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"Would it be fair for the girls to buy princesses, and the boys to buy superheroes?"
February 24, 2012 6:06 PM   Subscribe

"So why do all the girls have to buy pink stuff and all the boys have to buy different color stuff?"
Little Girl Getting Pissed Off At Gender-Specific Toy Colors (via)
posted by dunkadunc (76 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
I still love her.
posted by TangerineGurl at 6:18 PM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am getting a bit tired of people moaning about gender specific toys.. after hearing a story on NPR about it anyways.. some parents tendency to seemingly be so desperate to not reenforce what they see as negative gender stereotypes that they end up getting their kids a bunch of toys that look like something from a dystopianfuture where everyone is sexless and reproduction happens in computerized birthing matrixes..
posted by mediocre at 6:26 PM on February 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


Right on, little person. You preach it.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:28 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just to clarify, not that I think all girls should be forced to play with pink kit hen sets.. I am just saying that there is a good chance that no matter how politically correct you are, your precious snowflake of a daughter may simply want to play with girly dolls not because society has told her she has to, but because she wants to play with girly dolls.
posted by mediocre at 6:29 PM on February 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


I agree! Hearing adults go on and on about gender specific toys is nauseating.
However hearing the unrehearsed passion in Riley's voice as she feels pressured to buy girl toys when she REALLY wants a "boy's" toy, is refreshing!

note: Her Fred doll from Scooby Doo (squee)
posted by TangerineGurl at 6:30 PM on February 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


i'm getting a bit tired of the patriarchal system, but there's little i can do about it. i'm glad this little girl can articulate that she might want a superhero instead of a princess. that doesn't sound very dystopian or sexless.
posted by nadawi at 6:32 PM on February 24, 2012 [36 favorites]


Leaked childhood footage of Janeane Garofalo?
posted by cman at 6:32 PM on February 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


The first time your kid rejects a formerly beloved doll/action figure because they've figured out that they aren't supposed to like that kind of thing you'll understand why adults go on and on about gender specific toys.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 6:36 PM on February 24, 2012 [32 favorites]


In practice, the pink aisle isn't "Girls Can Only Buy Here", it's "No Boys Allowed". Either way, it's stupid.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:36 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


(It was recently brought to my attention that calling them The X-Men is stupid because they're not all men.)
posted by The Hamms Bear at 6:38 PM on February 24, 2012


Little girls, by and large, love dolls. Here's a secret: Pretty much all kids love dolls! As far as I can tell from observing my children and the children of my friends, here is a set of things which nearly every child likes, to greater or lesser degrees depending on personality: dolls, stuffed animals, dinosaurs, glittery or sparkly things, mud puddles, balls, bubbles, toy cars and trains. Nothing dystopian or sexless about it, it's just that all those things are awesome.
posted by KathrynT at 6:38 PM on February 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


Has the Onion already run the

"Little Boy Perfectly Happy with his White, Straight, GI Joe Doll."

story yet?
posted by timsteil at 6:41 PM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am just saying that there is a good chance that no matter how politically correct you are, your precious snowflake of a daughter may simply want to play with girly dolls not because society has told her she has to, but because she wants to play with girly dolls.

Then can at least we make some of the clothes for those girly dolls be OTHER colors than pink?

Seriously, GREEN is a color too. Or ORANGE. Or BLUE. Or YELLOW.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:42 PM on February 24, 2012 [21 favorites]


they're not dolls, they're ACTION FIGURES.

ACTION FIGURES.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:44 PM on February 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


When I made my comment about gender neutral toys, the image I had in my mind was what Frasier and Lilith bought for their son in an episode of Cheers. Looked like something from the set of Sprockets that fused with an IKEA to produce terrifyling inane toys.

Of course, I am referring things from like 20 years ago.. so take that for what its worth..
posted by mediocre at 6:46 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pretty well rehearsed.
Not persuasive outrage.

And I'm a mom who didn't buy her daughter a Barbie doll until after she scored a cheap knockoff from the treasure chest at the dentist's office. The doll kept falling apart at the waist and was only held together by her (mercifully) one-piece swimsuit. After a couple of months, during which this doll was THE Most Favored Toy, my son begged me to buy her a real Barbie. "Its just so sad to watch her, Mom!" The kid ended up with an entire chest full of the lovely ladies.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:46 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fight the power, kid.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:48 PM on February 24, 2012


Actually now that I think about it, this was probably rehearsed at least once.. as I can fairly reasonably assume that the parent didn't happen to have their camera on the kid during the first run of this little fit.. so I am sure some direction was given from the parents end, with an eye to 'thisll get the internet talking'
posted by mediocre at 6:55 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Girls can play with whatever the hell toys they want. Tomboys are cute and girls who are good at "boys" activities are valorised in western societies.

