We had a visit from my Dad last week so that he could drop off Sausage’s Easter egg, and while he was here we got onto an interesting topic. Sausage was playing happily with her toys and my Dad mentioned that he knew a kid who wouldn’t be allowed to play with pretty much any of the toys that Sausage has, because their Mum doesn’t believe in gender specificity. At first I agreed, it wasn’t so long ago that I decided to boycott Early Learning Centre as I was trying to get a doctors set for Sausage and found that the catalogue showed a boy in a doctors coat, and only a nurses dress. Don’t even get me started on the boys only construction outfit, or the one and only male doll on their website…
Though, the more I thought about it, the more confused I became about the whole issue. On the one hand, it makes my blood boil to think that Sausage may feel limited to certain roles because of her gender and that large corporations are basically programming them as such from such an early age. On the other hand, at this age, children learn from what they see so if they see Mummy in the kitchen or doing the ironing, it’s only natural for a little girl to want to emulate this.
I know plenty of little boys who would be forbidden from playing with girls toys, such as dollies or toy household equipment like irons and vacuum cleaners, as their parents (predominantly fathers) would be worried that this may make their sons turn out to be sissies, or even have a bearing on their future sexuality, but really all we’re teaching them is that ironing and hoovering is womens work and that a ‘real’ man has no place getting involved in housework. How negative is that? Sausage has many toys which could be construed as ‘girls toys’, such as a play kitchen, dolls, pushchairs and a cleaning trolley, but she also has a healthy smattering of cars, building blocks and trains too.
I think it’s a very fine line. When I first started blogging, I remember reading a heartfelt post about how one bloggers’ son had wanted to go to a fancy dress party dressed as a female TV character and about the opposition she had faced from other mothers for allowing this. If I’m honest, I still don’t know where I stand on this, on the one hand if Sausage said she wanted to go to a party dressed as a male character I’m sure I’d let her, but on the other hand I think there is a very fine line between allowing self-expression and confusing your child, or worse still leaving them open to bullying. So should we be rigidly maintaining gender roles in terms of dress, but smashing pre-conceived ideas of who does what, in terms of toys and play?
Difficult, isn’t it?
All I know is, when I was talking to Sausage the other day and asked her “Do you want to be a superhero when you grow up?” and she replied “I can’t be a superhero, Mummy, I’m a girl“, my heart broke into a thousand pieces. I don’t know where she got this idea, and I’m by no means a delicate female who lets Daddy do the dirty work. Not to mention the fact that one of her aunts coaches a boys’ football team, and her great-aunt could strip and rebuild an engine better than 97% of the males I know, so she isn’t short of a strong female role model or two!
For now, I’m going to take things as they come and each time an issue arises where she thinks that being a female renders her incapable of doing something, I’ll be trawling the net for examples to prove to her than woman CAN do anything they want. And by the same token, so can men.