I've read a lot of things from friends blogs about how pushing gender-specific roles on children is damaging and should be avoided, and how magazines are totally wrong for breaking things down into "girl" or "boy" categories. I agree that when you're trying to find a toy for both your kids, it can be seriously obnoxious to realize that there isn't a gender-neutral option. But I also love putting pink tutus on my daughter, and buying swords for my son, and I agree that it's wrong to not see little girls pretending to be a knight in magazines and advertisements, or a boy playing with a kitchen.
Thinking about the presents I've acquired for my daughter this year, I realized that I'm almost nervous to post pictures after she gets to open them on Yule -- I don't feel like being told I'm sexist. But it seems to me that someone who would accuse me of being sexist by buying my daughter things she likes that happen to be girly is in fact, the one with the issue.
When Rowan was a child, he decided his favorite color was pink. We're Pagan -- red is the color of the sun and masculine, and blue is the lunar color and feminine. Pink wasn't an issue. However, when it came time to buy him a Power Wheel, I firmly said no to the Pink Barbie Jeep that he said he desperately wanted.
Was it because he was a boy? Heck no. It was because it was an over-priced version, and we needed to go with one of the more expensive ones that could handle the uneven terrain of our backyard, and I wanted one that was pretty image-free and gender neutral, so he wouldn't grow sick of a character, and so if we had more kids, a girl, she could play with it too.
For the record, I would have said no to a Spiderman Jeep, too.
Before his birthday, his father and I discussed whether or not to get him a toy kitchen or tool bench -- when hubby brought home a tool bench, it was settled. I smugly announced after a few months of our son not playing with it, "THAT'S why I wanted to get him the KITCHEN. He never sees you work with tools!" But did my husband buy the tool bench because my son was a boy? Nope. He bought it because our son was fascinated with our screwdrivers and tools on the limited occasions they did come out, and because screws and whatnot, even large kid ones, are great for dexterity. I bought him the toy kitchen next year, which he loves, but my daughter loves even more.
One of my son's toys that went through tons of duct tape and many repairs before we finally had to trash it was a kid-sized broom and dust pan. I had wanted to get him a toy vacuum too, but never did.
This year, my daughter is getting that toy vacuum. I'm going to buy a new broom and dust pan too, which Rowan can use in play or real cleaning since the adult brooms are still way too large. She also absolutely loves baby dolls -- we hear "BABY! Babies! Babies!" all day, every day, and she carries them around, feeds them, kisses them, rocks them, and even tries to nurse them. To go with her babies, I bought her a high chair, and I'm going to take an old (recalled) bag sling and make it her size so she can use the sling for her dolls, too.
So yes, my daughter, who likely will be in pink fairy or kitty jammies, is going to be getting a nice baby doll, high chair, broom and a vacuum. Does it look very gender-specific on the surface? Absolutely. However, she is just as welcome to go outside with her new baby and put it in Rowan's Ford F-150 Power Wheel and drive around too, or she may choose to sit and play with my son's awesome General Grievous and Captain Rex Star Wars toys. I really don't care.
While it may look sexist on the surface, we're providing our kids with what they're interested in. I think it would be more of a problem if I refused to buy her clothes with kitties on them or baby dolls that she loved because I was concerned with looking sexist, than if I just pay attention to the things that my kids love. If those things they love happen to be gender-typical, so be it. But please, manufacturers, at least let me buy a broom that isn't pink and glittery or blue with cars.
Do you think it's hard to find a balance between letting kids play with what they like and not gender-stereotyping?