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Having a boy and a girl (especially when the boy is your first) is a very interesting parenting dynamic, at least for me. For the first two years of motherhood, at no point did the idea of gender or gender roles even appear on my radar. Well, maybe that is a lie--I think I had thoughts like, "I'm glad I have a boy so I don't have to think about that". That could be as simple as being obligated (at least by media/marketing standards) to buy the pink version of a toy. Or That could be the complete (and kind of disgusting, if you ask me) saturation of princesses on anything that is deemed "girlie".
Well, here I am, now with a wonderful, opinionated, bruiser of a little girl. And I think about gender roles, or gender stereotypes, quite frequently. While others in my house may not be on my page--if my son wants to play with dolls or my daughter wants to play with tools, that is fine by me as long as they are both happy (honestly, I don't even like writing that sentence because it implies I think dolls are for girls and tools are for boys, which I do not...). You will never hear "That's for girls" or "That's for boys" pass my lips. I am uncomfortable with how toy stores market their toys, with the pink aisles clearly meant for girls and the blue aisles clearly meant for boys. I think, for young boys especially, they are made from the start to feel like it is WRONG for them to want something in that pink aisle. And, while this is getting off the topic of this blog, I strongly believe that these marketing tactics are a building block for bullying and homophobia and big mean politicians thinking they have any right to comment on who can marry who.
While I will raise issue with dolls and home and cooking stuff being marketed to girls only, I also have a fundamental problem with the entire idea of princesses being marketed, period. I understand the fun of fantasy and dress up, but as far as I am concerned there are plenty of other things my daughter can dress up as. The ultra-saturation of the princess culture is more than my tomboy roots can handle. Princesses are everywhere, plastered all over everything (usually 99% of "everything" is cheap, plastic pieces of crap) and I do not like them. Nothing about the princess fantasy is appealing to me, and at no point do I want my daughter to grow up thinking she needs a man to rescue her from anything (all the while being perfectly coiffed with her perfect dress and perfect shoes and perfect skin and blah blah blah....).
All this talk is just setting the groundwork for what transpired in my house this morning.
Little Man (to The Animal): No, you can't play with my cars. You don't like my cars. You like princess cars!!
I can probably count on one hand the number of time the word "princess" has even been spoken in our house. Apparently, it's like a swear word. And I know they don't teach that kind of stuff at his daycare. So how did this get into my not-quite-three year old's brain? This is exactly what I am trying to avoid!! ACK!!
He repeatedly tells me he learned it on SuperWhy. SuperWhy also taught him all his letters, so it can't be half bad, but seriously? This whole princess thing is running rampant and I apparently have no control over it.
It makes me sad that despite my best efforts, there are very clearly "girls things" and "boy things" and that my little boy has already discerned the difference. It also makes me sad that this is something I even have to think about. Why can't everybody play with everything? And why do girl things have to be pink? And boy things have to be blue? And why do you have to be the odd duck if you dare to cross those lines?
I think this is a look into the next few years of parenting as both of my kids start to carve out a little nook for themselves. I just hope that they have independent minds and aren't penned in to what Disney or Barbie or the Superheroes tell them they should like.