It's the boys who like pink and like girls' toys who are insulted, assaulted, castigated, murdered.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 6:55 PM on February 24, 2012 [20 favorites]


And I'd like to find business shirts that aren't a shade of pink. HOW THE WHEEL TURNS.
posted by Spanner Nic at 6:56 PM on February 24, 2012


Girls can play with whatever the hell toys they want.

that was not my experience growing up as a girl. i agree about your second point, though.
posted by nadawi at 6:59 PM on February 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


You get an ice cream cone from me, kid. Love your work.
posted by honey-barbara at 7:08 PM on February 24, 2012


" .. I am just saying that there is a good chance that no matter how politically correct you are, your precious snowflake of a daughter may simply want to play with girly dolls not because society has told her she has to, but because she wants to play with girly dolls."

I have two sons and we own ALL THE TRUCKS IN THE WORLD. My toddler has a cute little boy doll that he has 100% ignored in favor of a stuffed car. When he wants to play "baby" he feeds and diapers and burps an orange pickup truck.

But he also loves gardens and flowers and butterflies, and it is REALLY HARD to find picture books about gardens that aren't super-girly, like princesses-live-on-the-flowers girly, not like "o hai girls cam garden."

Toddler (non fluoride) toothpaste is gendered. COLORING BOOKS are gendered. I was looking for a generic one of animals and it was all cars (with blue red green crayons attached) or princesses (with pink purple powder blue).

It's not so much that I mind some gendered toys -- I am grandma to a charming orange pickup, after all -- but its so significantly pervasive, not just in dolls and trucks but in blocks and toothpaste and crayons and so on, and you sometimes can't FIND a coloring book of jungle animals that aren't either gazing dewily at princesses or roaring to attack. With attached, gendered crayons. That's what's so frustrating. That shouldn't be ALL that's available.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:12 PM on February 24, 2012 [68 favorites]


When not around people who actually cared I was perfectly happy playing with old left around barbie dolls when I was a young kid, and made guns out of Lego. I tend to think there isn't anything gender specific about toys per se, given the absence of outside influence, dolls, and toy guns, and Lincoln Logs and kitchen sets would all be played with by both genders if left alone.

And yeah, not to Godwin it all but pink use to be the masculine color before the Nazis got involved, man it is amazing just how fucked bent out of shape America became as a result of WWII.
posted by edgeways at 7:14 PM on February 24, 2012


My kids get Lego, a soldering iron and some burn creme.
posted by GuyZero at 7:17 PM on February 24, 2012 [17 favorites]


I wonder if folks in turn-of-last-century Italy complained about how gendered clothing was for babies and children, what with all those pink clothes for boys, and blue clothes for girls.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:17 PM on February 24, 2012


But he also loves gardens and flowers and butterflies, and it is REALLY HARD to find picture books about gardens that aren't super-girly, like princesses-live-on-the-flowers girly, not like "o hai girls cam garden."

You might like The Curious Garden.
posted by Artw at 7:19 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Artw, I think we will like that! I though I had worn out more of the "good" gardening books but I hadn't seen this one!

Mefi also came through for me last year when all he wanted was a butterfly shirt, which were big in little girl clothes that year but all hot pink and ruffled and bedazzled and one-shouldered (which is weird ... they're two). Mefi pointed me towards plain T-shirts for toddlers with butterflies on non-pink backgrounds and we got one. He wore the heck out of that shirt!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:28 PM on February 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Here's a secret: Pretty much all kids love dolls!

&

they're not dolls, they're ACTION FIGURES.

ACTION FIGURES.


This is part of a theory I have as to why MMO games - World of Warcraft and the like - are so popular. Coming from the same place, just a virtual doll/figure as opposed to a physical one.
posted by curious nu at 7:38 PM on February 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Toy Ads and Learning Gender [previously]
posted by finite at 7:56 PM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


...they end up getting their kids a bunch of toys that look like something from a dystopianfuture where everyone is sexless and reproduction happens in computerized birthing matrixes..

You haven't been to a Target in a while, have you. They're great for finding gender-neutral toys with appealing colors for pretty cheap. (Much better than Walmart or "Toys-r-Us")

We traded in a "Disney Princess Scooter," which was crap and falling apart (tho there was a very nice picture on the box, and it was a thoughtful gift), for bristle blocks, a Doctor kit and a remote controlled car. They're all stylish, sturdy and fun, and a girl would be as comfortable as a boy playing with them. Design matters - casting everything in pale pink plastic is lazy and boring and a sign that it's disposable crap.

