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Katherine Brengle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-28-06 06:18 PM
Original message
Gender-specific toys issue
A few weeks ago, I had a horrible Toys R' Us experience with my 2-yr old daughter. Long story short, I found the differences between the "girl" toys and the "boy" toys more than a little disturbing.

In the girl's aisle, I saw little kitchen play-sets, a mop/soap/bucket set, ridiculous dolls (Barbie, Bratz, all that crap), dress-up clothes (including some less than modest little teenie dresses and HIGH HEELS FOR LITTLE GIRLS), and other typical crap.

In the boy's aisle, I saw Home Depot toy tool sets, cars and trucks, action figures, toy swords and guns, and ALL of the sports equiptment.

So, I had a pretty violent reaction to seeing all of that (until now, we had stayed in the "baby" section bc my daughter wasn't old enough for any of that other stuff, but this time she was walking around on her own so we ended up running through the whole store).

Between the baby section and the two gender-specific sections, there is this huge area of the store full of educational, brilliant, non-gender specific, non-sexualized toys (Leap Pads, and all of those amazing Melissa & Doug toys, and that kind of stuff).

So, I told my husband that I don't want Emily playing with any of those disturbing toys that aim to teach her to be a certain kind of woman. I told him I didn't want us buying her stuff like that, and that if anyone else gave her those kinds of toys, I was going to keep them in the packaging, give them to Toys for Tots and get her something else that is worth playing with.

He agreed, on one condition--that I don't tell the gift-giver that I am not allowing Emily to have the toy. I agreed, although I think it is kind of silly when if we just told people, they could get her gifts that are acceptable, ya know?

But here's the catch, and I hadn't thought of this before: What do we do when she gets a little older? What if she asks for a Barbie doll or something like that? Is it wrong for us to say no, on strictly sociopolitical grounds?

I would think that it would be intellectually and morally dishonest to say that something is bad, but give in when it is asked for...

I truly believe that there is no place in her upbringing for things that are teaching her that the only way to be a woman is to be pretty all the time, to clean and cook, and to do everything in order to please a man, and not herself. I believe that these "girl" toys aim specifically to do this, and I find that kind of indoctrination morally reprehensible.

(BTW, a good male friend of mine asked me a good question, and I still haven't really resolved it in my mind. He basically asked if it was any better for me to drill my worldview into her--but I am her mother, right? Isn't that my job? I don't expect her to agree with me forever, but I can only teach her what I know...)

Any thoughts? Has anyone else done anything like this, or thought about it? (Not just about girls, but the boy's stuff was encouraing violence and non-involvement with normal day to day household kind of work, and I think that is damaging as well--the boys are being pushed into certain roles just as much as the girls are.)
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mzteris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-28-06 06:58 PM
Response to Original message
1. huge issues . . .
I don't have ANY answers - just some of my own antecdotes.......

I was determined to raise my daughter "unisex" - only unisex really means male-oriented. And she came into this world wanting lacy and curls and frilly stuff. She would refuse to wear PANTS! She wanted a DRESS!! aaaaaaaaggggghhhhhh.... (Was there some sort of mix up at the hospital??????)

I still encouraged her to play with all toys ("There are no BOY toys and no GIRL toys - just TOYS!" ). There was that incident when she was three years old and went to sit on Santa's lap. She was dressed all in a frilly lacy pink dress, lacy stocking, and black patent leather shoes. Her hair in ribbons. She looked like an angel. She pranced up to Santa, smiled prettily, and replied to the question of what she wanted for C-mas, "I want a doll and some clothes and a teddy bear."

"anything else>" Santa asked.

"Uh-huh. I want a TRUCK."

Double take from Santa. "A WHAT?"

"A Truck! A yellow one."

People were giving me funny looks at this point. . . but she got her a truck for Christmas.

We went through the whole Barbie or not Barbie thing. It was impossible to avoid. Birthdays, Christmas, - surrounded 24/7 by everyone she knew. Even if she didn't HAVE them, she played with other kids who DID. So I broke down and let her have them.

