Posts Tagged ‘ boys ’

Kids Are Not Gender-Neutral, Right?

Monday, November 4th, 2013

When it comes to toys, I think the gender-neutral argument is tricky. I learned in my Women’s Studies classes in college how the marketing of products towards women often reinforced negative stereotypes. Part of that I agree with. But part of that class I kind of want to call bullshit on, now that I have a boy and a girl and see what they naturally gravitate towards.

I’m not saying just because my boy likes trucks and my daughter likes to bake is proof that gender neutrality doesn’t exist. I’m just saying I think it’s hard to take a rigid stance, because kids are ultimately human beings and each of us comes into the world with natural, inherent differences. I think kids show what they are interested in from an early age, regardless of how much you try to keep their toys, surroundings, etc. “neutral.”

Having said that, I think as parents we have a lot of control on how to guide those interests.  Companies market the princess crap and kitchen stuff to a heinous level for girls, and trucks and building sets to an unapologetic level for boys. It’s exciting to see Easy Bake Ovens coming out for boys and a Barbie Construction Set for girls. As many articles point out, it’s not a black and white issue. My guest blogger, Joe Depropero, wants his sons to play with dolls.

For me, I’ve noticed core differences in having a boy versus a girl.  Emmett has always gravitated towards cars, trucks and more masculine things, like fire hydrants (his current obsession). Of course now Fia loves hydrants too because she likes anything he likes and vice versa–at least for the split second before they start fighting over it. When Fia was carrying around her baby doll, I got him one too because he kept taking hers. Now, at nearly 22 months, I don’t even know where his doll is.

On garbage mornings, we run out when we hear the truck. He screams in delight. If we are driving and he sees a cement mixer, he freaks out like I would if I saw Madonna. He also loves to sit quietly (up to 30 minutes) and page through his books, looking closely at each picture or trying to figure out how a toy works.

Fia was–and is– different. She honestly never cared about trucks, construction sites or hydrants. It’s not for lack of exposure. Her best friend from birth is a boy. She was exposed just as many cars and trucks. She will play with them for awhile, but she just isn’t interested in the same way. However, because she wasn’t around girls who were obsessed with princesses (thank god), so far, she hasn’t shown much interest (at least I think that’s why). Generally speaking, she’s not a girly-girl and she’s pretty content to play with whatever is in front of her.

I have a mom friend who said her 4-year old boy loves pink and purple. He also loves construction and trucks. She said most of his friends were girls. So again, I think inherent nature along with who they hang out with and what they are exposed to, is what makes the most difference.

Where parenting comes in: I wouldn’t push the princess thing on your girl or make your boy car-crazy.  I think there’s a lot of danger when you push hard one way or another and I’m very wary of the marketing.  Especially towards girls. I proudly posted last week how relieved I was that Fia wanted to be a pig– not a princess–for Halloween. I hope she never gets into that stuff. She is though, a born nurturer. Whether it’s with the cat or her stuffed animals, she has this maternal way about her.   So why not nurture what she likes in moderation?

I guess that’s the key. Moderation and choice. What do you all think? Is there such a thing as really and truly raising gender-neutral kids? And if so, is that even right? I feel like this is sounding like a term paper so I’m signing off. Will look forward to your thoughts!

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