We're not stuck on "gender neutral" - it's just that the most fun toys for a toddler her age happen to be gender neutral, or feminine without being pink-princesses. There's nothing wrong with pink, or with princesses, but everything in moderation. Our daughter loves her dollies and her toy stove and play food and her favorite colors are purple and pink - but she also likes building things with blocks and driving her toy car and giving everyone checkups.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:57 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


dunkadunc: "they're not dolls, they're ACTION FIGURES."

I think they should be called "violence dolls".
posted by brundlefly at 8:13 PM on February 24, 2012 [13 favorites]


Then can at least we make some of the clothes for those girly dolls be OTHER colors than pink
Pink used to be a boy color. Sanguine, all that.
For some reason we don't do moderation, particularly when it comes to kids. I don't know why. 90% of parents are really really really really adamant about certain things. Then you get the 5% who don't care and the other 5% who are interested, but not adamant.
But 90% of them have to support the parent that is. Whatever respective gender they are. One of them is really, way too invested in minutiae.

"Daddy, can I have ice cream?"
*checks watch: 1:30 pm after lunch*
Dad: "Yeah, why not"
Mom: "NO!"
Dad: "I mean, no."

Same deal with toys and whoever's running the color factory.

Ken: "Mel, can we make girls toys in some color other than pink?"
Mel: "No, f'ing way Ken"
*puts gun to Ken's head*
Ken: "Pink it is."
posted by Smedleyman at 8:19 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


My 5'10" rugby-playing lesbian daughter wore pink and loved Rainbow Brite when she was small. Also My Little Pony, and Strawberry Shortcake. When I was a kid, my Barbies existed to be dismembered. You don't want to know what I used to do with Barbie's leg. Kids are generally horrible creatures with No Taste, which is why I like them so much.
posted by Peach at 8:28 PM on February 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


If you have young kids and haven't been into a Toys R' Us or Target or similar type store yet, go in and watch their faces closely.

It is like the movie They Live, but the kids are so young they can still see the message printed in very big letters:
"Hey kid, THIS, almost 100% pink 1/3 of the store is the girl's section, and THIS almost 100% fighting figures 1/3 of the store is the boy's section. The middle neutral zone has the books, art supplies, and Legos.

Whatever thoughts or opinions the kid had upon entering the store, this message comes across very clearly. And kids, wanting to grow up right, listen closely.

Sure, most girls like dolls more than boys and most boys like trucks and action figures more than girls. But the world isn't so black and white. There's lots of interesting messiness in the middle, and I think there is real strength in individuality. The stores do their best to stomp those ideas right out of the kids, every time they enter the toy store.

I'm glad to hear a child rebelling against the obnoxious overbearing message that the store designers with no wit or imagination are forcing on them.
posted by eye of newt at 8:33 PM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


But I like pink.
posted by deborah at 8:33 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


This has been around the internets a few months, I almost thought it was a double. Well anyhow, as to the source of gender coded toys/clothes/etc., I think you can pretty much blame homophobia/fear of your kid getting teased for why most parents buy into it.

You get judged by other parents, and your kid gets judged by other kids, and if either or both of you is too "different" or "weird" it can be painful. Easier not to swim upstream and clothe your daughter in Princess Pink and your son in BoyOhBoy Blue. Kids usually go along with it, because they want to fit in even more than you do.

We feel this pressure, all the time. I find myself not "risking" buying my son toys that might get him teased for being too girly*, which makes me sad/angry/resigned. I would never not get him something he asked for, but he's absorbed enough of Boys are Like This and Girls are Like That by now that I doubt that he would knowingly cross that line. The most I can do is draw the line at superviolent toys and shows, and make it a house rule that "girls are stoopid and can't be president/whatever" comments are Not Tolerated, any more than racist ones would be. This confuses him, because lots of kids at school are allowed/encouraged to say that stuff. It's cute when boys diss girls and girls diss boys, aww, we all know they'll love each other later! Yes, and they'll be all fucked up and confused by the Mars and Venus bullshit too.

It's hard to fight the good fight when you're in effect making your kid your billboard and you know it could draw fire towards them. I'm a big tough lady and I'm not scared of a class of kindergarteners, but he's not. Short of putting him in a private hippie school, which I can't afford, I find myself picking way more battles than I like to protect him.

*like the sewing kit he wanted for his birthday; all they have are fairy girly sparkly ones for kids. I had to make him one that was blue and green and silver instead.
posted by emjaybee at 8:34 PM on February 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


...some parents tendency to seemingly be so desperate to not reenforce what they see as negative gender stereotypes that they end up getting their kids a bunch of toys that look like something from a dystopianfuture where everyone is sexless and reproduction happens in computerized birthing matrixes...

