I've had enough! This is just so darn dumb! When will people get it through their heads that the kinds of toys a child likes to play with does not mean they aren't masculine or feminine enough to mature into a heterosexual adult? Quite frankly, I'm sick to death of the need to make every little girl feel like they must be beauty queens in tiaras and little boys must be muscle bound sports star action heroes!
Do you realize in other countries boys wear pink? Girls wear blue! And they grow up perfectly normal!!! So why is it here, in America we tease ridicule and repress kids who dare to cross some arbitrary contrived gender boundary that really is nothing more than some marketing line at the local Walmart? Is it really going to collapse our society if a girl likes Toy Story (namely Woody or Buzz), Cars, Star Wars, or even just playing with action figures? Will all our men be forever twisted if they enjoy playing with a Barbie doll, dollies, or Disney princesses?
I'm not even going to talk about girls and Star Wars, we've already talked about that. My daughter is on board, and so are some of her girlfriends in kindergarten. They don't get teased about it either, thankfully! However, as we were preparing for some birthday party shopping (my 6 year old had two parties to shop for over the weekend) we had a long discussion about what to get and I learned a few things.
I love to give my kids the chance to choose gifts for their friends, and my oldest daughter has always done an excellent job intuitively (she's a gift giver). Lately, however; I've noticed her saying things like, "I want this, I'll get it for my friend." So, instead of having her just get something she wanted I wanted to make sure it was something her friend was really into. One of the girls having a birthday is in her class so I suggested she talk with her friend about the sort of things she likes. After all, there is nothing kids enjoy talking about more than their birthday parties!
She came home absolutely set on getting her friend a Barbie. This is not a bad idea, although my middle child got the oldest a Barbie for Christmas, my oldest isn't that crazy about the dolls. So obviously, this is a suggestion from the birthday girl herself. We started talking about Barbie dolls and it lead to her revealing that a boy in her class who has an older sister really really likes playing Barbies. I asked my daughter her thoughts on this, and I don't know if she was fully honest, because she knows that I adamantly feel that there is no such thing as boys toys and girls toys, but she told me that she was cool with him playing with them, and even some of the other girls were okay with it, but the other boys really picked on him about this. I don't know to what extent this social ostracism occurs, but the fact that it occurs at all should be a wake up! What are we teaching our children if they think that liking something different than you means you can't hang out together, even if sometimes that rule doesn't apply, like my daughter not caring for Barbie dolls?
My husband admits to playing with Barbie dolls. He played with them with his little sister. Admittedly, the first time it probably wasn't his idea, but he does have fond memories of it. Sure, he may not be the best example, as he's not a "Man's Man", but I think the world would be immensely better if more men were like him, completely devoted to his family, willing to do whatever chores need doing, caring for his kids without it being a chore.
I just don't get it. I mean who cares if a boy plays with "domestic" toys? I still remember boys having cabbage patch dolls, and if you lived through the 80's you surely still have the jingle for the My Buddy doll stuck in your head! With no persuading from me, it was my husband who gave our son one of his sister's old dolls (with permission from the girls of course). Granted we had talked about how babies seek out the faces of other babies and it is much more pleasurable to have the soon-to-be toddler point out eyes on a doll than your face, but I've seen other dads completely lose it when the boy with a dolly issue is discussed.
Gender biasing marketing may not be the whole cause of all these problems, but it definitely isn't helping and has clearly gotten out of hand. My daughter tries to ignore it, and just this weekend bought some clearance toys (with her Christmas money) that were marketed to boys, but sometimes it just can't be overcome! I distinctly remember the adventure of picking out her backpack for kindergarten. There were boy styles and girl styles and even though they were the same manufacturer at the same store with mix and match lunch boxes, the boy lunch boxes couldn't connect to the girl backpacks and vice versa. The connection mechanisms were different. I mean what gives with that!?! Why can't I pick the super cool blue boy style box and put it with a girl backpack? I mean it makes no sense!
Can someone explain to me what's up with LEGO? I mean since when did plastic bricks gain a gender? NEVER! So why are all the blocks "boy toys"? Why did the Harry Potter Burrow HOUSE have an action catapult with flame throwing action and action scenes all over the box? I mean isn't it just as cool with the house and mini-figs? I mean you don't even get Ron so that there is room for Fenrir! It's not the only one. There are very few girl mini-figs and less in action jobs! I mean where are the girl astronauts, and the girl pirates? Next time you are at a store with toys, go check the LEGOs outside of the City LEGOs everything is an action set directly aimed at boys in the marketing.
I want to close this out with one reflection of hope. While I was in the cafeteria last week we had lots of chatting time, especially with the overabundance of rain. One afternoon a group of girls was complaining about the quality of female characters portrayed on TV and in movies and books. After some discussion amongst themselves, one of the girls asked me what could be done about it. So I asked them, "When you write the books and make the movies, what kinds of things are you going to have women doing?" This spurred further discussion. At the very end of lunch one of the girls came up to me and said she was going to draw a comic about a woman hero, but she wanted to know what the woman could be. I asked her what she was best at and told her to draw that! Sure, we have smart women, and strong women, and women who act like men in media, but I think it's far more important to for her to see the hero as someone like her, and that is something that seems to be lost in our need to coral genders into marketing stereotypes.