Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Of boys and girls

In some faraway imaginary fairyland, I assumed that my children would play with all kinds of toys and enjoy the fun of it.

How wrong was I. Gender stereotyping is alive and kicking. I can't but admit that some of it seems nature, hurried along by nurture. Whenever Cubling chooses her clothes, it's a dress, pink is for girls and trousers are for boys, the train tracks are never picked out to play with because they've been categorised as boys' toys.

I vowed not to go down the pink lego route only to realise that the neutral stuff is boooring and the non boring stuff is all about wars, monsters, killing and fighting. I'd rather have pink then. I like horses more than dead aliens.

I remember loving lego and building space stations. I played with a boy most of the time. In fact, my early, pre-school (before I turned 7) , friends were all boys. But I didn't loathe to play with them, in fact I loved it because they had racing cars, remote control stuff, and a lot more lego.

For Cubling, playing with boys is totally out of the question. She is reluctant even to go to boys' birthday parties. The other day she noted that inviting a boy over for play wouldn't be a good idea because she didn't have any boys' toys.

What appears to have happened in the 36 years since I was her age is that toys (and clothes) have been gendered and have become extreme. There is no longer a middle ground. I'm pretty sure that most girls enjoy playing with dolls and dressing up while there will be more rough play with boys usually. But what I object to is the extreme end, of making all boys' toys aggressive and having some sort of fighting element to them, while all girls' toys are princessy, cute, dressing up and about being beautiful. The lego space station has become Star Wars or Monster Fighters.

I'm worried by girls growing up to believe that beauty is the most important asset a woman can have, I'm worried that Cubling at 5 years announced that women can't become doctors because doctors are men (and our GP is a woman!!!).

However this worry is beaten by an even more uncomfortable observation. There is no mean sense of alienation by the way that guns and fighting instruments are accepted as necessary equipment in the world of boys. It must be a cultural difference that I'm only becoming aware of now. All guns and toys of war were a big no no when I grew up. The only time I would set hands on a gun was for carneval and it was only a borrowed one. Any self respecting parent would ban guns from their home. The prevalence of gun use in children's toys that I've witnessed here and now makes me wonder if I lived in some strange vortex, if things have changed over time or if the banning of war toys is due to German history and the peace movement.

I'm not sure, but I can't help but be worried by seeing young boys aiming to shoot and kill.


Laura McIntyre said...

It really is sad :(

I guess that is a benefit to having both a boy and girls as they get to see both stuff , in fact the boy (4) much prefers girl stuff to play with and is always asking when he is turning into a girl...

cartside said...

funny, my eldest used to ask when she'd become a boy! I still have hope that my youngest will play with the train set and the like, because at the moment she just likes toys as it should be. Dressing up, but also cars and trains, and when she watches Peppa Pig, she identifies with George because he's the younger one.

Alex Walsh said...

I think the toy gun stuff may be more specific to Germany. When I was growing up (I was 5 in 1980), we all had cap guns that fired rolls of 100 paper caps.

The arguments that used to ensue: I shot you, no you didn't, I ducked! always made the games fraught.

We play NERF guns with our 5 year old. He knows not to shoot in the face and he knows that it's play and I guess that's important. It's good fun though.

Wendy said...

I won't let my two boys have toy guns or swords, they used to moan about it but now they know it's something I won't budge on.



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