There's a child I know that owns NOTHING that isn't pink. Most of it has some Disney mermaid/princess/fairy crap on it. Her bedroom's pink. Her ceiling light is pink with a pink shade. Curtains. Pink. Every stitch of clothing she owns is pink. She has pink shoes/slippers/winter boots/cowboy boots; 85% of it has fake diamonds or glitter or some kind of crap gem or shiny thing. She owns the Barbie Malibu Dreamhouse, Barbie plane/limo/charm school/vet hospital/beauty salon, and naturally, the Barbie bike. I've never seen so much plastic crap. Yes, she does seek it out, but her mother reinforces it continually. If the kid accidently picks out a blue T-shirt, mom is all,"But look honey, they have it in piiiiiink!"

The last set of T-shirts I got for my granddaughters had pictures of really great lizards on them. (And the Barbie nut woman feels sorry for 'unfeminine little girls." BAH!
We love the lizards!
posted by BlueHorse at 8:41 PM on February 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


I rebeled against pink as a child, and wasn't too fond of dolls. (especially after the generic cabbage patch doll incident) but I did like girlie toys (original my little pony, unicorns). But I also loved boys toys. So I played with the neighbor kids he man toys, and a family friend had
Two boys with a massive gi joe and starwars collection that I could play with. Perhaps not so ironically- they loved my disused barbie dolls.

I never had a good rant though, or maybe I could have had some of my own boy's toys. Oh well. I like pink now anyway, and can purchase action figures with my own money.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 8:49 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


<freetobeyouandme>

♫ A DOLL! A DOLL! WILLIAM WANTS A DOLL! ♫

</freetobeyouandme>
posted by tzikeh at 9:16 PM on February 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


This is part of a theory I have as to why MMO games - World of Warcraft and the like - are so popular. Coming from the same place, just a virtual doll/figure as opposed to a physical one.

A recent patch for WoW implemented the ability to make a piece of armor look like a different piece of armor. Previously, characters in the high-level end-game raid situations all ended up wearing the same gear (and therefore basically looking identical) because there were clear sets of Best Available Armor. Now, you can make that armor look like anything else your character could possibly wear, mix-and-matching a pair of pants here, a chestguard there, to assemble your own custom outfit. It is an extremely popular addition to the game.

Furthermore, the gear you get from questing in the early stages of the game now has color-coded icons. They are basically Garanimals, if you remember Garanimals. All the equipment with green icons looks good together, and all the blue icons look good with other blues.

So, yes, your theory is absolutely true. It's not the only reason those games are popular, but it is a large part of it.
posted by rifflesby at 9:25 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Actually now that I think about it, this was probably rehearsed at least once.. as I can fairly reasonably assume that the parent didn't happen to have their camera on the kid during the first run of this little fit.. so I am sure some direction was given from the parents end, with an eye to 'thisll get the internet talking'

She's already talking when the clip starts. Pretty sure Dad just grabbed the iPhone out of his pocket.
posted by desuetude at 9:46 PM on February 24, 2012


Pink is the children's version of The Red Tent. In a male-centered society, it is a place of refuge for girls. Someone up there had it right: the Pink Aisle is "Boys can't shop here", not "Girls must shop here".

Why is there Mothers' Day and Father's, but no Kid's Day? Because every day is Kid's Day. Why Pink? Because every other thing is a Boy thing.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:20 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


this girl has been well trained by her parents I think
posted by timsneezed at 10:41 PM on February 24, 2012


Related: When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink? (Smithsonian magazine)
And Pink and Blue: Telling the Boys from the Girls in America was just released.
posted by sentient at 11:06 PM on February 24, 2012


A recent patch for WoW implemented the ability to make a piece of armor look like a different piece of armor.

Ahh, I forgot I read about that. I know that's been available since very early on in Guild Wars, and of course City of Heroes got a lot of press and subscriptions based on its avatar customisability (..I'm not sure that's a real word) alone. Still, even without the customising, I think it holds true, and the various development teams are starting to embrace it more. Consider that most action figures don't let you change anything more than what weapon they're holding in their Kung-Fu Grip(TM) anyway.

It certainly puts MMO in particular in a different light, though. It's one thing to say, "I've spent a thousand hours playing this game and being social!" and another thing to say, "I've spent a thousand hours playing with action figures."

More-on-topic: how much is blue-vs-pink a Western thing?
posted by curious nu at 11:38 PM on February 24, 2012


yeah, I want more variety. When I was a kid, my favourite colour was rainbow.

actually, that still is my favourite colour.
posted by jb at 12:16 AM on February 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Cute 5 year old + cheap camcorder + set up = YOUTUBE WIN and INFINITE PROFITS

I agree with everything suggested by the clip, I have 2 boys 4 and 6 yr old, and I can't help thinking its a bit hacky now. I hear Seinfeld, "anyone ever notice....what is going on with all the pink
posted by C.A.S. at 12:30 AM on February 25, 2012


I recognize that even coloring books are gendered, but on that subject, as a little girl I would have hated coloring He-Man. I was totally more into She-Ra.
posted by Malice at 1:48 AM on February 25, 2012


When I was a kid, my favourite colour was rainbow.

actually, that still is my favourite colour.


