Have you ever wondered why people choose to dress their children in dinosaur clothing? If you’ve answered yes, you’re probably thinking of this as well: Why do parents impose the obsession with “cute” animals and extinct organisms on their children? In my opinion, most adults would not wear monkey footie pajamas or dinosaur t-shirts. These adorable graphics are appropriate for children but not so much adults. Why?
Alex Golub, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the largest contributor of popular blog site savageminds.org, discusses this topic in his post “Children as Animals in American Culture”. With a few kids of his own, he has seen this dynamic in action. He claims that his kids (as they grow out of clothes quickly) have been on the receiving end of many hand-me-downs, many of which possess these animal and dinosaur illustrations. Golub comments: “As a result of this, I’ve had the unusual experience of seeing what people have decided my children should wear (or, in the case of hand-me-downs, what they thought their children should wear)”. This association of animals and dinosaurs on the clothes of infants and cuteness is something unique of American culture: “There is nothing natural and inevitable ‘in human nature’ that makes people put monkey heads on baby behinds” (Golub). So why do people do it?
This is a prime example of individuals conforming to what is accepted by society; culture determines what is acceptable. Much like the idealized body type of men and women, the media determines the idea of what it is to be a “cute child” as well. As women should like makeup and men should like Gillette shaving cream, children should like animals. Commercials and children’s T.V. shows are packed with songs and illustrations of animals to draw in the attention of a child, equating their fuzziness and kindness with comfort and friendship. In reality, lions, tigers, and bears are likely to attack you, contrary to the view of Nick Jr. This aspect of American culture is seemingly ancient; It is difficult to discover why adults made their children wear these animal clothes in the first place, but it is significant that they are still doing it, and in turn set the standard for other parents to make their own children “cute”. Though there is always room for disagreement, I would argue that the vast majority of parents would be enthusiastic about dressing up their child in “cute” giraffe socks, and will continue to do so for many years.