Another story: she got the Barbie "office-on-one-side/apartment-on-the-other" playhouse. It had a newfangled "computer" on the desk. It was very portable so she would take it when I had to take her with me places (single mom at that point.) One guy said, "Oh look! Barbie's a secretary." My daughter - about 8 at that point - gave him a look that would peel paint and replied, "No she's NOT. She's the PRESIDENT! She OWNS her OWN COMPANY!" (Headcurl flounce. you'd have to know her. lol)

She's 25 and still very "prissy" - I call her Missy Prissy, btw. Supports herself and very independent. She can't stand men who think they own her or who want to be joined at the hip. She's certainly no doormat.

My niece - a year younger - came out of the womb wearing camo's and combat boots - to the complete dismay of her prissy mom. She REFUSED to wear dresses, and play with dolls, etc. . . . the absolute and complete opposite of my daughter. She's still living at home, started having sex at 15 (my daughter was at least in college), and still has some significant social issues.

Please note I don't think there is anything wrong with tomboy girls (I WAS ONE!) - and don't think that my niece being a tomboy generated her problems nor that my daughter's "girlishness" eliminated hers. Just pointing out that the whole Barbie thing may not make or break WHO your daughter becomes.

I think that's more a matter of who MOM is. What are your values. How you are treated. How you DEMAND to be treated. How you allow your daughter to be treated. How you allow her to treat others.

ok - i'll shut up now - but let me know if you want to hear about my BOYS! ;)
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phylny Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-28-06 10:53 PM
Response to Original message
2. As the mother of three girls who are 20, 17, and 14, I say don't sweat it.
My girls had a variety of toys growing up. Some princess stuff, some building toys, Barbies, and trucks. One of our kids wore a Little Tykes hardhat for about six months straight. When she couldn't find it, she's put a McDonald's pumpkin bucket on her head.

All three girls played heavily with building toys - Duplos, Legos, K'nex. They liked to create with artsy stuff, played doll house, pretended to be Ariel/Peter Pan/Pocohontas. We had some trucks, but we had a kitchen set as well.

The oldest is at a prestigious public university, studying engineering and philosophy. She wants to finish her engineering degree and go to law school. She's not so girly, is dating a wonderful young man and they want to get married later one. She says they know she'll be the "breadwinner" and he will be a house-husband. They are fine with that. The second wants to be an athletic trainer. The third, a speech-language pathologist like me. The younger two are more girly, caring about hair and make-up and appearance.

All three are great students and great people.

When considering toys, go with her interests, which may change through the years, and above all, value creativity and imagination. She'll be fine.
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Katherine Brengle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-29-06 01:58 AM
Response to Original message
3. Great replies, both of you, thank you--
As of now, she has some of everything--a few little baby dolls she got from other people for Christmas, a ton of stuffed animals (the realistic looking kinds mostly--I am trying to teach her to be respectful of animals and to see them a certain way, as coincides with my personal philosophy), tons of blocks, musical instruments (percussive, and a small piano toy), tons of books, crayons and finger paints and paper.

She loves to color (I let her color with crayons on her wall, because I figure it's her wall after all, and she should get to decide how to decorate it :) ) and finger paint and sing and dance and climb on things. She's a little daredevil, and very smart.

She also looks pretty in little sundresses--and until she can tell me she doesn't want to wear them, I am going to allow myself to enjoy it, lol.

I just want to make sure that she is well-rounded and understands that she is a human being. That might sound a little extreme, but it's important to me...

Anyway, off to sleepy land. Lots of work to do tomorrow--"Daddy" is coming home in 10 days! YIKES! The little hellion and I have been living like college roomates for the past few months, lol.
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wildeyed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-29-06 08:17 AM
Response to Original message
4. I have a boy and a girl,
still preschoolers. We have a little of everything, toy-wise and they both play with all of it. I provide a variety of dress ups and they both wear all of it. Hilarious, actually, when they both have on high heels, a pretty purse, a princess dress and a fire hat. They both play with the cooking toys and the carpenter's toys. They both care for the dolls. My daughter is obsessed with building toys. They both love art. We have a Barbie, but she is not popular.

I think it is damaging to force children into roles, but the reality is, the world will try to do that and it is up to us as parents to protect them from that for as long as possible, and provide them with alternatives.