Heh, if I knew you as a kid, I'd have told you "That can't be your favorite color - rainbow's not even a color!"

And of course, that was my first impulse upon reading your post. Jerk-ish impulses change even slower than color preferences.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 4:04 AM on February 25, 2012


We let our kids play with whatever toys they liked. We never consciously selected "gender specific" things for them, and I think that worked out perfectly fine. Our daughter did go through a brief pink phase, influenced mostly, I think, by some of her female peers in grade school. But, she also went heavily into sports and kicked boy's asses up and down the soccer pitch. She also spent as much or more time on the Sega Genesis as her brother. She ruled on Sonic.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:32 AM on February 25, 2012


I'd love to buy this kid the non-pink version of Princess Celestia that Hasbro's putting out as a Toys-'r-Us exclusive this fall, but it's a princess, which was the other focus of her rant.

It's an interesting case study of the phenomenon though. Alabaster pony on the TV show, but the retailers were convinced that pink princesses are the only ones that sell, so Hasbro makes the toy in pink for them. Finally, one retailer gets wind of a periphery demographic that really cares about such things to the point of spending 20x to 30x for repainted toys on ebay, and says "Ok, we'll take a chance on something not-pink; if nothing else, we know those crazy bronies will buy them." (It probably also helped that there's a new pink princess being added to the toyline this year too.)

I've been telling all the bronies I know that if they're already going to buy one for themselves, go ahead and buy a second one if possible, and donate it to the Marine Corps' Toys For Tots program. It'll drive home the message that non-pink girls toys can sell just as well, and some lucky but normally disadvantaged girl will get a non-stereotypical color toy for the holidays. Call it Operation: White Celestmas.
posted by radwolf76 at 5:36 AM on February 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Thanks to this post and the thought process it prompted, I've just realised that my mother buying her preschooler daughter Matchbox cars (one per week) was unusual, for the 70's particularly. I loved toy cars, and she bought them for me regardless of how 'inappropriate' that would have seemed.

I had dolls too, but loved my Matchbox cars (and still have them).

And she's now very proud that I have completed a stunt-driving course.

Wow. That was a damned cool thing for my (sole-parent, small-country-town-dwelling, ostracised) mother to do for me.

I will thank her tomorrow.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 5:40 AM on February 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


that was not my experience growing us as a girl

So true! When I was 3 or 4 in 1980, my brother and I played with an older neighbour boy who had ever science fiction toy imaginable. He was the kind of kid you really wanted to be friends with because of this. I remember dog earing and clipping out all the Star Wars toys from the Sears Wish Book. Naturally I had not seen the movies, but I just knew that it was very cool. I received a pile of those PVC Strawberry Shortcake figurines instead.

Now I did like Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony, but it was the kind of constant steering towards gendered things that always wrankled me. My brother got the cool stuff and I got a tea set and was expected to like it.

I had an unquenchable want for boys action figures when I was growing up. Shamelessly, unsuccessfully, I tried to steal a GI Joe or two from a boy friend over the years. He had every single GI Joe thing ever. When I was 21 and Phantom Menace came out, I bought a 5" Obi Wan Kenobi figure. It was like some long unfulfilled dream! Finally, I could have an action figure! *head desk*
posted by Calzephyr at 6:44 AM on February 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


We don't consciously push genderized toys or colors on our son. (Sure, his room is blue, but that's because my wife read blue is calming on small children.) Despite all that, his favorite toys are cars and fire trucks and dinosaurs. But he also loves his stuffed kitty and will bring it everywhere with him (kitty is probably intended to be a girl as it has nipples, but he named it Robert and is sure Robert is a boy). He likes the pink sparkly toy carrier his friend at day care brought the other day. He doesn't show any disinclination to play with any kind of toy - the blocks and carat day care, or the kitchen sets and necklaces and purses. We think it is fun that he enjoys all of it. All the kids in his class do, really. I think that it's not the parents or the teachers or the kids pushing pink on girls. It's the companies making the toys. Because it's easier to make it pink, and companies will take the lazy route every time ("make it pink" is cheaper than "make it some other color then launch an ad campaign showing it is for girls").

