My daughter is 6 months old. I’m not currently concerned about sexualization… the thought alone makes me nauseous so I choose not to think about it yet. I have actually started reading Peggy Orenstein‘s book and there is one topic in particular that really grabbed me. STUFF.
Girl stuff vs Boy stuff.
When I was a kid, I wasn’t into Barbies. I had He-Man toys and Gobots. I played baseball with the neighborhood boys. I loved my Micro Machines! People called me a Tom-Boy. I never really thought about whether or not my mom was especially progressive for letting me have those toys and not pushing me to wear dresses (although she loooved when I voluntarily put one on), but I suppose she was. What shocks me is that people still peg a girl as a Tom Boy for playing with those toys or for being into sports. A girl is still expected to love pink and princesses and dresses. And what’s even more shocking to me is that there are people in this world who believe that what toys or clothes your child likes has some effect on their sexuality. Hear this now: I love boys and always have. That was built-in. And despite my baseball hat wearing and my more dominant personality (something often pegged as “masculine”) I never had problems with the boys… ehem… if you know what I mean. For me it was never about wanting to be a boy or being a lesbian or whatever other nonsense people think; it was just what I liked to do. And actually, I think being allowed to be strong and dominant has given me the confidence to do whatever I wanted to do as an adult.
Moving beyond just Orenstein’s book, I’ve been reading more on the “princess culture” that is being shoved down the throats of little girls. Sure, some little girls just naturally gravitate to that stuff and that’s fine. But why should they be limited? In fact, I have always felt that toys marketed to boys inspire more creativity and spark interests that lead to both hobbies and careers later in life. Legos. Chemistry sets. Erector Sets. (Do they even still make those?) Why should my daughter be limited to the Disney Princess make-up kit? What does that do for her sense of self? Tell her that beauty is what is most expected of her? I’ve seen science-themed party favors labeled as “Great for a boy’s party!” I’m sorry, what was that? BOY’S party? What about science is specific to boys? And we wonder why there is a shortage of females in science, technology and engineering fields. Stealing from something I saw along the way (I can’t remember where so I can’t give due credit… sorry!), couldn’t my daughter benefit from an astronaut makeover rather than a princess makeover? Can’t we take her to go watch the planes take off over the Potomac? And after all of that, can’t I still take her to ballet?
Frankly, I’d like to keep princesses out of Darby’s toy box and closet for as long as I am able only because I don’t see the value. When she comes home asking for it, fine. Barbies will likely not have a residence in our home (between body image and the skanky clothes those b*tches wear, she doesn’t need that). I know I can’t control that stuff forever, but I can for a while and I intend to. I want to expose her to planes and trains; building toys; art and music; the Cubs and the Red Sox! If pink and princesses are her thing, I won’t limit that. But I certainly won’t limit her TO that. There is too much other cool stuff out there.
I actually think this kid nailed it. To quote the brilliant Riley, “Why do all the girls have to buy pink stuff?” They don’t, Riley. And I promise you, Future Ms. Marketing Director, that my little girl can have super heroes if she wants them.
There is no denying that stuff is both a reflection of who we are and an influencer of how we are who we are. Kids and adults alike. I want Darby to find success in her life, however she may define it. Ballerina or brain surgeon. I want her to be strong. I want people to tell her that she’s beautiful AND brilliant… perhaps the latter more often. Unfortunately the stuff that is marketed to her tells her that being beautiful and finding her Prince Charming will lead to happily-ever-after. I hope she does find her Prince (or Princess) Charming some day… but what leads to happily-ever-after is being confident and proud of who you are. I will simply not allow Disney or any of the other toy companies impede upon that ideal. They are not the boss of my brilliant daughter. I will protect her from this crap.