Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Tea Set for My Little Boy

We just bought our son a tea set for Hanukkah.

He encountered a pink and purple set over Thanksgiving and he really took to it--had tea parties with his Abba, fed his Panda, etc.

He also had a great time pushing around a toy stroller. Personally, I was really excited about this because I had just bought him a boy doll and had dreams of him pushing around his doll in his stroller and becoming a nurturing, empathic adult because of it.

Hurray for defying gender expectations!! Hurray for us! Hurray for him!

But wait.

Off I went to Toys R Us to get him the toy stroller. To do so I had to enter a scary, scary section of the store--devoted the idea that cooking and cleaning and caring for baby are the sole aspirations of little girls. And the flip side: that little boys have no need to learn about these important parts of adult life.

Ever single thing in that section was pinky pink and purply purple. Toys had names like Little Mom and box after box showed little girls being Just Like Mom. If I was a little boy I wouldn't have set foot in this section--it was so clearly FOR GIRLS ONLY.

So how are little boys even supposed to explore and develop these parts of their identity? Why are toy strollers only made for girls? Can't our definition of masculinity for our sons include cooking and cleaning and taking care of baby? Where is my gender neutral tea set??

The good news is that it's not the toys--or even their colors--that really matter to our children. It's the world that they see around them. And Abba is a fantastic role model for egalitarian gender roles, embracing his household responsibilities without sacrificing a drop of masculinity.

After my son has put aside his trucks and dolls and tea sets and become a man himself, I hope that pushing a stroller and changing a diaper will be as natural to him as hitting a hammer and driving a vroom vroom truck. Maybe more so.


Maya said...

My daughter's second favorite book is one about vehicles in which a transparent sheet can be moved across the page to show the engines inside. I'm pretty freaked out about girl toys, especially bratz dolls. For her first birthday, I'm looking at stuff like toy instruments--she's seen two pianos so far and is crazy about them. Things that don't pigeon hole her. I'm sure you're right that what kids see at home is more important than what's in the toy ailse, but it is upsetting anyway.

Gluckel of Manhattan said...

I searched high and low and finally found a "masculine" navy blue toy stroller around the time he was 18 months old, just after he had "stolen" another kid's at the playground. He still loves to put his babies into it and push them around.

I also was lucky enough to find a primary color tea set made by a Danish toy maker (plastic) that is a family favorite here. We are big tea drinkers and he has enjoyed pretending alongside.

You raise a very important point that has not gone unnoticed here. I am looking for boy aprons, boy cooking stuff...or better, UNGENDERED stuff. If someday I have a girl, she will be unlucky enough to have the Ima who will not buy her all that icky pink and purple garbage...

Sunkist Miss said...

First of all, it's fabulous what you all are doing. Secondly, my mother did the same many years ago, and we all turned out fine. :) We didn't have pink-vs-blue stuff. We listened to Marlo Thomas and played with dolls and trucks and building blocks regardless of gender, and were taught to believe that we could do anything. It worked. (Also, as an added benefit -- this meant that we could share or pass down toys, because they weren't inherently gendered!)

That said, a little bit of pink is not necessarily so bad -- it's all about moderation. I never had pink or ruffles or sparkles, and mostly it was good, but maybe a little bit would've spared us all some angst. And after all, pink is not inherently a bad color; the fact that it is culturally "girly" is not necessary. Good feminists (girls and boys) can have some pink in their lives. Just my two cents.

Barbara said...

One of my nephews (who is off to college in Sept.08) found a pair of Barbie sneakers when he was 3 that he just adored. They lasted about a year but he wouldn't give them up. They were comfy and he loved Barbie - we even bought him a Barbie doll and he took her everywhere.

He would blush if you brought it up to him now. His FACEBOOK page has under interests: Women!

One of my daughters is VERY VERY into science. Most science kits & books are geared to towards boys. She's a tween now and she still doesn't care - despite a VERY GIRLY room.

Good for you for bucking the system.

Anonymous said...

i bought a very cute tiny tea set for my daughter doll house :)

check it out here...http://www.teacuppa.com/Miniature-Teapot-Set.asp

Phyllis Sommer said...

i also looked long and hard for non-pink doll stuff for my oldest...and i settled on the least pink thing i could find. but we did buy a "little mommy" set with a shopping cart/high chair/doll combo that was a big hit. hey, he couldn't read yet so he didn't know it said "little mommy"...

Anonymous said...

I completely agree! I too went searching for a tea set and dishes for my son only to find everything pink! As you mentioned that color doesn't matter, it's ashamed that society has stereotyped those rolls for girls and women only. I want my son well rounded and to grow up thinking he can do anything! I think it goes the other way with girls too. There is no reason a girl can't learn how to use a power drill or work on a vehicle.