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Friday, January 11, 2008

Gender Bending Toys

This is the toy that came with a Subway kids' meal the other day.

Just a cheap little plastic box with a chihuahua on the front.

No problem (other than it was probably made in China with the main ingredient of lead)...

Except the color.


This was the toy Dmitri got with his Subway meal while Zoe was at her birthday party. When Daddy picked up the kids' meal, he asked the woman behind the counter when she went to put the toy in the bag, since she hadn't yet asked: "Does it matter if it's for a boy or a girl?"

She shrugged. "No."

No. Pink chihuahua boxes. That's what boys love, right?

Not so much. He traded it to his sister for a Starburst and a Fundip from her party bag. Both of them thought it a pretty good trade.

I've had four kids - two boys, two girls - and in my admittedly anecdotal experience, the whole feminist idea of gender-neutral toys sucks. We have a play kitchen (and no, it isn't pink) but it's mostly the girl who plays with it. We have Legos. But it's mostly the boy who plays with them.

Granted, Michael and I have pretty traditional roles in our marriage - I stay home, Daddy works. But Daddy also cooks. And Mommy programs the VCR and the TiVo. But the older and the younger kids have gravitated toward pretty polarized gender toys. And not because that's all they were given, either. Especially when they were young, we provided lots of neutral (wooden) toys to play with. Dmitri made weapons out of them. Zoe carried them around and rocked them and talked to them.

I wouldn't discourage a boy from playing with Barbies or a girl from playing with Hot Wheels. But on the other hand, I've never had to. It just doesn't seem to interest them. I remember trying with the older kids. Buying a doll for Blake. Cars for Autumn. They'd just switch. I still remember the year I bought Autumn an African-American Barbie. She looked at me like I had five heads.

I understand not wanting to reinforce stereotypical gender roles. But I also know that I won't go out of my way anymore to avoid natural gender inclinations, either. Ultimately, it's an exercise in futility. It would be like teaching my daughter to pee standing up. I could... but why would I?


steppingonlegos.com said...

haha - my daughter DOES pee standing up successfully and my son would have LOVED that box. ::shrugs:: YMMV!

pussreboots said...

My son would have loved that box too. My daughter would much prefer playing with Hot Wheels than Barbie.

Lostcheerio said...

Yeah, my son understands identifiers like pink and robots and whatnot, but he probably would have secretly liked the box. He is all about the chihuahuas. :) He cheerfully plays Barbies and Polly Pockets with his sister, as long as the Barbies are willing to deal with astronauts and robots and mud monster invasions. And... I think they play just about equally with the toy kitchen! Of course, we decided not to get the princessy one, for the specific reason that we wanted him to feel okay playing with it. It's blue. :)

Gail Rhyno said...

I can't tell you how many times I've deliberately commented about gender neutral toys and playing in general with my own kids. I have one girl and one boy. I won't let the grammpy's make comments that mention 'boy toys' or 'girl toys'. I am very quick to comment after my son has said something like (he's 5yrs old) 'that's for girls...eeeewwww' that mom is a girl, is she grosse too? I am always feeling like I'm fighting some little battle to make sure all are equal and 'it's all good' and there is no wrong way to play and express yourself. But I too immediately after wonder why. I never told my son that pink is for girls. My husband certainly never did as he's been read the rights on that. We have very few friends with kids and have ony recently moved on from Preschool TV that is very neutral on everything...where did he get it? Why does Barbie repulse him? Why does he vibrate with delite when he catches a glimpse of my husbands computer games (like Mech Warrior..or something like that)?

But I'm still going to fight the fight. Hoping that some day, should they decide to do something other's say isn't for their gender they'll hear my voice in their head saying they darn well can if they want to and nevermind what anyone else says.

If it's all for not (naught?) so be it, but it won't be becuase I didn't try...right????????!!!