Girly Girls and Being Herself: reflections on gender in toys

My husband stopped at the $6 movie bin while Sunshine pulled me towards the other end of the store. I wandered with her, reaching the aisle where we usually began looking. I had barely started browsing titles when she pounced upon a movie, saying, “This one!”

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Disney Princess Stories, Vol. 2 - Tales of FriendshipShe held up a pink DVD case with Ariel, Snow White, and Jasmine on the cover: Princess Stories II.

I eyed it dubiously. Several young girls we’ve known have gone through a serious “princess” phase, where everything has to be pink and frilly and they live and breathe Disney princesses. We’re hoping to avoid that phase with Sunshine, and so far she has very little “princess” stuff.

From one of her little friends, she learned what a princess is. If I’m browsing friends’ wedding pictures on Facebook, she wants to look, exclaiming “Princess!” as she watches the bride or bridesmaids in various poses.

My husband would say our house has too much pink already. I remind him that we do have two little girls. When we’re out shopping, he likes “gender-neutral” clothes—anything blue, apparently, which usually leaves me explaining to strangers at the grocery store that Lily is a little girl.

His latest “gender-neutral” find was a red and black plaid lumberjack coat. I told him we could buy it when we have a little boy. We got Lily a brown coat with white fur trim around the hood and a pink fleece lining.

I grew up with two brothers, and my mom will be the first to call herself a tomboy. My twin brother is a much better cook than I am and can also sew his own shirts.

The first time I wore makeup was just before my wedding. I had a couple dolls, but I was more likely to play “teddies” with my brother and our stuffed animals. I can shoot as well as my dad and change the oil in my truck, and I like baking and sewing and scrapbooking too. My favourite colour is green (especially khaki green), but once in a while I see a pink article of clothing that I like.

While Sunshine’s favourite colour is pink (she prefers the pink dresses that are too small for her to the blue dress that fits her), she plays with toy cars as much as her doll and likes dinosaurs and zoo animals.

Dinosaurs AliveMy husband started playing dinosaur with her, which involves them roaring at each other and running around the house or down the sidewalk. He showed her the trailer for Dinosaurs Alive! and when she wanted to watch it three times, we decided to take her. She loved it. She now has a dinosaur book and my husband occasionally turns on a TV show about dinosaurs for her.

In the end, I remind myself that she is growing and learning. She is her own little person with her own likes and dislikes, and that’s just fine. Life with her everyday is surprising and interesting, and whether she likes pink or blue and dinosaurs or dollies, I will try to encourage her interests and hobbies and support her in being herself.

I don’t think we need to stereotype certain toys as being “for girls only”or “for boys only.” I love the song “I Wear Pink” by Steve from Hullabaloo, in which he talks about wearing pink and playing dolls with his sisters. If and when we have a baby boy, he’ll be just as welcome to play with a doll as his sisters are to play with his trucks. (We might even buy him his own St. John Paul II doll!)

So here’s to girls who wear their favourite colours and pursue their dreams, regardless of whether they’d rather have a tea party or build a LEGO skyscraper.

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  1. Koala Bear Writer December 14, 2010
  2. Nat December 14, 2010

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