A while ago I wrote a post about gender specific toys. A few of you were surprised to read that I wasn't too bothered about the whole "Let toys be toys" - the upshot was that surely we can just rise above all the labelling - let our kids play with whatever they like! Signs for "Boys" and "Girls" toys don't matter - there are much bigger fights to be picked.
I was wrong.
Alice is a very "girlie" girl. She likes all things pink and when she grows up she wants to be a fairy. Everything is good or evil in Alice's mind. She is a Princess and one day she will find a Prince. We have not put any of this in her head - it's just the way she is. She loves Disney. At the end of the day she is only three so this idealistic vision of hers is all fine and perfectly healthy for now, I'm sure.
The other two kids are totally different. Rough and ready types. Rosie is two and is The Destroyer of Worlds. She likes to climb on everything and throw her breakfast on the floor, milk and all.
Anyway, the reason my view has changed on the toy issue is because of something Alice said the other day. She was complaining that she had a rough day in pre-school - apparently all the boys were playing "Police Officers" and Alice wanted to play "Fairies" and all the boys kept putting her in jail. She was quite upset about this and in her mind it was a big deal. So we sat and had a chat. I suggested that she too could be a Police Officer - a good one who saved people from crime. I thought my idea was perfect, but was shocked by her response.
"Ha ha ha!! Mummy! Girls can't be Police Officers!!"
She was laughing at me like what I had said was a total joke. Can you imagine the look on my face? I know she is only three, but I am constantly passing on the message that my children can do ANYTHING with their lives. It doesn't matter what your background, what cards you get dealt in life, and certainly gender is completely irrelevant - you can chase your dreams no matter what.
And here is my three year old sat in front of me, laughing at the suggestion that a woman could possibly be a Police Officer.
We buy toys for both genders. I thought that we remained unaffected. We clearly are not. Small minds are clearly influenced by advertising and shops, toys and everything else we are bombarded with. It is not enough to have me explain to them and to show by example that women are not confined to any particular vocation, or to the home for that matter. Clearly, my message is being lost.
And maybe, just maybe - the gender specific toys, all the pink, the dress-ups, doll's house, cleaning-up toys - are sending my children messages that aren't helpful. And these are toys with the label "GIRL."
I take back what I said in my original post. I wrote that "Marketing only controls us if we let it." I was wrong. Children don't have the capacity to remain unaffected.