I took my daughter out of a certain ballet school when they informed me her little brother would not be allowed to take ballet (which he had expressed interest in), but would instead have to enroll in "sports movement for boys". :eyes: I guess they didn't consider ballet manly enough for three year old boys. Whatever, I was out of there.
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mzteris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-29-06 07:16 PM
Response to Reply #4
7. I pulled my son from a preschool program
over a couple of issues:

A) there was one bossy girl who wouldn't "allow the girls and the boys to play together". (Everyone thought it was SOooooooooo cute. Except me. :grr: And no one could understand why I was so upset by it. My son's best friends the previous year were two girls - they were inseparable. They "graduated" to kindergarten so he was left with some new kids. He just could NOT understand why he was "only supposed to play with boys" and not girls! He also had a couple of new teachers who refused to do anything about that - or this next item,

B) he wanted to play in the kitchen area - and he wasn't "allowed" to. Boys weren't supposed to "play in the kitchen area. Why don't you play with the blocks or cars or puzzles?" And GOD FORBID that he wanted to play dressup, too!

I went to the teacher TWICE, very nicely. Then I went to the director. I waited a couple of weeks after THAT and the day I went to withdraw him they said, "Oh we had a meeting yesterday and are going to implement some new rules." "Too late," I said.

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wildeyed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-30-06 08:20 AM
Response to Reply #7
8. Good, it sounds like an unproductive situation.
I hope you found something much, much better for your little guy.

The preschool I send my kids to believes that small children learn best through experiential play. The other main goal is to socialize them well before they begin Kindergarten. There are no academics. No religion or holiday celebrations, so the students come from very diverse backgrounds since no one is made uncomfortable about their religious beliefs. They would never limit a child's activities based on gender. Also, the parents tend to be really great. I am so glad I found it when I did. In addition to being a nurturing environment for my children, it has been a great social connection for me.

The dance program was difficult. I selected it because it was convenient and I thought the instruction was high quality. But they made us pray before the first recital and about half the music was pop christian. I didn't like the other parents. The sports movement nonsense was really the last straw. I guess they think that ballet for boys will make them homosexual or something. Tell that to Baryshnikov.

My own life would be so much less if people had forced me to do only the traditional female stuff. I love staying at home with my kids right now, but I also do extreme sports, and I have a really great career on hold. On the flip side, my husband has a much deeper bond with his children because he nurtures them in addition to providing for them. I *wish* he had learned to cook. So based on my own experience, I would fight anyone who wanted to limit my child. They need to find their true self, and it is my job to protect them while they do that.
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mzteris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-30-06 09:57 AM
Response to Reply #8
9. dance & stuff.
**I guess they think that ballet for boys will make them homosexual or something. Tell that to Baryshnikov. **

Ain't that the truth! Have you ever seen him dance in person? OMG what a marvelous athlete he is.

My son is now 7.5 yo and in 1st grade in a Montessori school. When I pulled him mid year of 4yo preschool I just homeschooled until he started Kindergarden. I homeschool my older son 12.5 (hs'ing just works better for him). Anyways -

both of my boys are in dance. Not ballet though they could if they wanted to. They both take tap in an all boy tap class and the older one is in an all boy Jazz class. (The younger's gymnastics class meets during that time slot.) The older one is also on the Production Dance Competition team. There are about 5 older boys who are doing this - and all of them are definitely "all boy".

We went to see TAP DOGS the other night - if you ever get the chance - GO! It was amazing! It's an all male tap group, but the things they do are very different.

They both do gymnastics, kung fu, baseball, swim team in summer, the little one still plays soccer (not a team around with a time that works for the older one) and runs track in the summer. So I don't think anyone's going to be making any "sissy" jokes to the little one anytime soon.

The older one - well, a lot of people "thinks" he a girl anyway with his long flowing blonde locks and elfin face... :rofl: but he's okay with that. He doesn't think it's an insult to be called a girl. He's very secure in who HE is, though, and has pretty much always walked to the beat of a different drummer. He was standing up for his female friends at a very young age. In First Grade: "If they don't get to play on the team, *I'm* not playing either!"

