Now this is a home & family blog, but every once in a while, something comes up that I feel the need to comment on. And here we are.
Toys are for kids.
This past week there was a news article online about how NERF would soon begin producing toys for girls. Pink bows that shoot little foam arrows. And isn't this great because now GIRLS can have what was once a BOYS toy. Now some feminists may stand up and shout HOORAY for girls because now they are included. I ask why wouldn't you buy your child a NERF toy before? Are girls only allowed pink & purple toys? Are toys that are blue, yellow and black solely a boy's domain?
The article I read talked about the increasing popularity of archery among girls and cited popular culture such as Disney's Brave and The Hunger Games as places with strong female characters who use a bow and arrow - but I ask you this: Did Katniss or Merida carry a PINK BOW AND ARROW???? NOOOOOOOO!
We have seen this before. It's been less than 2 years since LEGO introduced "LEGO Friends" - which is basically a line of pinked up LEGOs where the minifig "people" have boobs and long hair. I was appalled when I saw them and promised myself that I would not be buying them. But my daughter has fallen prey to the "for girls" marketing and asked Santa. And Santa delivers.
Another great example is "engineering" toys. It's a well established fact that there have always been more boys than girls who show interest in engineering, math and science. One line of thinking is that toys "for girlls" don't play on those strengths and by the time kids get to school, boys have an advantage. So one company (or person, I don't really know) has invented a toy "for girls". Guess what. It's pink. With cutsey ribbons & figurines. There is really nothing wrong with this toy - other than at first glance it seems a bit pricey and limited in functionality (but it's not even "out" yet, so what do I know). My bigger issue is this - what's wrong with getting your daughter some k'nex? Legos? How about Lincoln Logs - would you buy them for your daughter if they were "Pink'n Logs"??
So there are pink toys, what's the big deal? I'll tell you what the big deal is.
Anyone with girls & boys may overspend on 2 sets of gear and toys. Pink pack & plays, strollers & car seats that "can't" be passed down. Waste of money. I had a girl first and mostly avoided being pinked out on major purchases, but I did fall victim to the trend later on.
Does too much pink stunt development? I have no proof of this, but if all your kids toys are pink, how will they learn colors? Seriously. I've seen pinked out toys of all sorts - pink doctor kits, pink stuffed puppies, pink sorting blocks.
The problem with all this nonsense isn't that girls only want pink, it's that parents feel like they need to cater to the pinkness to appeal to girls and it just isn't true. Does an infant girl really have a preference for pink? And would a little girl really turn down toys in a rainbow of colors when they are older? I think not. It is a self fulfilling prophecy I think - the more your pink up your girl, the more she may grow to feel that only pink will do and maybe that if it's not pink, purple, or bejeweled, that it's not "for her".
Maybe I've got unrealistic expectations - that my daughter will get to decide what she likes. That her world will not be defined by a color or by ruffles and bows.
And you know what? It's not just about the girls - it's about the boys too! I want my boy to grow up in a world where he can play with "girls toys" too! He should be free to play in a plastic kitchen, cuddle a baby doll, or even play dress up. I want him to view girls as kids first rather than some strange pink version of himself. If we color all girls as pink and all boys as blue, then we're limiting them. We're segregating genders for no good reason at a very young age.
The world is full of powerful cultural influences to define gender roles. It's nearly impossible to avoid it, and I'm not suggesting that we should, but I do think we should strive to have our children free to decide what they like, how they like to play, and to explore their world without a pink or blue filter.
For what it's worth - my big girl spends more time playing with the "gender neutral" Duplos than with her pastel LEGO Friends, her bow & arrow set is brown, and her favorite color is orange.