On Christmas Day I stepped into the aftermath – I mean, living room – of a three year old girl’s December 25th. And do you know what stood out? The Christmas tree. It wasn’t overly decorated, with flashing lights and bells and whistles blowing. It was green. And in a sea of pink castles, tiaras, wands, and fake high heels, it was all my eyes could focus on. Surrounded by a little girl dressed in her pink ball gown, clip-clopping around in plastic heels, and the adults smiling, taking her picture, I realized I was smack dab in the middle of the Princess Industrial Complex at its finest: the adults who have bought into the marketing of every little girl wanting to be a princess, and every little boy wanting to be a police/firefighter and the little girl who believes what adults teach her.
As a child, I never fantasized about being a princess (to be fair, I never dreamt about being an engineer either). I didn’t have a tiara, or a castle, or one of those cone hats that are pink with ribbon hanging down. But, with all my friends having children, all I notice is how adults are feeding into the notion that toys are gender specific. I had Barbies (yes, never did anything more than put outfits on and do their hair) and legos (Bins of it. Never made anything more than a square house). But I also had parents who never told me that I was a princess, or that I had to be a doctor. Parents that encouraged I play with everyone and explore new things from baking to reading; climbing trees to highland dancing.
OK. I have to come clean about something; last April, for the first time in my life, I engaged in a dreamy sequence – that lasted about a week. I fantasized about what life would be like, if I was Princess Sarah. I dreamt of the English tea’s I would hold, and of practicing walking with a tiara on my head around a castle. I snapped out of that daze as I watched another 30’ish brunette become Princess Catherine (I know, technically she’s a Duchess), and quickly remembered that princess’ have long days of travel and handshaking; and they never, ever, get to run to the store late at night to satisfy a chocolate craving, in their sweat pants. Which truly some nights – I think we can all agree – is a right we take for granted.
To me it seems, that many people won’t step foot into the kids section without putting blinders on. They can’t look beyond the department store signs that direct you to one side that is girls and another that is boys. Go for a little stroll through the toy department and you will know when you cross the “gender border.”
So what is the solution? Obviously, I write to try to bring a smile to your face and hopefully, make you want to investigate a little further. I can make some suggestions: a) Google Princess Industrial Complex and read some blog posts and articles written by professionals. They have the statistics and stories b) re-think that toy you bought that little girl or boy in your life. Did you pick something they want, or you want to give them?
But what if we tell girls they can be anything they want to be – and they pick princess? Well my favourite toys growing up were dinosaurs. To this day, I still buy dinosaur items (I could write a blog post just about my love of all things pre-historic and how a T-Rex phone struggles to be loved by my boyfriend and used in our home). I slept with dino toys, talked about them, requested them as gifts and guess what? Today, I am not a palaeontologist
By guest blogger Guider Sarah of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Check out her own blog ‘Sarah Smells the Roses‘, as well as her blog posts for Girl Guides of Canada:
- Girl Guide Membership Expiry? Never!
- From Frazzled to Dartmouth Shore Area Special Events Team Member
- Bustin’ a Century Year Old Girl Guide Myth
- There Were No Sexy Nurses at the First Halloween
- Review for GGC of the Coleman Camping Cookbook and Meal Planner App
- Why Every Brownie Should Have a Camp Blanket
- I Camp Therefore I Have My Camp Blanket
Arggg – Gender specific toys make me grumble with frustration. People do what they know and what will look cute in photos they send to the grandparents. It obviously has to do with the pressure media insists as well.. I’ll give the parents that. And then of course, as neutral and open-minded as you try to raise your child… You send them into social situations with their peers who have been trained otherwise and BAM! – “I want to be spoiled with lots of pink frilly things that all the other girls have.”
I take every opportunity to bust the gender wall and tell my Brownies that girls can do anything, and girls need to know all these crazy skills.. sewing, sports, how to use a hammer, how to be a good person, organization, and how to do your part for the environment (to name a few). These are human skills, not girl or boy skills!
Well written as usual, Sarah!
great article! I have a bunch of thoughts, but no time to write them at the moment…
just want to share a link to a gender netural LEGO add from the 80s featuring a little girl:
also, love your tale about your love for dinosaurs and related toys, but not turning into a paleontologist. I LOL at that because a friend of mind also grew up loving dinosaurs and DID become a paleontologist (huh…just remembered she was also in Girl Guides too!)
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