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?
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!” 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.