Posts Tagged ‘ dolls ’

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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Honest Thoughts on My Sons Playing with “Girl Toys”

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. He has written the fiction book “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” and is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons and can be emailed at or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

From the moment we’re conceived, we’re instantly identified and divided according to our gender. If the sonogram shows a penis, blue blankets are dutifully draped upon rocking chairs, the quickest route to the local Boys & Girls Club researched and mentally stored for later. If the sonogram lacks a penis, baby shower attendees will come equipped with (and ready to unleash at a moment’s notice) any shade of pink that exists as of this typing. These two paths are typically followed like GPS directions when you’re in the bad part of town: You don’t dare try to “do it your own way” for fear of serious repercussions.

And we’re all guilty of “genderizing” someone, as I like to call it. I’ve certainly done it. In fact, my wife and I just picked up a flowery dress and a doll for my soon-to-be 2-year-old niece’s birthday party. I mean, it would be rude if I showed up with a Matchbox car and a whiffle ball bat, right? That’s most definitely how I’d feel walking into the party. And I’m not saying giving a girl a doll or a boy a toy car is a bad thing. But where I do have a problem is when it goes beyond gift-giving and becomes a close-minded, limiting philosophy about what our children should be exposed to and where their interests should or shouldn’t lie.

While I see myself as far from the perfect parent, this is one area where I feel like I’m doing the right thing- giving my kids the freedom to explore their surroundings and establish their “favorite things” independent of my input and potentially misleading influence. After all, who am I to impede their happiness?

Well, regardless of the child’s contentment, I’ve known an embarrassing amount of people who force their preconceived theories on their kids quite liberally.

“Put down that doll. It’s for girls.”

“Isabella, you can’t be Batman for Halloween. Only boys can be Batman.”

It happens everywhere, and you’ve seen it happen, too.  I think we’re far too quick to label a toy as “for girls” or “for boys” when, in reality, there is very little actual difference between the two. And really, when I think of the toys I “borrowed” from my sister growing up, many of them would raise an eyebrow with the traditionalists out there (not to mention my undying affinity for The Golden Girls). Let’s go through them, one by one, so maybe we can determine what’s so “girly” about them.

Barbies:  Growing up with one sibling, a sister, getting intimately acquainted with Barbie was inevitable. And like any kid (girl or not), I thoroughly enjoyed playing make believe. And in fact, Barbie was where I first realized my fascination with taking women’s clothes off! Not much “girly” about that.

Kitchen: Some of the most famous chefs in the world are men! And I’m sure they started by making their moms fake blueberry pies in their fake oven.

Baby Stroller: For whatever reason, pushing a stroller is always seen as a feminine act. But any father will tell you that we spend just as much time behind a stroller than behind a grill.

Dolls: Perhaps the most traditionally girly toy of all. And you’ll almost never see a boy given this as a gift. But I’ve got news for all you traditionalists out there. Boys play with dolls all the time.  We might call them “action figures,” but they’re dolls. They are toys designed to appear like a living thing, allowing children to create fictional scenarios and fantasize about them being real. They’re dolls. Even if they’re wearing a helmet and carrying a gun.

The color pink or purple: I’m not necessarily suggesting that you adorn your sons in hot pink Juicy sweatpants, but my 4-year-old came home from camp the other day and grumbled that another kid told him “purple is for girls.” It should be noted that purple is Antonio’s favorite color and has been at least since he’s been able to speak. I was infinitely proud when he followed that up with, “But it doesn’t matter.” He’d heard that phrase from my wife. And that’s exactly the kind of thinking I want to instill in my sons. I firmly believe that allowing children to be themselves instead of forcing them to be like everyone else yields a happy kid who won’t resent his/her parents for stifling their creativity.

This leads me to a post I recently came across on the NFL Facebook page. It was a photo of a woman, donned in standard referee stripes, with two simple words: Coming Soon? It was about Sarah Thomas, who is in line to become the NFL’s first ever full-time female referee this season. I’m a massive NFL fan, but I knew immediately that the comment thread would include a significant dose of close-mindedness (read: barely literate ignoramuses). However, even I was surprised by what I saw.

Since I was seeing exponentially more of the top two comments than of the bottom two, I decided to chime in and have my voice be heard.

Turns out I wasn’t alone. As of this screen-grab, 465 other NFL fans agreed. But some…did not.

What I’ve highlighted above is exactly the type of ignorance I never want my sons to exhibit. And yes, my “brilliant observation” comment was strictly sarcastic. Not that its recipient was aware of that.

Clearly, not every football fan is prepared for female involvement in their male-dominated game of choice. But maybe, just maybe, they’d be a little bit more prepared if they were raised to retain the open-mindedness they were born with, encouraged and not discouraged to try new things, and instilled within them respect for the opposite sex.

If you disagree, I’m sorry to hear that. But as a parent, I feel that it’s my responsibility to enable my kids’ happiness, not restrict it.

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