No Son, That Boy is for Girls

Do you ever wonder just how much marketing affects you? What about toy marketing? What about gendered marketing?

Is your ‘for her‘ pen really better than the regular pens you’ve used for years? Are your daughters pink Legos more suitable for her than her brother’s super-hero Legos?

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The other day I stopped at McDonald’s. Jack and I were really craving some Crispy Chicken Honey Mustard Snack Wraps and Holden got all excited about french fries, plus I owed him a present for going pee-pee on the potty (or outside in the grass) 10 times (!!), and I figured I’d cheat a little lot by using the Happy Meal toy as his prize. (He gets just as excited, so calm down.)

So I go through the drive-through like a good lazy American, turn the truck off every time I have to speak to anyone because it’s so loud, place my order and am pleasantly surprised when they understand everything I say. I order the Happy Meal last. And then the dreaded question comes:

“Would you like a boy or girl toy?”

toyscollage

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Holden and I went to visit my best friend and his son, who is a year older. (You can read about Luke’s like a man’ complex here.) The boys played and we talked and it was grand. Then Holden said he wanted to color, so Luke asked his son to get a coloring book. When he returned with one, Luke said the dreaded phrase:

“No, he doesn’t want that one. It’s for girls.”

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I’ve searched heaven and earth for a playhouse for Holden. I knew he’d love one and my assumption was confirmed when he met a new friend down the street who has a (very small) one and every time we go over there he just hides out in it for hours. But they’re all so damn expensive, so I started scouring yardsales and the internet for a cheaper used one.

To my surprise and delight I found a Facebook page started by a family who finds/buys used items and then resells them while keeping the prices low. They not only had two playhouses, but an awesome castle with a lookout tower and slide (among other things). I got in touch with the ‘owner’ and inquired about either playhouse and the castle. One of the playhouses was pink and white; the other brown and blue. I was asked the dreaded question:

Do you have a girl or a boy?

housecollage

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The castle and (“girl”) playhouse didn’t work out because I wasn’t able to get there that day and there were other people interested. While I was driving home from WaWa I passed a house with several outside toys, including two play houses. One pink, white, and turquoise; one brown and blue.

I frequently drive by this house and not once have I seen any kids there, let alone anyone playing with the toys. So I decided to leave a friendly note asking if the owner(s) would be interested in selling one. While I was walking back to my car a sweet older woman pulled into the driveway, so I approached her and inquired about the outdoor toys.

The woman was adorable and very kind. She explained to me that the toys are there for her great-grandchildren, but they don’t visit all that much and she’s sure they don’t need both playhouses, but she wanted to ask her daughter and granddaughters if it would be okay to sell one before making me any promises. And then she asked the dreaded question:

“Do you have a boy or a girl?”

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These questions and comments happen all the time. These were in one day. I can answer all of them with this simple return question: Why does my child’s gender have anything to do with what toys I get him?

But I don’t say that when people ask me The Dreaded Question.

Instead I tell the fast-food person that it doesn’t matter. If I’m lucky, they pick one on their own. Usually, if I’m in the restaurant, they stare at me dumbfounded until I look around, see which toys are offered, and tell them which toy my child would like, not what his gender is.

I, as politely as possible, explain to the used-toy sellers that I have a boy but his gender doesn’t matter because he likes pink and is allowed to play with pink and no, we don’t think he’ll ‘turn out gay’ but we also don’t care if he is.

I correct Luke and say No, it’s for humans and then we have a long discussion about conditioning from birth and boyish vs. girly and gay vs. straight and how we love our kids no matter what and support them in whatever they want.

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If, one day, my son is dressed in all pink and acting especially nurturing and mellow and dainty, and he wants to play with your son, are you going to say “No Son, that boy’s for girls”? Because that’s what you’re doing with toys.

My son is so much more than his gender.

My son is nurturing and kind; adventurous and brave; polite and stubborn. Sometimes he’s dainty and others he’s an ox. Sometimes he’s mellow and others he’s energetic. He’s a child, not a gender.

He’s whoever the hell he wants to be. He’s figuring himself out as he grows, and I refuse to let you, or society, or anyone, stifle his findings of himself by telling him which toys are or are not appropriate for him. I’m the only one who can do that, and the only toys my son is not allowed to have are dildos and nipple clamps.

Because kid toys are just that. They’re kid toys. They’re not boy or girl toys. The marketing companies for your favorite brands may have told you they are, but you were lied to. They simply feed into and enforce the stereotypes above.

Remember when we played with sticks? (And if not, I’m sure you’ve heard several people tell you “Back in my day we went outside and used our imaginations and played with sticks.”) Were certain sticks girl sticks and others boy sticks?

No. They were sticks. And kids played with them.

That’s how toys should be. They should be toys for kids. Because really, they are.

So stop trying to make me feel guilty by buying my son something pink. I buy him dolls and trucks, so he can decide for himself which one he likes. Turns out, he likes both.

happycollage

Stop making him feel wrong by liking pink. He likes pink and blue. And green and red and purple and orange and yellow and black and white, for that matter. He likes colors, just how he likes toys.

I do not feel guilty, I feel awesome. And he is not wrong, he is amazing.

 

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Just in case the above wasn’t enough to sway you, watch this:

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Do you believe children should play with whatever they choose, or would you prefer if your son liked trucks and your daughter liked dolls? Do you think gendered marketing is a good or bad thing, or not even a thing? (What do you think of my doodles?) Let me know!


