I am a one woman renegade and I need you to join me. If you have ever or will ever be purchasing a toy in a toy store, you qualify. Here is how you can help:
When you enter a toy store looking for a gift and they ask: “Is it for a girl or a boy?” respond with: “Why does it matter?” When you respond with this question – which I have done for five years now – you will witness a thought bubble rising above the shopkeeper’s head. He will think about why it might not.
I want my daughter to play with science kits and Magnatiles and to create things, don’t you? I want my son to play with kitchens and strollers and baby dolls, don’t you? When we do not access all parts of our children’s minds, we fail to cultivate them. Maybe your daughter is a future engineer or scientist. Maybe your son is a future chef or artist. If we start buying them “girl” toys or “boy” toys from birth, will we ever find out who they were to be?
In my home I have conducted a small social experiment. I have bought my kids an array of toys and I never steer them towards certain colors. The result? I have one daughter who loves to collect bugs, climb trees and build – anything. And another who loves art and cares about her clothing in a way the other never would. I have a son who equally loves balls and the Easy-Bake Oven and most of all – playing with my jewelry. This is what happens when we don’t gender stereotype our own kids.
Yesterday I was in one of my favorite stores – cringing. The woman who owns it (a successful female entrepreneur!) was recommending books over the phone to a customer:
“Oh, a girl? Well how about Fancy Nancy or Pinkalicious or there is a great fairy one…” She was eyeing a beautifully curated selection of books – there were so many amazing classics. Why then was she recommending only the most gender stereotypical to the gift giver on the phone? What happens to our girls if they are taught from birth that girls are pretty and pink and fancy and boys are strong and powerful? Why are we limiting our children, and at such a young age?
Most of the time when my girls are asked for their favorite color the question is phrased, “I bet your favorite color is pink!” Huh? One’s favorite is blue and my other daughter loves red. My son prefers orange.
Just like racial stereotyping or body weight stereotyping has dangerous ramifications, so too does gender stereotyping. Your daughter will not emerge from the womb loving pink and your son will not come out loving blue – until you train them to love those colors. Until the 1940s pink was a boy’s color. Why not conduct your own social experiment? Let your child find her own color, her own preferences and let her natural interests be her guide.