Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sexism Through Toys

Gender stereotypes drive me crazy. Of all the things I am neurotic about as a mom, gender stereotypes are at the top of my list. I think it's because it's so limiting for kids. They are taught at alarmingly young ages that they are only capable of a select few traits, professions and interests. And I actually think boys are put in smaller boxes than girls, but girls don't have it much better.

It's easy to think we must be past this by now. It's 2010 and we are post-feminism, right? We can all be doctors and scientists and mathematicians.

And it's easy to think that these gender preferences in young kids have to do with innate differences in their DNA. That boys will be boys and girls will be girls.

Except despite my insistence that girls are equal to boys, my daughter doesn't believe women can be bosses. She told me I was silly when I said my boss was a girl. She objected to the mere idea that a woman could be in a position of power, not that she had different tendencies than a man.

These messages are EVERYWHERE. And it pains me.

Pigtail Pals recently wrote a blog post, Have Yourself a Very Sexist Holiday, about the messages kids get from toy advertising. It is insane to me that this would be just as pervasive as when I was a child, but boys and girls are told they play with different things, through advertising.

Of course to a certain extent this is likely true. Boys like to be active, girls like to nurture things. I won't argue against the concept (here. I might elsewhere...). But what about a child that goes against the mold? What about a girl who wants to play with trains? Where are the girl trains? Or a boy who wants to love on a doll? Where are the boy dolls?

Definitely food for thought as we start our holiday shopping.

Ryann's toys when she was a toddler
I strive for equality in Ryann's toy selection. She has babies, barbies and dollhouses. But she also has action figures, sports equipment and spaceships. When given a choice between Disney Princess roller skates or Toy Story (boy) roller skates she picked Toy Story without any qualms that they weren't pink. Or purple, as that is her favorite color.

Unfortunately this still takes courage, as a parent, to foster. You have to believe that gender stereotypes are only healthy when they don't limit your child's growth. And you have to not bat an eye when your child choses interests outside of his or her gender. You don't redirect to more "gender appropriate" things. You have to have the courage to let them be who they are.

My little War Machine this Halloween

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lazy Sunday

We've been so busy lately. It seems like we've both been all over the place. Ryann at her dad's every other weekend, me picking up a second part-time job in the last couple weeks and a "quick" trip to D.C. for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear before Halloween. We've barely had time to catch our breath! So it was nice to hang out at home in our jammies today.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


The atmosphere in our house isn't what I wish it to be. It was one of those things that creeps up on you slowly and doesn't complain much so you don't notice. Our house is calm. And respectful. And nice. But something still isn't right.

Ryann has been more and more clingy lately. That was the first sign I needed to pay more attention. I feel our life has been such a constant state of flux lately that I almost didn't notice. She doesn't want to do anything. She doesn't help me cook or clean like she used to. She doesn't play by herself. She doesn't want to read books. She just is much of the time.

As I've been brainstorming ways to make our lives more dynamic, I ran across this old post from The Magic Onions that put all the pieces together for me. Ryann and I were struggling in the "let's have fun today!" department because I had forgotten that kids don't always know how to play or set up a game on their own. More importantly, I forgot that my first job as a mother is to help her with her work and not always focus on my own.

Of course Ryann and I play, this is not the issue in and of itself. We've gone on many safari's looking for animals in trouble. We've played the make-all-the-Yo-Gabba-Gabba-toys-sing-at-the-same-time game more times than I can count. We are often airplanes, flying through the living room. Or even, rarely, loving mothers to a collection of dolls. I understand the important part I play in these games, especially in a one child household, but I had somewhere along the way forgotten to give it reverence.

There is one part that stuck out to me the most though... it was:
Involve your children in your work – your real work where they can contribute and feel as if they played a vital role. Use singing, warmth, stories to draw your child in rather than commands to “help” which usually causes the child to run the other way!
I obviously try to involve Ryann in my work, but she often resists it lately when I ask her to help. I don't tell her to help me. Just saying something as innocent as, "do you want to help me make cookies today?" can send the kid into hysterics and it made no sense to me! Who doesn't want to make cookies??? says my rational mind. I am a live and let live type of person, so I quickly stopped asking Ryann if she wanted to help and she definitely renewed some interest in things like laundry or randomly dumping ingredients into a batch of muffins. She still wasn't as focused on the work as she's been in the past though. I guess at some point I forgot to make it fun. How pleasantly simple.

In the admittedly short time I've been a mother, I've discovered any time you are at an impasse with your child it's your perspective that needs to change, not him or her. I'll forever be amazed at how much Ryann's behavior changes when I change my expectations. Of her or myself.