While my initial thought was that what a baby first and foremost needs is an environment that will create a feeling of security, all the websites and stores teach me wrong.
What my baby will need is apparently pink princess dresses if it’s a girl or blue onesies with cars on it, if it’s a boy.
As of now, I don’t know which sex my baby will be born with, and I don’t want to know either. What I know is that it likes to wake up around 5am starting the day with a nice workout in my belly. I know it moves a lot more in rhythm when I play Cello Music to it (such as Apocalyptica) and it seems to dislike Punk, cause it’s movements hurt when I listen to that (well maybe it’s just that it pogos). I know that I’ll love it no matter what, same as it’s dad.
So when we were shopping for baby clothing and furniture I visited a big online store for baby and children needs. I couldn’t look for “clothing for newborns”. The website separated between “Girl’s Dreams” and “Boy’s World”.
I was, and still am, shocked by this. It’s not only the fact that they separate between Boys and Girls, I could deal better with that. It’s the fact that they give the Girls the Dreams and the Boys the Worlds.
Is it just me that finds this distinction more than only questionable?
Looking into the categories parents will find even more clear indicators of what’s in for boys and what for girls.
In the girls category you may find pink stuff, fairy stuff, unicorns, princess crowns, etc.
In the boys category you may find blue stuff, Bob the Builder Stuff, tractors, toy-tools and so on.
So the girls get, from their birth on, the things that are connected with fairy-tales and dreams, the boys get what is connected to “the real world”. You know, real boys like to get their hands dirty, love cars and Ponies are for Pussies. Real girls do their Make-Up, clean the house and need a husband to exchange a light bulb.
From my kinder-garden time I recall a little boy who loved playing with my Ponies and Barbies (don’t get me wrong here, I had those, but I had plenty of cars as well).
So what is with those dreamy-eyes little boys that love to tell stories and are very sensitive? What about those little girls that rule the sandbox and build complex highway systems for the toy cars in there?
When I look into the stores I get the impression that these children are somehow wrong. Maybe it’s their parents, doing severe mistakes when raising them?
Let me make something absolutely clear here: I’m not a fan of “gender-neutral” education, I think there are big differences between boys and girls. A boy will never have to deal with his first period and a girl will never wake up with a weird boner. I believe that gender identity is something that needs to be taught to a child by it’s parents. However, that does not mean that “Boys will be boys” and “Girls can’t do math” (follow the links to great articles on this). There is a fucking big difference between gender stereotypes and gender distinction markers.
To avoid misunderstandings: I don’t want to exclude trans people here, I think that it can happen, has happened and will happen that a soul is born into a “wrong sex” body. But from those trans people I’ve met only a few really appeared to me as being in the wrong body. Plenty more were, in my eyes, overwhelmed by the stereotypes on their sex and flew into the stereotypes of the opposite one. I wish that these would be given the chance to be as they are without the need to transform their body into something society can connect with who they are.
So to go back to where I started, what would I wish for? How do I want the discussion about gender and equality to look like when my child is a grown up?
I think that while we are on the right way, it’s still plenty of miles to go. By now, little girls can wear blue and no one cares. Put a little boy into a pink sweater and everyone loses their minds.
[created with http://memegenerator.net/instance/48189857]
I find it weird that e.g. with Lego and playmobil there is the “normal” series and then there is “girl” series (same with many other toys). These are toys normally considered “boy toys”. For e.g. Barbie on the other hand I miss a “Barbie for Boys” series. While there are a lot of female puppets that wear dresses and are nurses and male puppets that work on a building lot and wear lumberjack shirts, there is a lack of male puppets wearing dresses when not busy on the building lot or as a nurse, and female puppets wearing lumberjack shirts… well you got the picture.
Why can’t they simply do “toys for children” and “children clothing” and then do subcategories such as “On the farm”, “Fairy Tale”, “In the hospital”,…
For the clothings: these are children. There is absolutely no need to enforce sex-specific clothings on them. Indeed, many little girls look totally adorable in dresses and little boys are cuteness overload when wearing a suit and a tie. Same goes vice versa. While girls in a suit are by now socially acceptable (remember Ruthy Camden from 7th Heaven in the episode where her aunt marries?), same does not go for boys (now imagine Simon Camden in a dress).
A boy wearing “women clothes” is considered becoming a pervert or at least weird. A girl in “mens clothes” might be considered bossy or boyish, but “showing her independence”.
While some might argue that this is because feminism made way for oppressing men, I’d rather argue that “being female” is still considered something that is worth less than “being male”.
I hope that this will change. I hope that my partner and I will be able to raise our children to live up to what and who and how they are. And if we get a boy and he wants to become a princess that works as an engineer we’ll support him and we’ll put a tiara on his head and be proud of our son when he gets his degree.
[Update 07th of June]
No, I’m not the only one who finds that weird. After writing this entry I’ve found many other parents and campaigns who are noticing the gendered toys and are writing and working and taking action against these pressure on our children.
My favorite ones:
[Update 26th of October]
I also wrote about this on our new Baby-Blog: http://nooborn.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/geschlechtsbestimmung-nein-danke/