My younger son will probably grow up to be some type of professional athlete. Yeah, yeah, I know. Everyone thinks that about their kid. :) But he truly is a natural athlete. (Ever heard of Earl Campbell? He has his thighs. Really. Already. At 7. Well, maybe not that big yet, but proportionally. . . :) ) He totally dominates every team he's on (well, except the swim team because he's very *dense* physically so he has to work much harder at swimming).

I've been saying NO NO NO NO NO for a couple of years now - it's too limiting and stereotypical (my younger son is adopted African American) - and he's SO SMART! - that I want "more" for him than just playing sports. BUT -

I've been made to see that if it is HIS gift and HIS passion - then I am doing him a great disservice by denying him the opportunity. Of course, I will also see to it that he gets a good education and has a other options besides sports and that he understands that "playing games" is not the be all and end all to life. (Nor does being a "star" give you a pass on the truly important aspects of being a human being, if you know what I mean.....)

Ooops - sorry - I done gone off into braggin' about my boys........ :blush:

At any rate, dance is good for his coordination and flexibility, over-all conditioning, and strength, as well as being comfortable "on stage" and performing. (He's also recently become interested in doing some plays. How we're going to fit THAT in, though, I don't know! lol)

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wildeyed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-30-06 10:28 AM
Response to Reply #9
10. I have never seen Baryshnikov in person.
But my, isn't he a hottie?

Athletics are great. I didn't get into them until my twenties, but when I did, they helped my develop self confidence and explore some of the edgier areas of my emotional landscape, like perfectionism and over-competitiveness, in a safe way. Plus it was just so damn much fun. The problem with young gifted athletes is that people give them a pass on other important areas of development because they can throw a ball. But it sounds like you have that under control.

Right now, my daughter is doing soccer. She lost interest in dance. My son is too young to really be doing much in the way of organized sports or dance, but maybe next fall I will enroll him in dance if he is still interested. I also think he would enjoy gymnastics. He rock climbs a little already because that is my sport. Shows some talent there, too, but I am trying not to pressure him. But dance would be a great cross for any sport, or just for its own sake, and I would be thrilled if he takes a serious interest.

I just want them to be happy and responsible adults someday, you know? And I don't want someone else's narrow and regressive idea of what is appropriate to interfere with that.

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fight4my3sons Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-29-06 10:25 AM
Response to Original message
5. What I don't like about the set up is that my 3 yr old
says things like "oh look mommy, Dora! Oh, its for girls." Then he'll look over at something else and say "oh, Bob the Builder is for boys." I just want him to play with what he wants to play with. I mean my house is pretty much filled with trucks, trains, cars, animals, blocks, books, dishes & pots, musical instruments, and craft materials. Most of the things my boys have were given to them from birthdays or holidays. It is disturbing to me that my older son is already limiting himself to certain toys at age three because of how he sees them grouped at the store. I'm sure his brothers are going to catch on soon also.
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wildeyed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-29-06 12:21 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. Does the three year old go to preschool?
Just wondering if maybe he is picking those attitudes up there. I have a 3 and 5 year old, and although the kids are beginning to sort themselves by gender in th older group, they mostly don't limit themselves to activities based on gender. Also, they have a very limited selection of toys at preschool, mostly consisting of blocks, craft materials and dress-ups, so they don't really have an opportunity to limit themselves. I think that will change next year when my daughter starts public kindergarten.
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fight4my3sons Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-30-06 01:03 PM
Response to Reply #6
11. no, homeschooled
his best friend is a girl and she has different toys. I am thinking that maybe he is getting the idea from their difference in toys. He likes to play with her toys and she like to play with his, but hers are all pink, princess like things. My friend has two girls and I have three boys. It just seems like some things are so targeted towards either boys or girls. My boys all have dolls with the strollers, but they are dressed in blue, whereas her dolls are dressed in pink dresses. They have princess story books and we have farmer books( we have a lot more books than that, that's just an example). Little things like that.
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demgurl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-15-06 06:21 PM
Response to Original message
12. I can't help but I can share my own experiences.....
I usually do let my boys play with whatever they want to play with. I have never tried to direct them in any way. (much to my husband's dismay!)