But it sucks. You ever try to find a baby doll for a boy? It's damn hard. All of the ones you can easily find are little girl dolls intended to program little girls to be mommies. Why aren't we asking little boys to pretend to be daddies? Go to the toy store and look for a broom for a kid. Our son wanted one, and all I could find we're pink ones - because clearly only women do housework, why should we encourage a boy to help clean when he shows an interest? We eventually found an anatomically-correct boy doll online, and word to the wise, most home supply stores carry "lobby brooms" which are essentially kid-sized corn straw brooms. Not pink. He likes both and we are proud of him. Hell, for Christmas he asked for a vacuum cleaner. How many two year olds want their own vacuum? The answer should be "all of them" because they are cool and make sounds and Mom and Dad have one so why shouldn't he?
posted by caution live frogs at 7:41 AM on February 25, 2012 [13 favorites]


Correction: An earlier version of this story misattributed the 1918 quotation about pink and blue clothes to the Ladies’ Home Journal. It appeared in the June 1918 issue of Earnshaw's Infants’ Department, a trade publication.

Oh thank GOD! I've run into this quote dozens of times over the years in my personal studies of cross-gender headology, and it's always been attributed to LHJ, which meant that I had to write it off as something somebody made up, because it wasn't in the cited work. I've considered asking for help in Ask about it a few times, but never got around to it. It's deeply gratifying to know that it was real all along.
posted by darksasami at 8:34 AM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


But he also loves gardens and flowers and butterflies, and it is REALLY HARD to find picture books about gardens that aren't super-girly, like princesses-live-on-the-flowers girly, not like "o hai girls cam garden."

Not that I don't sympathize with your desire to have your son read about boys who like these things, but you shouldn't shy away from reading stories with female protags to your boy, either. There's something about the way we train boys to be readers and consumers of media that seems to encourage the thinking that girls' stories are lesser and should only be consumed by girls, while stories about boys (be they about space captains or dudes who like flowers) are for everyone.

Not that this is unique to our current era. I was recently talking to my husband about some childhood books he brought home from his mom's house. I picked up a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. He immediately remembered the book--he'd felt weird reading it at ten because it had a female protag and he had to "pretend" to be a girl. Then he realized that the girls in his classes always had to read books where they "pretended" to be boys if they wanted to read CYOA and so he read it anyway. But still, it shouldn't be a stretch for a boy to empathize or enjoy stories about girls. But it is. Seems to be one of the most ingrained patterns in our society, and I suspect is related to a lot of this--gender segregated toys, the subjugation and disdain for girls' toys like dolls. We're not going to see toys get all wonderfully intermingled, the pink toys and the blue toys, the dolls and the guns, until our society realizes that it's okay for boys to like girls, to think like girls, to care about and celebrate girls and traditionally feminine tasks like cooking and nurturing, just as it is for girls to do the same for boys and boys' things like war and science and blowing stuff up.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:46 AM on February 25, 2012 [24 favorites]


(It was recently brought to my attention that calling them The X-Men is stupid because they're not all men.)

Jean Gray was a member of the X-Men from #1, and it doesn't sound stupid to say that either. Perhaps they should have been called "The Mutants" as originally intended, though.
posted by michaelh at 9:07 AM on February 25, 2012


I think it may even have been the source of some joking in the Claremont era, when the gender ratio was usually about 6-4 in favour of the ladies.
posted by Artw at 9:09 AM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I understand that parents concerned with gender stereotypes seem like they're coming on strong, but damn does it feel like the deck is stacked against you. We've had a hell of a time dressing our twin girls, especially because so much of their clothing is hand-me-downs. Every time we get a bag of used clothes we thank them profusely and then cull out the princesses, the glitter, the stuff with "jucy" across the ass (this is for two-year-olds, btw), "daddy's little angel" crap, etc. and wind up with half the bag gone. Go to Target and you have your choice of 1) basic, sturdy t-shirts and jeans in the boy's section or 2) disposable, plastic, sexualized "clothing" agressively marketed to little girls. It's really hard not to get pissed off.

I will say dinosaur t-shirts are popular in our house, although my girls refer to them as "battlecows."
posted by werkzeuger at 9:17 AM on February 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


I've said this a million times before, but here it is again. Little girls don't buy toys, adults buy toys. "Girly" toys aren't for little girls as much as they are for adults who can look at a wall full of toys and sigh that they're all for boys BECAUSE there's nothing pink there. I've seen this in action numerous times.
posted by Legomancer at 10:38 AM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just a data point, but: I feel very lucky to have been born into the gender-neutral, 1970-1985 sweet spot identified by the Smithsonian article linked above. I'm a ladyperson. I never cared much for dolls or action figures, but I did love the crap out of stuffed animals (I considered most of them to be guys, for some reason). I liked blocks and Matchbox cars and overalls and the color green. I thought of She-Ra as a knockoff, but that said, I didn't care that much about He-Man. There were times that I felt pressured to try to adopt feminine preferences (especially as related to color), but overall, I grew up in a world where my parents didn't push baby dolls and house play sets on me, and instead, let me have super bounce balls and Legos and an awesome plastic T. rex. I am glad that there was room for my preferences, and that I wasn't shunted into an all-pink aisle.

