The other day we went to Target and left with ANOTHER new toy car for David, and ANOTHER doll for Mary Virginia. If you know anything about gender stereotyping and how toys perpetuate gender roles, then my shopping trip is grooming David to be an engineer at Ford Motor Company and Mary Virginia to flunk third grade math. If this isn’t the sort of thing that pops up on your NewsFeed, just Google “toys and gender roles.”
Some people take it really seriously, but I’ve never thought much about it because, well, I have a boy and a girl. My house is full to the brim of trucks and trains and dolls and My Little Pony, and David plays with ponies and Mary Virginia likes trains. And David LOVES dolls. Especially if there’s one on the floor and Mary Virginia picks it up. Suddenly he’s really, really, really interested in dolls. Or, that specific doll, the one that happens to be the only thing in the entire house that Mary Virginia wants.
I don’t say anything when David wants to try on our neighbor’s dress-up plastic high heels. Actually, I can’t imagine trying to dissuade him from that sort of play because David doesn’t check with me about how or what he plays with ever. Are there kids in the world who you can tell, “Don’t play with that, that’s for girls.” And they just put it down because they value your opinion? I only give him direction when safety is an issue, and even then I sometimes just close my eyes and hope for the best.
After all, playing with dolls have its benefits. Kids engage can’t help but engage in getting creative and in imaginative role play with dolls. If a realistic baby doll helps in the growth of their social and communication skills, then I don’t see why we should stop them from playing, just because we thought it isn’t appropriate.
My kids got very gender-specific toys for Christmas — a doll crib for Mary Virginia, fire house Legos for David. Because I am a tyrannically-traditional mother. Also because it’s what they wanted; it’s what makes their eyes light up.
When David sat down to play with his Legos, his sister joined him. David drove trucks in and out of the fire house I built for him And his sister? She played with the little Dalmation and Lego men. She put the dog in a dump truck, the men on cars, and then placed another Lego on top and said, “Ni-night, dog-dog. Ni-night doll-doll.”
That noise you heard? That was the sound of the feminist movement gasping at the horror.
But just look how happy she is.