Wednesday 3 December 2014

No gender December?

Oh help! Greens Senator Larissa Waters has called for a "no gender December" - an end to "gender based toys" for children. Stop giving little girls dolls and don't let little boys have a tool box.
(The latter apparently encourages violence in little boys because you at least pretend to cut and you do bang.)
I am one of those who happens to think that the very best toy that any young child can be given is a big box of wooden blocks in varying shapes and sizes - the sort designed to be used for building houses, sheds, stables, stations, castles, dams, roads, bridges etc. We had one when we were small. My brother snaffled it for his children and now his grandchildren use it. The Senior Cat made my sister's children another set. They now have it carefully stowed away for their children - should they have any - to use.
The Senior Cat has made other sets for other children. In most cases they are treasured. They keep children quiet for hours.
Yes, I like wooden blocks.
I also have no objection to girls having dolls - if they want them. I was never very interested in them myself. The little girls across the road - grandchildren of our neighbours - were given dolls last Christmas. One girl wanted a boy doll and the other a girl. That is what they got and the dolls go everywhere with them. They are also interested in dinosaurs, frogs, beetles, bicycles, ballet and just about everything else.
My brother had a tool box - with proper tools - and we both used it until it got "left behind" when we moved. My mother was irritated by the sawdust and glue and the litter of "planes" we made. The boys around the corner had a tool box. They have outgrown it now and use the tools in their father's shed instead. The tool box was passed on to the boy and girl next door but only the boy has bothered to use it.
The Whirlwind wanted a screw driver for her birthday the year she turned four. Her mother had died the year before and, when asked why she wanted a screw driver, she told people it was "to mend things". Her father gave her a small set of screw drivers. He is not terribly practical himself but an elderly neighbour (not the Senior Cat) taught her how to use them. I also made her a pink cardigan with white angora rabbits around the edge - her choice of colour and yarn.
I know children who have not been given dolls when they wanted them - although I know of no child who has been denied a "boy" toy. Middle Cat wanted a football for her birthday one year - and got it.
So I am not sure about this "sexist" issue. I don't like "Barbie" dolls for a number of reasons.  I don't like the idea of pink Lego. It just looks wrong to me - and that is not just because I dislike the colour pink. I don't think there is a lot of play value in a princess dress and crown and I do think that pretend "make up" for little girls is inappropriate - as are adult style dresses,  heeled shoes and "trainer bras".
But if a girl wants a doll - and some do - then what is wrong with that? Is there something wrong with being feminine and maternal? I am not particularly feminine (preferred clothing jeans and t-shirts) and not particularly maternal (have never had children but will defend them against harm). Despite that I see no harm with being both if you are that way inclined. Discouraging those things is to discourage motherhood - and our survival as a species depends on mothering. 
For me the real problem is that most of the "gender neutral" debate is not in the least bit neutral. How many boys are given dolls, princess dresses or makeup boxes and encouraged to play with them? And why did the child I met who was denied a doll turn her collection of dinosaurs into a family of girls, dress them and put them to bed?
I am not sure a no gender December will work unless it is what they child wants.


Sheeprustler said...

My 21 year old daughter currently wears pretty dresses everywhere, and is doing summer classes in woodwork and dressmaking :) In the winter she wears the dresses with RM WIlliams riding boots :) She grew up with blocks and lego and teddy bears - and some barbies, which in the end she decapitated and turned into a piece of installation art :) I only liked dolls because you could make clothes for them and I enjoyed the sewing and knitting with the scraps from my mother's sewing and knitting. I always preferred a soft toy and a book!

jeanfromcornwall said...

I was lucky, having both sexes of children, so they all had access to whatever type of toys they wanted. I remember a friend who was furious at her husband who refused to allow the younger boy choose a doll as his "new toy, holiday treat". He hated the car he was told he wanted, and I think he contrived to lose it quite quickly!

catdownunder said...

I would have decapitated Barbie too but I left it with the maternal grandmother who gave it to me because she really wanted it and I loathed it - so did my sisters.
I think Jean is right - best to grow up in a household of both sexes so that you can play with ALL the toys

Anonymous said...

Every home should have a general purpose toy box ... dolls and tools mixed in together, for the resident children and visitors, regardless of the sex and preferences of the resident children.

It could also be somewhere for the resident children to put their own toys in there when they have outgrown them ... for younger siblings or visitors to use. Something like the box grandparents usually have.