I still think that super bounce balls and Legos and T. rex are the bomb, and that dressing up dolls is boring. Even though I like how I look in a skirt.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:39 AM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is much, much easier to raise a gender-non-conforming daughter than a gender-non-conforming son. My daughter is 5 and my son is 1, and even though I am all feminist rar, I still find myself unconsciously making choices about which of my daughter's clothes, toys, and books I hand down to my son. Fortunately we were very aggressive about buying a lot of gender-neutral things for her, at least as long as that was possible -- there are basically no gender-neutral mass-market retail clothes for ages older than about 2 unless you go with Zutano, which might as well be made of Fabrege eggs and bald eagle heads for how much money it costs -- but I still do things like, say, discarding Mama Do You Love Me from the hand-me-down pile because the child is a little girl, and my son is a boy.

And then I say "Wait, what the fuck? I read Lily the Snowy Day all the damn time, and the protagonist of that is a boy!" and put it back into the pile, and add "Fight the patriarchy some more" back to my internal to-do list. But it's hard, and you have to be willing to push back all the damn time. The same people who will cheer when your daughter has a blanket with trucks on it will frown when your son has a blanket with fairies on it. My best friend's five year old son picked out Tinkerbell valentines to take to school, and she agonized over whether to let him do it (he already has trouble with being teased), before finally deciding to email the teacher and say "He is bringing Tinkerbell valentines to school. I trust this will not be an issue, RIGHT?!" And sure enough, the teacher wrote back and said "Of course, this is fine and I will do my best, but unconventional choices do sometimes have consequences."

There is nothing wrong with Hello Kitty, or My Little Pony, or Littlest Pet Shop, or even frickin' Barbie. What's wrong is the assumption that boy things are for people, but girl things are just for girls. I actually had someone tut-tut me for putting my son in a onesie that had zoo animals on it, because one of those animals was a flamingo, and flamingos are pink! Like one half-inch flamingo is going to make his penis fall off!
posted by KathrynT at 10:50 AM on February 25, 2012 [25 favorites]


I still think that super bounce balls and Legos and T. rex are the bomb, and that dressing up dolls is boring. Even though I like how I look in a skirt.

See, this to me is part of the problem. If dressing up is all you ever do with dolls . . . well, then, you're doing dolls wrong. Mine went on adventures, had elaborate narratives built by me for them about their lives. Why do many little boys and some little girls dismiss doll play to be all about appearances and fashion? Why do we, as grown-ups and feminists, continue to do the same thing?

And I'm speaking as a girl who loved TMNT and matchbox cars as much as I loved my baby dolls and barbie dolls. I think it's fine not to like those things, but in so many of these conversations there's a reflexive disdain and dismissal and, deep down, that bothers me. That's putting kids in boxes just as much as the gendered toy aisles do.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:52 AM on February 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


well, then, you're doing dolls wrong
Why should I have had to do dolls "right," though? Part of the reason I wasn't interested in ascribing likes and wants to solid plastic dolls was probably because I perceived the dolls as having a pre-existing narrative (Malibu Barbie, TMNT, etc.). Instead, the stuffed whale and penguin would go on adventure, while the silver and sea green crayons defended their kingdom against the onslaught of other crayons.

For many dolls, play surrounding appearances and fashion coincides neatly with their marketing. While the objects can be taken and reinvented for any purpose (a Barbie that entered the house as a gift ended up dismembered and Scotch taped to the T. rex, after which she marauded a town), I'm kind of glad that my parents didn't push those things on me after I expressed little interest in them. Dolls might not be for everybody.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:26 AM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Part of the reason I wasn't interested in ascribing likes and wants to solid plastic dolls was probably because I perceived the dolls as having a pre-existing narrative (Malibu Barbie, TMNT, etc.)

That's fine, but there were a great deal of dolls that didn't do this (from almost all baby dolls to My Buddy & Kid Sister). The imaginative play you did with your stuffed animals sounds, to me, indistinguishable from what my elementary school friends and I did with our "girl" toys--our Barbies and Skippers, our Sylvanian Families. This wasn't reinventing the toys or using them for off-label purposes even if there were pre-existing narratives--it was using dolls as dolls have been used for hundreds of years, to act out narratives, from nurturing tasks to imaginative storytelling. Again, I understand if dolls weren't for you. That's fine. But the dismissal of certain toys as boring because they are (supposedly) fashion-centric still feels like a very gendered dismissal. We all bring cultured biases into our interactions with the world, and I suspect a high appraisal with boys' toys among some girls (along with a celebration of violent values and a disdain for, say, fashion) unconsciously plays into that.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:35 AM on February 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


The fact that I didn't like dolls doesn't mean that I think it's bad for other people to like dolls. Just that I didn't, and don't, particularly like them, and I'm glad they weren't forced on me. My reaction almost certainly has some basis in the gendered nature of the dolls, but for what it's worth, I also didn't like baby dolls, or other humanoid dolls in general. Baby dolls, in particular, creeped me out.