 

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21 thoughts on “No Son, That Boy is for Girls

  1. When you have lots of kids (4 is considered a lot these days right?) and they all like to play with each others stuff you realise how ridiculous putting a gender on a toy is. Kids want to play and use their imaginations, toys merely facilitate this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My daughter won’t play with Legos unless they are pink. We have a whole house full of Legos of every other color for crying out loud! Just play with the gosh darn other Legos! When I was a kid, I loved my set… No pink. My daughter is three and a half. I couldn’t stop her from loving princesses. But now I have to buy ^¥#¥#£€*#£ pink Legos if I want her to learn to build and create? So I wonder was this inborn or acquired or a vast conspiracy by Lego to double sales? ;-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh the whole pink Lego thing WAS to double sales. Every gendered marketing technique is just to double sales. Half the shampoo and stuff that are “for women” and “for men” are exactly the same.

      I think some kids can definitely be born liking certain things. BUT, I also think society has a much larger part in it than we realize. Even on TV shows, even if it’s not SAID, it’s shown that girls wear pink and like princesses and boys wear blue and like cars. So our kids are being conditioned from birth.

      Like

  3. Oh my god. I. KNOW. This is so good for numerous reasons, but as a mom to two boys I have these discussions regularly and I related so much to everything you wrote. My kids loved pink and purple early on as well as other vibrant colors, but once they went to preschool they were quickly told by other kids that pink and purple were for girls. Every time I hear “pink’s for girls” my head explodes a bit. It’s a damn color, people. Please.

    Liked by 1 person

      • He’ll be fine with you as his mom. Honestly my kids don’t get teased too much. Thus far (they’re only 5 and 6) they have a good sense of who they are. I highly recommend the book Real Boys by William Pollack. It’s a lot of info but the best takeaway for me was the importance of letting your kids be who they are at home without minimizing or ignoring the reality that it is hard out in the world. I grew up in a family that was pretty non-traditional in lots of ways but they weren’t great at understanding that I was pushed into a world everyday where our differences weren’t understood. I did get picked on for certain things and when I shared my pain/frustrations with my parents, I was met with a lot of “they’re wrong and we’re right. You need to develop a thicker skin and ignore the haters.” This wasn’t a terrible message necessarily, but they minimized my FEELINGS which made me feel uncomfortable telling them things. Applying the tools from this book has helped me tremendously with navigating some tricky stuff with my kids.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh yeah, gender marketing is a thing – a ridiculous thing!

    Our philosophy when our kids were growing up was the same as yours – let them play with what interests them, whatever color it is.

    Can’t wait until Holden starts school so we can discuss your ideas on education!

    Liked by 1 person

      • I am a teacher – college and high school. My wife was a teacher, but left the classroom because she didn’t want to be part of a broken system … our kids were, for the most part, home schooled – but unschooled is a more correct term. Both sons are in college now, one pre-med, one pre-law, and both think for themselves, so I think we did something right! Teaching is a great profession, especially when you go in with your eyes wide open – my wife was young and idealistic and it virtually ate her alive.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s been interesting watching my kids go through their stages of what they like / don’t like –

    – Oldest (girl) has always been girly. I have a vivid memory of her at 3 years old wearing these shiny pink kitten heel sandals with a bow on them while carrying her baby doll. She was wearing a skirt and had her hair in a high ponytail. So freakin’ cute!! She’s 11 now and is still very girly.
    – Middle (girl) went through a phase at 3 where she thought “black is the prettiest color.” (Direct quote, by the way) She also loved skulls, and wanted her hair in a mohawk. So I let her. I joke that she went through her goth phase at 3. Now she loves pink and skirts, but she is still my very physical tackle-and-subdue-the-world child at 8 years old.
    – Youngest (15 month-old boy) adopted one of his sisters’ dolls as his “best friend” and dragged it around with him for a few weeks. He went so far as to put his “baby” in his baby swing (that he has outgrown) and swing the baby for a bit. It was really cute watching him take care of a “baby” the way he’s been taken care of! He is still obsessed with brooms and loves sweeping. We had to get him a broom that was his size, because he was very dangerous waving around a full-size broom at eye-level. (!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah yes, we’re still going through that with the boy at 3-years-old! Haha. He’s in the independent/helper phase, so he HAS to do everything on his own or help me do everything I’m trying to do, so we’ve had to get him his own version of everything. Broom, vacuum, pots & pans, kitchen sink (literally).

      Like

    • It’s more acceptable for a grown man to like pink than it is a young boy, which makes NO sense. The whole thing is ridiculous. I let my son pick out whatever he wants — there is no “for boys” or “for girls,” only “for people” in my house.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. How’d I miss this post…? I’m late to the discussion.

    I worked for Toys ‘R Us many years ago, and was very well aware of the heavy gender marketing. I was raised to cook and clean, so I got really irritated about the household toys being in the “girls” section, with dozens of toys there generally being slathered in pink. The boys’ section? Well, we usually referred to that as “the collector’s aisle”– besides G.I. Joe and Star Wars, the collectibles specifically marketed to teens and adults were there. The collectors were not only adults, but some of them were women. I kid you not, I remember women there searching for Hot Wheels for collecting purposes.

    I liked the video because I was aware of gender marketing for hygienic products, but I hadn’t really thought of the extent. I will admit that it’s difficult to escape sometimes, however. It can be better with generic products, but, not always. But I do know that despite different packaging, the products are largely the very same.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just hate raising my son in this world. He hasn’t yet been exposed to the “boys” vs “girls” marketing — he just knows toys are toys, and he’s allowed to pick whenever ones, from whichever isle, he wants. I fear when he goes to school kids will pick on him until he conforms just like them. It’s all a ploy to make more money, and society buys into it to the point that it runs our lives.

      And it does seem much more appropriate for girls/women to like “boys’/mens'” things than the opposite.

      Like

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