[ There are possibly six people I went to Hampshire with who would find the subject line amusing. Five of them would remind me that I forgot “race.” ]
So, I received this comment on my post on Whuff’s toys:
What would be so bad about passing a “boy’s toy” to a daughter? I’m not sure I undersand the idea of gendered toys that early. It seems unlikely that an 8-month-old boy would naturally prefer a truck over a doll. Or that an 8-month-old girl would be opposed to playing with a truck.
I guess my question is that you seem like a liberal person and you say you consider yourself a feminist, so I am curious as to your reasoning behind placing your children into traditional — and potentially limiting — gender roles, especially from such a young age.
And boy howdy, could I ever expound on THAT. Lucky for me, it’s my blog! I can yammer on at great length! It’s what it’s for!
So, anyhow, I think there was a fundamental misunderstanding first of all. I expressed a preference for gender-neutral toys and coincidentally mentioned our plans for more children (who could potentially be boys or girls [or neither! or both!]) as a piece of that. And that was misunderstood to mean that I wouldn’t pass on boy toys to a girl, which isn’t true at all. What I meant was “Oh, I really like gender neutral toys for Paulo and it’s totally a bonus that they would be equally enjoyable if any of our future children are girls!”
Because truly, I just prefer gender neutral toys. Especially for babies. ESPECIALLY for babies.
There’s no good segue here, I’m just going to go on an extremely long digression.
Back when I was preggo, we were asked about finding out the sex of the fetus and I joked that I wanted to know so I would know what color swag to buy. I was only partially kidding. One walk through Babies R Us and it’s nearly impossible to find more than a few gender neutral items, even for newborns! There are some, and they’re generally in the green/yellow color palette with safari animals. Green and yellow are perfectly cromulent colors, but to avoid having a nursery that was just one giant rubber ducky – I felt like I needed to know which side of the aisle I should be walking down – blue or pink.
And this was even before he was born! Now, it should be noted that I did not have a preference for the sex of my kiddo and noted “boy” as “Awesome! I shall buy blue onesies rather than pink ones!” and the verdict would have been the same for a girl (only with the color of the onesies reversed). And why on earth do I care about the color of my baby’s onesie? I don’t, really. Except that I care about whether or not it’s ugly. And most of the gender neutral clothes I’ve seen are pretty heinous. A few here and there are ok, but I didn’t want twenty six size one sleepers all covered in frogs.
Anyhoodle. So, we found out that we had a fetus with male parts and started acquiring things. And my annoyance only grew from there.
First of all, who decided boys need to have sports things? I hate them. I may dress my son in gendered clothing, but I refuse to allow “Mommy’s Champ” or a single stray football (European or American) to grace his person. This doesn’t even come close to the fire-of-a-thousand-suns hatred I have for anything “princess” themed for girls, but it sticks in my craw nonetheless. So, nothing ugly and no sports things. This really narrows down the possibilities for baby boys. Whuff’s wardrobe is really pretty neutral and I’ve saved quite a lot of things that can be used for future babies and only about 25% of them really are gendered. And hell, I’d put the “#1 With the Ladies” onesie on a girl in a heartbeat. (See also: the AC/DC onesie. Any of his clothes bedecked with skulls.)
So, gendered clothes. Sort of. Sometimes. Really, it’s that I prefer clothes that are attractive. If there were more truly neutral clothes available that fit my own fussy, fussy criteria – I’d be all over them. (That is to say, that aren’t $900000 apiece. I’ve seen the nice stripey things from the various Scandihoovian children’s boutiques, but I’m not paying more than $10 per item for something that’s going to get pooped on.)
So then. Toys. Should be easy enough! Except also not.
That there exists such a thing as a “Busy Baby Boy!” teether shaped like a saw makes my soul sad in my angry place. I’m blocking exactly what the nauseatingly pink equivalent was because I was too busy having a VERY LOUD INTERNAL MONOLOGUE ABOUT HOW NO ONE OF ANY GENDER SHOULD BE TEETHING ON A SAW.
Which is where I think my commenter lost me. I’ve purposefully eschewed gendered baby toys because I loathe them. I don’t think they should be. I can get the purpose behind gendered clothes – you want your baby to be cute and you’re dressing him/her up like a little person and you feel like you have a better definition of “person” when that includes gender. Sure. I do it too. I put my son in a tux for my wedding and it was adorable! But toys? For a BABY?! This brings us back to the original post wherein I showed off my son’s grand total of five non-stuffed toys and none of them are gendered.
When he gets old enough to choose his toys, he has complete freedom to choose whatever interests him. Y’know, within reason (as in, no, I’m not buying you an actual weapon no matter how much mascara you put on when asking me). For now, it’s my call and what I’ve come up with has been ambigenderous.
Whew. Very long digression.
Anyhow, Paulo is far too young to understand his gender. He knows he has a penis because he grabs it whenever it’s exposed (which he finds to be HI-LARIOUS), but he has no idea what it’s for or that there are other *options.* His room is totally gender neutral. His toys are gender neutral (and I’m even including the future dump truck in that because trucks are just awesome). I believe it’s truly important for him to choose his own gender identity, whatever that means to him. It’s most likely that he’ll prefer “masculine” things and end up traditionally “male,” but it’s not inevitable and I’ve never made my parenting choices as if it is. There are no guarantees that my son will adhere to a normative male identity. And I’m not trying to foist one upon him.
And oh boy does it bug me that the marketers and toy manufacturers have decided that babies NEED gender identities. I know it’s to sell crap to parents and they’re more likely to buy gendered things (as seen by the massive amounts of said crap that exists out there). Which leads to a vicious cycle: parents want what’s best for their kids and see gendered toys as appealing thinking that their children will prefer a toy that matches their sex. Parents buy said gendered toy. Manufacturers make more gendered toys! Everything must be gendered! GENDER IT ALL UP! Parents then feel like they need to buy the gendered toy because the other toy is “wrong.” Cycle continues.
This is perhaps an abrupt place to stop, but I’ve yammered on long enough and my child in his unisex sleeper with the guitar on it must be soothed and it would appear that none of his clever stacking toys are up for the task. Time to unleash the boob.
[ED: Ironically (in the Alanis Morissette sense of the word), whatever my intentions were for his nursery NOT being green and yellow… it’s green and yellow. And completely gender neutral. That just kind of happened as I acquired things and then designed the room around his treetop friends playmat.]