My Son, the Domestic Goddess?

I’d like 2 cheeseburger Happy Meals, please.

Are those for boys or girls?

Well, I have twin girls, but I think one is leaning toward identifying as a lesbian, so what do you recommend?

:?

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No, I haven’t ordered a Happy Meal from McDonald’s in years, but it would be almost worth eating that crap food just to have that conversation. It has always baffled me that instead of asking which toy you’d like, they ask if your child is a boy or a girl, and then they decide for you based on their own gender biases.

Hot Wheels? Boy. Littlest Pet Shop? Girl. Isn’t that just SO annoying?

The same thing used to happen during my bakery years. The phone call would always start out the same. “What kinds of cakes do you make for girls?” (or boys, depending on the call.)

After a while, I started egging them on a little.

For girls? “Oh, well, we have Barbie, Elmo, Tonka trucks, soccer, football, dinosaurs…

People would get very bewildered. I would giggle.

But, now that I’m a parent, I take it a little more seriously. This past Christmas, I thought long and hard about getting my son a play kitchen and a tea set. He loves little cups, loves pretending to eat play food, and loves to share with anyone who will entertain him. I decided against it, but it had nothing to do with his being a boy. At 14 months, I simply thought he was still a bit young, and we had already gotten him enough stuff. He will get them, just not right now.

But my goat was gotten more than once during the holiday season when others around me asked what I was getting my son. I listed off a few things, and every time I got to the kitchen or tea set part, I’d get the look. I even had one friend tell me, “Oh jeez, don’t turn him gay!” 8O Just trying to even respond to that turned me into a stuttering mess.

I mean, COME ON. Aren’t we past the ridiculous notion that cooking utensils and play stoves…or baby dolls or any other toys….are only for girls? I’m losing patience with people. I really am.

So, not long ago, we were walking through Target and my son nearly dove out of the cart after a Dyson vacuum. I wasn’t able to convince my husband that we should get him one and I could borrow it (Darn it. I dream of Dyson…), so I wandered back to the toy aisle to check out the toy cleaning supplies: broom, mop, vacuum, whatever. I knew better, because I don’t like most of the plastic garbage I find in most stores, but I felt like looking anyway.

It was no big surprise when I found all the brooms and mops–and a little pink vacuum–in the sparkly, frilly girls’ section. And I wouldn’t even care about buying him something pink except for the knowledge that the pink and the glitter were a very pointed attempt to aim those toys right at little girls and right away from little boys.

What did surprise me, and bother me – a LOT – was finding a pair of hot pink leopard print high heels, made specifically for a five-or-so-year-old girl, merchandised right next to the toy broom, dustpan and microwave oven. And then we show that same little girl a Barbie dressed like a doctor and tell her she can be whatever she wants if she tries hard enough!

Is it any wonder so many women feel pressure to do it all – keep a spotless house, have dinner on the table, mother, nurture, maybe throw in a career or two, and do it all in sexy shoes, no less, when this is what we start teaching them from the time they learn to play with toys?

Consciously, I know I don’t have to be all things, or do all things, or do them perfectly, or do them backwards with a nice ass and flat stomach, but I feel like I do. It’s an internal struggle I deal with every day. And here it was, displayed before me in all it’s symbolic glory, in tacky bubblegum pink plastic.

What exactly are we teaching our boys and girls, and why is it that I hear so few people in my real life complaining about it?

So what can I do? Short of opening my own toy store, where there are no divisions and the trucks, dolls and ALL toys are considered gender-neutral, I guess I just raise my own kid to rise above the stereotypes and expectations that seem to be imposed on him at every turn, and allow him to love what he loves, and explore what he wants to explore, whether it involves doing someone’s antiquated idea of “woman’s work” or not.

On that day, I left the toy department empty-handed, as usual. We ended up going over to the cleaning supplies and getting a little broom and dustpan, just like mommy has (after I talked him out of the toilet bowl brush.) As I write this, I honestly don’t remember what color it is, but my son loves it. On the days when I’m not at the office, we have a blast cooking and cleaning together, side by side, spatulas and dustpans in hand and little cars and trucks underfoot.

…and neither one of us does it in heels.

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Comments

  1. Love the blog! :)

  2. Brittney Minor says:

    Loved reading this! I agree with you 100%!!!!

  3. Love this! We got a kitchen for our son for Christmas. He LOVES it! He also loves his pink doll stroller, his black new native doll sling, school bus, and blocks. We don’t care what “gender” of toys he plays with; we want him to experience whatever he wants at this age.

    • I love it! At first I tried to choose “gender neutral” toys, until I realized that I should be looking at them all as gender neutral!

      I think next Christmas will definitely feature a full kitchen playset. (I’m already excited about it!) :)

  4. Well said! All of the toys in our house are still “gender neutral,” but a friend of my daughter’s brought over a monster truck the other day, and Annabelle was pretty excited. We may have to get her one of her own :)

  5. katklaw777 says:

    I just have to say something…you took me right back to the 80’s when my son and daughter were growing up. I could not agree with you more!!! I was really in the minority back then. Everyone thought this “peace child” had it all wrong…
    I got much guff for letting my son have a Cabbage Patch doll and my daughter have Hot Wheels. I think that I sometimes over compensated by making sure my son got “girl” toys and my daughter “boy” toys. We did have many gender neutral toys like blocks and clay, but that wasn’t enough for me. I really wanted them to experience it all and was at a loss as to how to do so.
    I remember once asking my family for Legos for my daughters birthday and they asked where they could find the “pink” ones.
    I have a suggestion for you…one of my sons favorite toys was a push sweeper, a real one! It had a handle made in section so you could adjust the height. I took out 2 sections and it was perfect for my then 3yr old and since it was a real sweeper and not a toy, my little helper kept our carpets very clean. lol
    P.S. We had a toy kitchen and a Tonka trucks. Both kids played with them and now grown both my kids can cook, do their own laundry, use a hammer and check the oil in their cars!!!

  6. Bravo, Wendy! You probably already know that I agree with you 100%, but I just had to let you know that this post is incredibly well-written. You articulated the point so accurately and beautifully. Love it!

  7. I seem to remember play kitchens and vacuums being less pink and sparkly when I was growing up – I think it’s ridiculous for manufacturers to “label” their toys with color!

    I had a tea set and dolls, but also a play tool set and cars. My dad let me “help” in his shop in the basement. I’m at least a little handy now and I was the only woman in my all female college dorm to have a toolbox – complete with a drill! And who did they come to when they needed to fix their loft?

    And with the kitchen set… why is playing with food a “girl” thing when sooo many chefs are men?

  8. I love this post! I too get really annoyed when people force gender on toys/objects. It’s not “appropriate” for little boys to play with baby dolls, vacuums, or play kitchens and then we wonder why adult men don’t take an interest in keeping a home or taking care of babies. Well, all their lives they have been taught that it’s exclusively women’s work!

  9. Great Post! SO true!

  10. I agree with you 100%! I got my daughter a Pottery Barn kitchen for Christmas…it is pink, and I would have gotten it for my son because it was such a good sale. I like One Step Ahead for toys. They seem to have more gender neutral stuff and their catalogue shows both boys and girls playing with trucks, kitchens, science sets, etc.

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