing in shape and becoming melanoma, as I wouldn’t understand the ABCDE’s of giraffe moles, or know if they even existed; but all of that probably wouldn’t matter, as unfortunately my son would likely get beat up on the schoolyard simply because he looked so odd with his long neck and pseudo horns, as I drown in a sea of his inevitable chiropractor bills, heartbroken. I think I’ll hold out for something better, Carters.
Okay then, I will give dinosaurs a try…The clothing manufacturers want my son to be like that diverse group of animals that dominated the earth’s surface between 252 and 66 million years ago in the Mesozoic Era. You know the ones — that species that doesn’t exist anymore; the ones that were killed by an asteroid strike and whose existence can only be proven by the skeletal remains that are lodged deep inside hundreds of feet of the earth’s crust in places like South Dakota — yeah, them. Hey son, see this group of species — the ones with the really short arms that were too mentally inept to avoid total catastrophic destruction of their entire species — see if you can be just like them. Seriously? We — homo sapiens — are essentially a mulligan for the disaster that was the dinosaurs. The dinosaurs were Life 1.0. We are like Life 15.4 or something. Carters telling my son to be like a dinosaur is akin to me, tomorrow, heavily investing in an asbestos/lead paint manufacturer — convinced it’s the next best thing — and putting a reminder in my Palm Pilot to share it on MySpace (if I can get a dial-up connection). Hey Carters, triceratops again, as your dinosaur idea “extincts”…
Which leaves us with whales. The blue whale is the largest animal on earth. This certainly would have its benefits, I’m sure, but I’m not positive it outweighs, pun intended, the negatives in this day of body-shaming. Whales also have developed an awesome sense known as echolocation, which allows them to emit sound from their heads in order to hunt and navigate in environments where little to no light exists. This would be an awesome attribute for my son to have for virtually any type of nighttime activity, but the chances are that Apple or Elon Musk are already in beta testing with a version for our phones, so he’d be a dime a dozen. The whale is the symbol for Vineyard Vines, a brand I like to rock occasionally; however, the cool factor here doesn’t outweigh the negative connotations that come with a whale. Back in the day, whales were prized for their blubber, wherein whale oil was extracted for use in lamps, soap, and margarine — I’m 99 and 44/100ths percent sure that people aren’t washing themselves anymore with soap made from this stuff, so blubber is now a liability. Today, words like blubber and blowhole do not carry the same weight, pun intended, as they used to; now, if I say that my son has these two characteristics, people think he’s a fat kid who talks too much. Finally, whales travel long distances from cold areas to warmer breeding grounds each year — big deal, humans do this too, it’s called Spring Break…though humpback and sperm have just a slightly different meaning. Thanks for trying, Carters, but no. #callmeishfail.
Solution? I have no idea — I’m just a new father who’s trying to prevent my kid from becoming an extinct, narcoleptic, math-deficient, obese, blabbermouth that gets hunted for his teeth. Perhaps the answer is some form of Affirmative Action, for which members of the disadvantaged group of between 3-30 million strong, that have obviously suffered discrimination at the hands of the children’s clothing manufacturers, are favored over the usual 20 suspects — and particularly the “pentaverate” — and given representation on the next batches of infant clothing being produced. In other words, bears, elephants, giraffes, dinosaurs, and whales = white males in today’s society, and every other animal = all of the other disadvantaged genders and races, and the latter need some help. (Editor’s note: good luck with this under the new Trump administration).
America is the greatest country on earth — it gives us the freedom to speak our minds, to occupy, to protest, to march, to sit-in, etc. But that freedom, if unexercised, becomes useless; if nothing else, I feel as if it is my duty to expose the clothing manufacturers’ discriminatory practices and warn the general public, who, like me initially, may be unaware of their ultra-selective animal representation — so consider yourself warned, and do with the information what you will. That said, if you feel so inclined, stand up for those invertebrates who literally cannot. Pick up a picket sign for those fish without hands. March for those mollusks that aren’t lucky enough to have feet. And demand equal representation on infant clothing for all living creatures — because #yaklivesmatter.