I read something recently in the Omaha World-Herald that got me thinking... "A dangerous past-time.." "I know." *
The article was written by local columnist Rainbow Rowell and it deals with gender roles and toys. I will wait here patiently while you read or skim it, which will save me a lot of time recapping the article. Lazy, yes. I've had a hard month; indulge me.
Okay. So what I was thinking today is that when it comes to gender roles, many people (and by this I mean mostly, but certainly not exclusively, women) seem to get quite bent out of shape by any toy, television show, product etc. that goes out of its way to appeal to girls by being... well, girlie. Some examples are the pink Legos mentioned by Rainbow, Disney princesses, Barbie etc. It's like being a girlie girl is letting down the people who worked so hard for women's rights or something.
I have boys and girls, and my personal experience is that they are just wired differently. Sure, sometimes my little boys played with dolls, or dressed up in princess dresses and jewelry. Sure, sometimes my little girls ran around the house hacking down imaginary enemies with their sword fighting skills. But really, I think that most girls are just naturally wired to enjoy "pretty" things and most boys are looking for some action and adventure. So why do so many these days feel embarrassed if their little girls want to act like GIRLS?
Maybe this is just another example of how the traditional roles of girls and women in society is just not valued as much as the traditional role of boys and men. We want our girls to go out and DO things. Don't just be suckered in by that cute baby or pretty dress, darn it! We are appalled that in the third world, girls are frequently treated as lesser citizens, not even worth educating in many places. But aren't we subtly saying the same thing about the worth of being a girl when we discourage girls from choosing a certain toy or activity or maybe even a career... just because of it's "girliness"?
Maybe I'm just sensitive since my career of choice is the girliest one of all... stay at home mom. I don't wear pearls and a nice dress while vacuuming and I don't want to... but I don't have a burning desire to be out in the wide world performing engineering time studies, either. (I did that. In another life... long ago.) I like to wear pretty clothes, I like to take care of babies and I'm a sucker for makeup in cute little packages. I totally would have loved My Little Pony (with combable hair!) and pink Lego sets if they were around when I was little. I remember my mom making me a Cinderella costume for Halloween when I was in the second grade, and one of my prized possessions was a coat that had a fake fur collar that I lovingly referred to as my "big buffy coat". I loved Barbies. I also had my own Tonka dump truck. And look, I grew up mostly normal.
If you have a daughter who happens to like trucks, Hot Wheels and ninja stuff, I don't have a problem with that. And my son loves his baby doll. Obviously, there is a lot of cross-over for both genders in their interests at any given time. But I think that we need to give little girls a break and let them know that it is definitely okay to be a girlie girl. Without apology. Because being a boy is great. And being a girl is great, too.
* See lyrics from Disney's Beauty and the Beast