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June 12, 2010

Boy Toys and Girl Toys

One of my dear friends, whose boys are 10 and 7, has waged an ongoing battle with a number of fast-food chains in town.

Nothing gets her blood pressure up like ordering a kid’s meal and having the cashier ask, “Boy or girl toy?” She is very emphatic that her son should be able to choose the My Little Pony toy, or her niece the Transformers widget, without being “labeled”. (She reports that the fast food chain headquarters state that the question should be phrased as “My Little Pony or Transformers?” but that rarely happens in practice.)

I love to dress our girls in pink and purple and buttercup yellow dresses. I think that’s half the fun of having little girls! And they have a couple of dolls, and it’s so sweet to see them cuddle their “babies”. But at least for every doll, I’d be willing to bet they have a dump truck or fire engine, and the vast majority of their toys are gender-neutral blocks, nesting cups, and stacking rings.

The girls’ room is painted a soothing green, and they dressed as pumpkins – not princesses – for their first Halloween. I’ll be fine with painting their room a sickening shade of bright pink, and letting them pretend to be Cinderella one day, but I want it to be of their own accord. I figure they’ll get there soon enough without me “suggesting” it to them at this young age.

I recently bought the girls a ride-on / push toy. I had the option of a bright pink and purple one, but I instead chose the one in primary colors. The girls loved the toy, and I sent Hubby to the store to buy a second one. He came home [with a bright pink and purple one] and asked me, “Why did you buy the ‘boy’ one? Didn’t you see the ‘girl’ one?

Huh??? Don’t tell me that Dear Hubby has succumbed to the color-gender stereotypes!

I didn’t go so far as to make him return the bright pink toy, but we had a good conversation about the options we hope to offer the girls as they grow older.

I certainly don’t want to deter our girls from playing with dolls and make-believe pots and pans. And I hope they’ll enjoy accompanying me for mani-pedi’s and tea and crumpets one day. But I also want them to appreciate that their mama is no stranger to a hammer and screwdriver, and she can negotiate a mortgage refinance with the best of them.

8 comments:

The Mommy said...

Totally agree. I'm all for breaking these kinds of meaningless stereotypes that is why I got my boys baby pink highchairs and I let them play with "girl" toys all the time when they are at their cousin's. AM I subduing their "boyness" by doing all this? No way, you should see how crazy they are about trucks and balls:)

Nicole S. said...

With boy/girl twins, I opted for a lot of gender neutral things and we have equal amounts of "boy" stuff as we do "girl" stuff. That being said, my son became obsessed with cars even though we don't have any (the small micro-machines kind) and my daughter became obsessed with stuffed animals, another toy we have so very few of. It's funny to see their preferences play out in such stereotypical-gender ways without any coaxing from me.

Sadia said...

Can I just say that I love you!?

My girls have turned out to be the girliest of girly girls, but they came to that by themselves, without pressure from us. Yes, they want to be fairies, princesses, ballerinas, but Jessica has a Lightning McQueen bicycle, they wear pants to school most days for reasons of practicality, and their skills are enviable.

Lucas and I see eye-to-eye on girls having "boy" AND "girl" opportunities available to them. We haven't always agreed on the boy side of things; Lucas used to believe that certain activities and interests would brand little boys in a way that was socially inappropriate. Fortunately, we had girls.

Quadmama said...

My response when that restaurant says "Boy or Girl toy?" is "what's the toy?" Half the time the "girl" toy is something not fun (in my opinion), say a sticker book that lasts a whopping five minutes, while the "boy" toy is something fun like a Hot Wheels. We've had long discussions with the girls lately as to why they see women who are "police men" (I use "officer" so I don't know why they say police man) and why some men have ponytails. There's nothing wrong with wearing a dress and playing in the mud : )

reanbean said...

We have all kinds of toys (cars and trucks, dolls and baby bottles, toy vacuums, toy power tools, etc., etc.) and in all kinds of colors. My kids are too young to know that a tea set is considered "girlie" while the trucks are considered to be "boy" toys. Hopefully, they'll never see it any differently, but I'm guessing at some point, they'll become aware of gender stereotypes.

Like Quadmama, I try to use gender neutral terms, and T and I don't do anything to encourage or discourage Tiny and Buba's choice of toys. Buba loves his baby doll as much as his Hot Wheels, and Tiny is just as happy to play with the huge Tonka dump truck as she is pushing around the pink toy vacuum. And when Buba cried because Tiny got a barrette and he didn't, I knew a rational explanation was useless and just let him have a barrette too. It lasted all of 10 minutes before he pulled it out and handed it back to me, but I could have cared less if he wore it all day. :o)

Mohini said...

With boy girl twins we were so hung up on buying neutral things that we realized there was not a single doll in the house recently. My daughter plays with cars, trucks, vans, jeeps….yeah she can tell them all apart (and point them out on the road.)

Anna said...

We tried so hard with our three girls to avoid the same gender typical toys early on - our tricycle is primary colors and we had trainsets and cars right beside dolls and play kitchen stuff. They are all three super girly and gravitated towards pink, purple and sparkles but not with our pushing!

We still have the 'guy' toys for playdates and every once in a blue moon I find the purple Thomas train out or the wooden cars being used to haul Polly Pockets! :)

Sarah said...

I have boy/girl twins and an older boy. The pink/blue stuff worked early on with the twins, but as they got older, I used all colors for both of them. Sometimes Colin would be wrapped in a pink blanket, and it would really throw people off. Now my boys play with dolls and Dora and my girl plays trains and cars with the best of them.

And if Colin wants a hair pretty like his sister, I let him wear one. Hubby gets mad, but oh well! :)