Thoughtful Tuesday: Children and gender stereotyping.

I remember when I read the story about the parents that didn’t tell people what sex their child was. They let her/him dress in whatever he/she wanted and bought gender-neutral toys to him/her. I don’t remember all the details, but I remember I thought it was a little bit ridiculous. While totally getting where they come from, not wanting to stereotype the child, but at the same time I thought they were actually taking away some of the child’s identity. Maybe they have revealed the sex now, I don’t know, and I can not be bothered looking it up. But I am sure that they have or will encounter issues with this.

Because we need to have our gender defined, don’t we? At least as far as reproductive organs go? I am completely for people finding their own gender identity, and love that there is a community out there for those who don’t feel they fit into the ‘boy or girl’ categories. But for the parents to make the decision over a child’s gender-less start to life – is it doing more harm than good?

This post is not really about that, though. It is about the fact that I absolutely understand where they came from (they may just have taken it a bit to far…). I have three girls – and with Simon having another one, that ends up being four. From the moment they were born they have been given presents and clothes and all kinds of things – all very girly. (and don’t get me wrong, we love being gifted stuff! But that is not the point here…:))

Melodie, our 4,5 year old, loves dinosaurs. And dragons. Sophia loves airplanes and cars. They both also like drawing and ponies and barbie dolls. They like everything. But they both love things that are ‘boyish.’ At least in the eyes of the people who make clothes and toys for children. Do you know how hard it is to find girl clothes with Dinosaurs on them? You just can’t. You may find a white, yellow, orange, red, or grey t-shirt with black printings of dinosaurs on them – in the boy clothes section. And you may find an aeroplane soaring on a blue jumper meant for a toddler – also in the boy section. All Melodie wants is a top with a dinosaur on it, but purple. Because that is her favourite colour. Our little aspiring Archeologist has such a passion for dinosaurs, and we find it fascinating! She has dinosaur tops, and they are easily recognisable as boy tops, and although we don’t care – people do look twice sometimes.

So what do we find in the girls’ clothes section? Little pink t-shirts which say “I heart shopping” with a cute bag pictured. (Heaven forbid a five-year old boy should like shopping, as I think most people would find that strange!) A purple, sparkly jumper that states “I am a pretty princess.” Dora, fairies, Minnie mouse, Peppa Pig and other female ‘stars’ are hanging out on clothes for girls everywhere you look.

Some shops have sectioned their toys off into girls’ and boys’ toys. You go to the boy section and find loads of trucks, cars, helicopters, dinosaurs, dragons, boats and airplanes. All the things my girls LOVE! The girl section is filled with fairies, ponies, barbie, dolls, hair decorating kits, beading kits, pretend-handbags with pretend-makeup, kitchens and other ‘girly’ toys. All the things my children also like.

My children are ‘lucky’ because they are girls who like ‘boy-things’. Imagine the boys who like ‘girl-things’! Not all parents are accepting and understanding and many would probably still try to make their boy like trucks and dragons, while others (and thank you for being awesome parents) would happily go out and buy the fairy princess castle with all its attachments because that is what he wanted. It must be hard, though. For us, we may be told our girls are tomboys and it being implied this will make them ‘tougher.’ For someone with the opposite, they may be told by ignorant people their boy is ‘being to feminim’ and will certainly grow up being gay. (ahem… the toys you play with as a child does not ‘make you’ anything…)

And what, are the girls who prefer the ‘gentler’ toys going to grow up without any backbone? Will they need extra protection? And the boy who only likes to play with his sword become a violent meathead?

As parents, we are responsible for the ideas that are put into our children’s head. We need to teach them that it does not matter what you are into. Whether it is ‘meant to be for girls’ or ‘meant to be for boys’ should not make any difference. My children are girls, and they have an array of toys suited for any gender and most interests. And I intend to keep it that way.

Now, I just need to find a purple dinosaur top…




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