A favorite story of my dad's: At one time, my grandmother got me one of those baby dolls with the weighted eyes that closed when you lay it down. I was handed the doll with much fanfare, and told to lean it back, so it could go to sleep.

So I held it like my grandmother told me to, and made it lean back. But the eyes didn't close.

I had all kinds of anxiety about making people feel like the gifts they gave me were great, because I did not want to make them sad or let them down. When my grandmother said, "Oh no, maybe it's broken!" I replied, confidently, "No, it's fine!" I then stuck my two fingers in the eyes, and jammed them shut. My dad thought this was about the funniest thing he had ever seen: maybe I wasn't very maternal, but damn if I didn't fix the problem.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 12:08 PM on February 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Not that I don't sympathize with your desire to have your son read about boys who like these things, but you shouldn't shy away from reading stories with female protags to your boy, either. "

It's not that they have female protagonists -- As noted, "Oh, hi, I have a garden, and I happen to be a girl" is fine, and we have tons of children's books with female protagonists. It's that they're super-gendered, princesses-in-poofy-dresses, super-stereotyped stuff that are portrayals of girls that I am not comfortable presenting to my sons. I don't want to be teaching them that girls are meek and delicate and need help lifting things and get upset if there's mud on their ballgown WHILE GARDENING. But since gardening is apparently not a "boy" thing, and apparently girls are all delicate flowers in need of rescue, that's 80% of what there is. They can have negative portrayals of girls, or no portrayals of boys. That's (most of) it when it comes to kiddie gardening books. I don't want to teach my sons that that's what girls are like.

And part of the problem is that these very gendered children's toys are also typically very branded.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:33 PM on February 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


…because one of those animals was a flamingo, and flamingos are pink!

Sounds like a good way to sort hopeless morons from people you might be interested in befriending.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:06 PM on February 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


The kids in my family didn't watch TV- so when we finally got a couple action figures for a birthday, we didn't have any context for them, and called them "Teenage Mutant Injured Turtles".
This made even more sense when the limbs started falling off.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:07 PM on February 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


My daughter only gets figure toys that mimic real life (Schleich Animals) and books that are gender neutral and use real photos and realistic paintings. Other than those she has learning toys like interlocking blocks, key and tumblers, tambourine/harmonica etc...

Her variety of clothes is mostly in the yellows and greens with an occasional pink or occasional blue. She has one doll - a handmade organic vegan blah blah hippie doll with wool filling and all that jazz. She also has some wooden, lead free new growth cars, trucks and busses she likes.

She seems pretty content and not worried about gender roles.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 5:45 PM on February 25, 2012


My daughter only gets figure toys that mimic real life (Schleich Animals) and books that are gender neutral and use real photos and realistic paintings. Other than those she has learning toys like interlocking blocks, key and tumblers, tambourine/harmonica etc...

Yeah, my parents tried that shit as well, only giving us non-violent toys and such, so we made our own guns, out of a pencil and some clothing pins...

My nieces are already old enough to get them playmobil (everybody likes playmobil); can't wait until my nephew is old enough to get the really noisy toys...
posted by MartinWisse at 3:06 AM on February 26, 2012


My nieces are already old enough to get them playmobil (everybody likes playmobil); can't wait until my nephew is old enough to get the really noisy toys...

Oh, I just started in on the noisy toys with my niece already. This Christmas, my 3-year-old niece got an Elmo guitar, that came with the batteries already installed.

I joked to my brother that this was revenge for when he was taking judo when he was eight and used to ambush me for practice. Heh.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:38 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you really, really hate somebody, give their kids Superballs, slide whistles, and the Disney singalong tape with "Take me out to the ballgame" and "Do your ears hang low?".
posted by dunkadunc at 10:45 AM on February 26, 2012


My uncle once bought me and my brother boxing gloves. Not sure how he was thinking that one would end up...
posted by Artw at 10:52 AM on February 26, 2012


♫ A DOLL! A DOLL! WILLIAM WANTS A DOLL! ♫

I played William's grandmother in the play, in maybe 5th or 6th grade! I remember my dad being utterly disgusted with the script and my mother being rather bewildered. I'm so very glad that the teacher chose that play because it changed the way I thought about gender roles. It really, really did. It freed me to become the tomboy I desperately wanted to be, much to my mother's chagrin, and my confidence soared.

Memories.
posted by cooker girl at 7:06 PM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


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