Take Your Girliness and Shove It

Pink Hello Kitty Microwave

Why does this exist?

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.

Rocket Ship Doll House

The awesome Rocket Ship that wily Santa Claus left K

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.

Pure Awesomeness.

UPDATED (12/29/11):

Based on some comments I’ve received from friends on Facebook, I feel I must clarify something:

In no way do I mean to say that so-called “traditional” roles are bad. Someone has to cook and clean. Someone has to take care of the kids. Someone has to be responsible for bills. Someone has to make money. Who is responsible for each of those and to what degree is entirely dependent on your own personalities and relationships. If you’re happy than that’s what matters. It doesn’t matter who does what. The point of this post is to complain about the inherent bias there exists in toys, marketing and the public consciousness about what a girl should like and what a boy should like. My friend’s little boy loves cleaning, but she can’t find toys that aren’t pink, and he doesn’t like pink. Why do we have to assume that some things are more appropriate for one gender or the other? Girls AND boys should be exposed to a wide range of toys to determine their own interests. I just don’t want their interests to be predefined before they can decide what they are for themselves.

10 thoughts on “Take Your Girliness and Shove It

  1. Thank you for the good writeup. It if truth be told used to be a enjoyment account it.
    Look advanced to far introduced agreeable from you!
    By the way, how could we be in contact?

  2. Pingback: Holy Crap, I’ve Hit 100 « Practical Whimsy

  3. Love your post – I’d like to take your conversation a step further and talk about activities that can be gender based – like sports. It’s hard to know what to do when it comes time for sign-up. If there is a softball team for girls in town, do you sign your daughter up for softball or baseball? My daughter is 15 now, but when she started in baseball there was no softball option – so she played baseball with the boys. In 4th grade, they started the softball league and I encouraged my daughter to stay with baseball. By her last year, in 7th grade, she was the last girl in all of Little League baseball in our town! (And staying with baseball has made her a stronger softball player in high school.) Now, what if you choose to sign your daughter up for baseball and the organizers call you and ask you if you didn’t really mean to sign her up for softball? This is happening in my town – and mothers I know have backed down and switched their daughters to softball! We need to speak with our actions – stop buying pink, start encouraging our girls to be whomever they want to be. Here’s another video you might like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQ_XSHpIbZE

    • Awesome video – thanks for sharing. You raise an excellent point. Since K is still a toddler, I haven’t really had to think about the ramifications of sports. I think there’s a balance though.

      As much as I’m for equality and making sure our kids have exposure and options, there is something to be said that physically, boys and girls play at different levels and have different strengths. At an early age, I see it as beneficial for the kids to comingle, but at what age are most (not all) girls simply out-classed? And at what point is our desire to be gender blind lead to active exclusion, say, on the Varsity team?

  4. Our little ones learn so much through their play experiences, and it really goes without saying that the more diverse their experiences the more opportunities to learn and grow. I totally share your frustration – such a shame that marketers polarizes our boys and girls so much. Our kiddos are super smart. They’ll know what they like. They don’t need to be told to find the toys “for them” down the pink aisle.

    • Hi Hillary – thanks for your comment! I agree completely. I know too many kids – my nephew included – who tell me that they can’t like something because it was meant for the other gender. “I have a suitcase too, but it’s for a boy because it has a truck on it.” There is nothing wrong with girls OR boys liking kitchen stuff or babies – why must we assume it’s for one gender or the other?

  5. Totally agree!!! Jonathan got the same rocket ship. 🙂 my issue has been the lack of gender neutral house stuff though – Jonathan loves to play house/kitchen at school and fights His daddy for sweeping duty, yet most of the cleaning/cooking toys are pink.

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