My oldest is 7 and he is into everything boyish but when my 5 year old expressed a desire to take ballet, his brother expressed the same wish. Admittedly the 7 year old had so much energy that the dance teacher had to drop him since he disrupted class so much. My 5 year old has been in it for the full school year at this point and enjoys it. I have, for their father's sake, offered that they may want to take hip hop dance next year but if the 5 year old still wants ballet then I will back him completely.

The 5 year old has had a love affair with Barbie for as long as I can remember. He asked Santa for a pink convertible one year and he got it with his own Barbie.

One time he got a Barbie knock off at the dollar store and when he took her out of her package he sat there in awe saying, "Isn't she beautiful?"

He has had a Barbie birthday cake for the last two or three years. And last year the workers at the restaurant said they had never seen a more beautiful cake - that made my little one feel extra special.

I am not sure how my youngest will turn out and I try to fight stereotypes about boys and I support him when he gets necklaces or bracelets for prizes for games and such. I do worry that the boys in his class will catch on and give him hell but I will always be his staunchest supporter.

I am not sure if he is interested in all of this stuff because he just is or perhaps there are other reasons. Whatever the reason, I will let him do what interests him and I will always love him. In the end, I believe that matters more than anything else. (I hope it does)
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fight4my3sons Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-16-06 10:47 AM
Response to Reply #12
14. I think that it is wonderful that you support your son and his love of
Barbie :-) Both of your sons are very lucky to have you to support their interests. Mine are still too young to really tell me what they want to do yet, but when they do, we plan on letting them explore what they want to.
Bravo to you and your husband :thumbsup:
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Ms. Toad Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-15-06 08:39 PM
Response to Original message
13. The place that drives me nuts
(or used to until my daughter matured enough to decide it was gross) is McDonalds.

When they have their Hot Wheels/Barbie promotion (or other dual toy promotions), when you order a Happy Meal they ask "Is it for a boy or a girl." They have, at times, point blank refused to describe the toys to me - insisting that I characterize the gender of my child in order to be granted what they deem the appropriate toy. if I had a girl who liked hot wheels I had to say that I was buying a meal for a boy in order to get a hot wheels toy instead of a barbie toy. Girls who like trucks, and boys who like Barbies are already by age 3 or 4 aware that they don't quite fit in. How much worse does it make it to have to listen to mommy or daddy describing them to the McDonald's worker that they are a boy (when they are not) or a girl (when they are not).

The corporate line (I've asked) is that they have trained their employees to describe the toys, NOT to ask the gender of the child. If true, it would be at odds with the keys on their cash register which are marked "boy" and "girl." (It's not like doll and car take any more letters...)

(Of course, it was almost as frustrating that I had a girl who always wanted the Barbie rather than the Hot Wheels so I was going through the exercise for nothing other than educating her, and perhaps enlightening the worker just a smidgen)
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eyesroll Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-17-06 11:36 AM
Response to Original message
15. My problem was at Target...I was there for a baby shower gift, and they
had layettes or some such, color-coded, pink and blue.

The bigger problem?

The pink sets were emblazoned with "Little Princess."
The blue sets were emblazoned with "Baby Genius."

There was no equivalent blue "Little Prince" or pink "Baby Genius."

Overall, I have no problems with giving kids of either sex kitchens, vacuums, tools, cars, as both boys and girls cook, clean, repair and drive. My SO's little girl loves to help me cook, but also goes ga-ga over construction equipment and her dad's "DIESEL POWAH!" (new-ish car).
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electron_blue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-17-06 03:10 PM
Response to Original message
16. No Barbies, no guns and I'm not afraid to let others know that
I really don't want my daughter to have either of those. Otherwise, I'm just dealing with it as it comes up, and not making a big deal of it. Yes, I'm offering my "worldview" to my daughter in many areas, not the least of which is toys. If she asks for a Barbie when she's 8, who knows, maybe I'll "let" her get one. For the moment, I'm totally opposed to her playing with them as a 4 yr old. Sexism and gender-role-indoctrination is EVERYWHERE, family & friends give her mostly girly-girl toys, and I make sure that somehow, she also gets a Tonka truck and a t-ball set, whatnot. Whether she plays with it or not, is another matter, but at least it's available. I secretly coveted my brother's hotwheels cars & track and have never quite gotten over it. :p
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