In the last few months, an interesting debate is starting to happen regarding gender roles, gender appropriateness and gender stereotypes. You might remember the “Princess Boy,” both the book and the namesake young boy who likes to look pretty and wear dresses. Or maybe the mother who wrote the “My Son is Gay” blog post talking about her son’s decision to go as Daphne from Scooby Doo. (She’s been in the news again recently, this time because the church she attends doesn’t like the blog post.) Or the father who had to defend his transgender tween daughter.
I 100% completely support these parents and their kids for both allowing them to express themselves and be who they are, and for defending their kids’ actions and not, in the least, bowing down to the societal pressures that exist right now to fit into some “black” or “white” mold of how the concept of gender should be presented and rationalized. Most people who I’ve talked to are well aware of the fact that gender isn’t the nice, defined boxes of “male” and “female” but a fluid, changing, rainbow of gender, so to speak.
Looking through the blogosphere (yes, I still use that term, and yes, I’m still one of those quacks who uses a RSS reader to stay on top of news) it seems that one of the countries top, so called “experts” on all things people, has a difference of opinion. Dr. Phil, whom I refuse to watch on TV, has allegedly told a concerned parent of a 5-year-old son who likes to play with Barbies to “take away the girl things and buy him boy toys.” Um… What? To me it sounds like Dr. Phil is advocating the line that most people want to hear…there is a such thing as a “boy toy” and a “girl toy” and that it’s somehow inherently wrong for a boy to be playing with something labeled a “girl toy.” (I’m sure he’d have no opposition, however, to a girl say picking up and playing with a football.)
And since the Dr. Phil article and show were published, more people have taken a look into the marketing of toys to children…and surprise, surprise, it’s a very gendered marketplace out there. A very awesome new “female geek” blog that has sprung up recently, The Mary Sue, has a beautiful pair of word cloud info graphics that illustrate the way that marketers are targeting children based on their gender. I can’t say that it shocks me the least to see that the toys that are being targeted to boys have marketing that is filled with words that suggest power or dominance, while the toys being targeted towards girls have words that suggest motherhood, submissiveness, and beauty. Another article that has been recently published, too, show how kids can be bullied for having toys, or in this case a water bottle, that isn’t “gender appropriate.”
From personal experience, I can tell you that I had a kitchen set as a kid. I never was interested in GI Joes, Ninja Turtles, etc. I suck at most Nintendo games. Though, I did have my Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars, however. Oh and with a few exceptions, my best friends have been girls. (OMG!!!) So what? Seriously! So what? Of course, in retrospect, I’d love to have seen what the reaction would have been if I’d wanted to go as one of the girls from Scooby Doo. (Totally think I could pull off Velma, no?)
Anyway, enough kidding around… The bigger picture to all of this is not that there should or needs to be a line drawn between what is appropriate for each gender. The bigger picture is that we need to accept the differences that lie with-in each of us. We need to stop worrying that Johnny wants to wear a dress, or that Suzie likes to play with GI Joes. (Do they even still have those?) Varience is a natural part of our existence. So is self expression. Neither of those scenarios are odd, or mean that a kid (or an adult) is in particular going to “turn out” some way. They’re natural parts of life. We should take this as a chance to be able to learn tolerance and acceptance of life’s differences. Because it’s that which makes us each unique and not just another sheep in the herd.
(And yes… I’ve been working on this for 2 months. I can’t say I’m the fastest blogger in the world. Oops!)