Most of you know my rather strong feelings about gender stereotypes and expectations. I don’t have a problem with girls being exposed to “girly” things, but I do have a problem because it seems that everything a girl is exposed to is “girly.” Why are there entire aisles awash in pink? Why must everything be Barbie-this or Princess-that? And why do I always have to go to the boys’ section to find red, grey or black gloves or shoes that are neither pink nor have hearts or princesses all over them?
During this Christmas season, as I’ve talked to friends and family who all have kids of about the same age, I’m noticing the same bias show up even this early. The boys got train sets, trucks and building toys. The girls got a preponderance of dolls, clothes and cooking toys. Everyone got books and art supplies. [For those of you who gave K one of the above, please note that I am NOT making a commentary on you! She loves dress-up and loves to “cook,” so you did good. I’m talking about societal trends here, not your particular gift.]
I don’t mean to jump on the “rail against gender bias” wagon here (oh wait. Yes I do.), but seriously, how do we expect our daughters to become the strong, self-empowered women we know they can be if, at the tender age of 2, we are already showing through our actions that they should be focused on looking pretty and taking care of their home and family? It is absolutely fine to have some of that stuff, after all, many of them like it. But why, oh why, is that message so predominant? The world of “Let’s pretend” is awesome, but it’s also very, very large. Let’s let our girls move out of the kitchen, nursery and party dresses and show them the world of super heroes, athletes, astronauts, carpenters, pilots, truck drivers and more! They absolutely can hang out in the kitchen when they want (K sure loves hers!), but let’s make sure they know that girls can be those other things too.
I want my kid to be whatever she wants to be. And should she choose, some day, to focus on being the girliest girl that ever was, then, god help me, I will attempt to support her. But only after I am damn sure that she knows she has the ability to be anything else. Or better yet, that she doesn’t have to be only girly, she can be girly and strong, girly and smart, girly and athletic, girly and awesome.
I take great joy in the fact that K’s favorite toy from this Christmas in the Rocket Ship doll house that Santa brought her. And it’s sitting right across from her toy kitchen.
And so I leave you with this video of the four-year-old girl Riley who so eloquently vents the same frustrations I feel, and that I hope K will feel when she’s a little older…all while holding a doll. Click here for the video.
Based on some comments I’ve received from friends on Facebook, I feel I must clarify something: