I went birthday present shopping for a friend of my kids’ this weekend.
As I walked down the toy aisles, I tried to think back and remember if toys were so strictly segregated when I was a kid. It was pretty startling. There was the pink aisle and the ‘every other color’ aisle. There were fashion dolls on one side and, pretty much, every other kind of toy on the other.
My first thought was that being a girl was pretty limiting. You had a lot of different versions of the same toy and that seemed to be it. Then I realized how wrong I was.
I was a tom-boy. That’s a thing. That’s what you call it when a little girl acts in a more masculine manner. I played with G.I. Joes and nobody thought anything of it. I played baseball, tennis, soccer and softball and no one said it was weird. I climbed trees and scraped my knees and it was fine.
I cut my hair short and few commented on it.
The truth is that my daughter can walk down the ‘boys’ aisle at that store, pick up any of the toys in the rest of the color spectrum and no one will think anything of it. That’s acceptable.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are serious restrictions imposed on women and girls. But, in my opinion, masculine women and girls are much more accepted in our society than feminine men and boys and that’s not a good thing.
If my boy walked down the pink aisle and picked up one of those fashion dolls, people would notice. When he paints his nails, people notice. When I sit for long periods of time tending to my daughter’s hair, my son will often sit behind me. He’ll brush and style my hair, generally loading it down with so many ‘hair pretties’ that I make clinking noises with every step I take afterward. I know that the same people who give him and me funny looks when they see his painted nails would most likely look askance at that practice as well.
My daughter has been blessed in that her temperament, personality and likes align pretty well with societal expectations. She’s just naturally very girly. She loves nothing more than fashion dolls, fashion video games, hair pretties, dancing, and all things pink and princess.
My son is a somewhat feminine boy. He doesn’t identify as a girl but he’s sensitive, he likes cooking, dancing, live theater, My Little Pony and fashion. He has quite firm opinions regarding fashion, too. Let me give you an example outfit. Sneakers & socks topped by navy slacks. Then a red polo shirt with the collar sticking up and a black t-shirt worn over it. He topped that ensemble off with a brown tweed jacket and a herringbone ivy cap.
He has plenty of masculine tendencies but many our society dub feminine as well. While masculine tendencies are generally indulged in girls, feminine tendencies in boys have been strongly discouraged. Boys are told to ‘be a man’.
My son cried at the end of the new Spiderman movie and my husband won my heart yet again by telling him it was okay to cry at sad stories. I love that my husband looks on my son’s tears as a sign of empathy and, as such, something to be valued.
I’m lucky my husband isn’t opposed to letting my son wander down whichever toy aisle he pleases. I hope that we can start moving more away from our strangely segregated child rearing practices and just treasure all aspects of our children’s multi-faceted personalities, both those dubbed masculine and feminine.