“Boys'” Toys

This week we visited great aunt and uncle’s house to celebrate my grandfather and my great aunt’s birthdays. There were lots of little cousins around, which was great for my Monkey, who doesn’t get a lot of time with other kids. During the celebration, Monkey found a toy that he liked: a pink My Little Pony with glitter in her hair.  The sparkles enthralled him. Keep in mind, Monkey isn’t even a year old yet. Anyways, a family member came around and commented on the fact he was playing with a girl’s toy. The comment wasn’t spiteful or disgusted or anything like that. It was more of “I swear there are toys for boys around here somewhere so he’s not stuck playing with a pony.”

Now gendered toys have always struck a weird chord with me. When I was a little girl, I was more of a tomboy, which wouldn’t have bothered me, but my sister was a girly girl down to her core. She played with Barbies, had long Barbie hair, loved dresses and make up. I played with hot wheels and Beanie Babies. No one ever discouraged my play, but somehow I always felt like I was doing it wrong, being a girl wrong. I think I secretly longed to be the girly girl, but my sister was just better at it (that and I wanted to make sure I was different from my sister so I sneered at the Barbies).

Now I’ve got a baby of my own and as he enters toddler-hood, the toys are getting more and more distinct between what’s considered for boys or for girls. And, more than anything, I want Monkey to choose for himself what he enjoys rather than imposing a role on him. But, I’ll admit, I’m struggling.

It’s not just toys that are different. My husband and I went to pick out a laundry basket for all of Monkeys bibs/face cloths for our kitchen (so the clothes that are kept downstairs are separate from bedroom clothes). The one we found was purple and I spent a good minute looking for one in a “boy” colour. Brian ended up asking me why it mattered since it’s a hamper, not a dress. He was right. We bought the purple one, but I felt weird about it.

Then today, I went to buy plastic bowls for baby food (since I had a fun episode of Monkey grabbing the regular one I was using to feed him and nearly shattering it against the table). There were only packages of pink/orange. I considered for a moment waiting until they were restocked. But they’re bowls! Why does it matter? Who cares if Monkey eats goldfish from a pink container? Why does it matter if he wants to play with pink toys or dolls or trucks or dinosaurs?

I wonder if I’d feel the same if he were a girl. Would I care if the only colours out there were blue and green? Probably not. Is it because I have always preferred blue to pink? Is it because boys’ toys are considered “normal” while girls’ toys are the deviation? Or is it because the colour pink has negative connotations no matter who is playing with it? If pink is the colour equivalent of female and all that is feminine, why do I despise it so much? I embrace other parts of being feminine, but can’t get over the pink. To me, pink is juvenile, weak, and flaky, and I don’t want my kids (no matter their sex) to be those things. But is pink inherently anything? It’s a colour. Like seriously.

Flowers are pink. Flowers that can grow through anything. Flowers that make the world a little brighter and help sustain ecosystems. My skin is pink-ish. It protects me from the world and holds my pink insides together. The sky as the sun sets and rises turns pink, breathtaking against the everyday blue. Pink isn’t evil. Pink also isn’t inherently female. It’s a colour, not a person. But I still have to force myself to let pink into my house.

What about you? How do you feel about “gendered” toys or toys coloured to indicate they are for boys or girls? Is it a non-issue or is it something that needs addressing? Are you a pink-advocate or do you despise it?

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