Whilst Christmas shopping for the girls today I couldn’t help but be disturbed by the stereotyping of girls vs boys toys, or that there should even be a blatant division between the two in the first place. For instance, as I walked in one store I was greeted with a ‘Dress-Up Box for Boys’ (complete with boys modeling the Indian, Cow’boy’, Fire’man’ etc. outfits) and a ‘Dress-Up Box for Girls’ (with two of the costumes; ‘a model’ and ‘a movie star’ leaving me feeling perplexed at the messages being sent out to our preschoolers). I used to love playing ‘Cowgirls and Indians’ when I was little (and, as with all good playing, I wasn’t really aware that I was ‘learning’ a little history and geography along the way), surely this beats dressing up as a model (though I’m sure Naomi Campbell will say otherwise)! No wonder little girls are growing up with identity crises and are overtly anxious of their cosmetic appearance.
And what is wrong with girls liking cars and trains?! I myself walk down the ‘dolls’ aisle and feel a little nervous at all those beady eyes, staring out of plastic boxes, looking so life like and yet so devoid of breath. Perhaps it is because I have a ‘tomboy’ for a daughter that I notice the stereotypes more than a mother with a fairy/doll loving daughter. But then what makes a girl lean one way or the other from such an early age? I always try to give my daughter, Charlotte (or Charli, I’d rather not ‘Lottie’, but it’s her choice!) a broad range of experiences and, from an early age, made sure she has access to toys from all areas of play and interest (for instance I’ve never said – as I overheard one mother say to her 1 year old in a toystore – ‘No! Trains are for boys, leave them alone’). And I wasn’t really a ‘tomboy’ as a child, more of an ‘all rounder’, mixing the cars and trains with my ‘Barby Dolls’ and ‘Girls World’. Charlotte is 3 and a half and has absolutely no interest in dolls and pretty dresses (but I’m sure she will in time – probably due to peer pressure than from her own yearning).
Card games designed to teach young children about different jobs have boys and girls modeling stereotypical roles (a boy for the train driver and doctor vs a girl for the florist and nurse etc.). Thankfully ‘Bob the Builder’ have got it right on the ‘PC’ front, with Wendy making it ‘cool’ for girls to be into building (and you can even buy girls clothing in the ‘Bob the Builder’ range). Unfortunately, ‘Disney’ merchandise still has some catching up to do on the ‘PC’ front. The recent ‘Cars‘ Movie is brilliant and loved by little girls as much as boys. ‘Cars’ merchandise is everywhere in the lead up to Christmas, but when it comes to clothing, the boys rule. Charlotte was most disappointed to learn the ‘Cars’ branded boxer-shorts are for boys and had me hiking up and down the aisles to find some ‘Cars’ knickers! Alas (as I feared would be the case) our search was to no avail.
Then there is the pink for girls vs blue for boys, which is fair enough when most infants do look devoid of gender until you get down to the dirty nappy. But, does this really have to continue into preschool years? Charlotte used to be happy to wear red, orange, blue etc., but has recently become aware of the ‘pink for girls vs blue for boys’ code and turns her nose up at anything blue. And the ‘long hair for girls’ vs ‘short hair for boys’ has already influenced her thought process (she sees women with short hair and says, ‘Mummy, what is that man doing?’).
But now I’m getting off the subject… it was shopping for the girls that touched my pulse today and, despite the labeling, I’ll be buying the ‘Dress-Up Box for Boys’ for my girls.