Thursday, August 1, 2013

On gender-neutral toys

I really appreciate that my parents tried to raise us with gender-neutral toys. My brother and I both had a doll (my brother had a boy-doll and I had a girl-doll, with actual boy and girl bodyparts!), we both had legos and we both had musical instruments. Of course this only worked up to a certain level, because my brother liked building things with legos, while I like playing stories with the lego-people (and later I really liked my barbies). But I’m really grateful for the message that you can do the same thing whether you are a boy or a girl.

I think this was easier back in the 80s, judging from the type of legos adds you had then.
I think this add is awesome, it instantly makes me want to play with legos!

Nowadays, in some stores it seems that gender-neutral toys are non-existent in some stores (check out  this post from Dr. Isis for example). However, we do try to give BlueEyes the notion that you can play with whatever you want. He has a doll, pans to cook with (but in our house cooking is not necessary a women’s job anyway), and trains and cars. 

But last weekend we went to get him a helmet for on his balance bike. At target they only have helmets with Disney princesses or with cars. And BlueEyes liked the pink one with Disney princesses the most. On the one hand I wanted him to be free to choose which one he wanted, but I was also a bit afraid about the judgment from the older kids in our neighborhood and the kids at his daycare. So in the end I persuaded him into thinking that the blue helmet with a car on it was more comfortable than the pink one with the Disney princesses and he happily agreed. But I still feel a bit bad about forcing him into society’s strait-jacket of gender-marketed toys. Where are the gender-neutral helmets, Target??!


  1. When I was about 4 I wanted a doll. My mom told me: "Those are for girls." And I stopped wanting one, after feeling bad for about a day. Overall, no harm done. While I think it's important to teach children to respect gender and we should support their choices, I also don't think there's anything wrong with steering a kid gently to something "gender normative" if they don't protest much.

    Which direction the parent points isn't going to change the core self of the kid. They'll still choose how to express their gender, and you'll still support whatever he chooses.

    But then, I'm not a parent. So what do I know?

    1. Yes I think you're right, but it also made me wonder what I would do if say in a couple of years he wants to wear a dress to school. Would I talk him out of it too? I hope not. It just made me realize that sometimes there's conflict (even very small) between what a kid wants and what you as a parent might think is appropriate.

    2. Really out of my depth here, but I think it's appropriate to decide what a kid wears until such time as they can make a cogent argument, thoughtfully presented, for why they want to wear what they want to wear and how they'll react to criticism.

    3. As a parent, in a situation like that I'd probably buy my son a gender-normative teddy bear instead of a doll, as a middle-ground intermediate solution, you know. In fact, one of my sons never goes to bed without a dozen of soft horses, kittens, kittens with wings, puppies, bears and alike. I think it's a win-win.

  2. I made fun of a boy for having a doll when I was 4. I got in trouble and the preschool told my mom and told her to get me Free to Be You and Me.

  3. That Lego ad is awesomely adorable. I want to play with Legos right now.

  4. In my experience for both clothes and toys you have to fight to get anything that doesn't scream BOY or GIRL. Big box stores haven't worked well for that or for avoiding constant Disney/Corporate sponsorship. Second hand stores or the internet work well.

  5. Nowadays,there are many toys for kids,but it is hard to choose a safe toy.however is a safety website ,you can take care of your heart if you choose toys from it.

  6. I was privately disappointed when Roo chose the racecar cake over the tinkerbell cake. Not that the racecar cake wasn't awesome, and the tinkerbell cake needs a toy on top too, darnit! But at least I saved him from the hockey cake.

    Truthfully, though, I could have subtly guided him toward any of them. There's a lot of wiggle room for parents to impress their opinions on kids, and it's hard not to have opinions.