I don’t usually use this space for rants, but something stuck in my craw recently.
I feel a little bad about it, too. I have a cousin who’s raising money to buy activity packs for kids with leukemia to use while they’re getting treatments. Each pack will contain a quiet activity to keep the kids busy and keep their minds off their discomfort while they are receiving chemo or radiation, or recovering in the hospital. This is, undeniably, a very nice thing to do. It’s a great idea, and he knows it because he is himself a survivor of childhood leukemia.
My problem? He says the activity packs are going to be “age and gender appropriate.”
Now, age appropriate I can get behind, though I think there should only be minimum ages. I mean, if a sixteen year old wants to play a violent video game or read a romance novel while getting treatments, who am I to judge? If ever there was a time to do something frivolous, I think while you’re receiving chemo is probably it. But I don’t want a six year old seeing that stuff. It just isn’t appropriate.
On the other hand, if that sixteen year old wants to string some pattern beads or hold a teddy bear while getting chemo, it’s not the time to tell a person they’re being immature, you know?
But that’s not my main point. Here’s my point.
What on earth is a gender appropriate toy? Or a gender inappropriate toy? Why are we obsessed with gender when it comes to toys? Honestly, I can think of very few gender-limited products. And really, they’re sex-limited, not gender-limited.
We’ve got to stop thinking that some things are for girls and some things are for boys. It’s not fair to any of us. It puts limits on us and does nothing to help. Can’t we just divide the toys by what they are, and let the kids choose what they want to play with? Dolls are over here, blocks are over there, trucks are on the shelf.
I have to say, the whole division has driven the Kid crazy her whole short life. We’d go into a toy store looking for something she wanted, and she wouldn’t be able to find it. Then I’d realize it was in the “boy” section, and she’d say, “Who says it’s a boy toy?” And it’s a really good question. Who says?
Whoever it is, it’s time they stopped. Because the whole point of playing is that you can be whatever you want to be, in your imagination. The point is that you can try on different personas to see what it’s like, and play out your dreams, your fears, and your ideas. That’s how kids learn. So why on earth would we limit their learning by choosing toys “appropriate” to their gender? Toys should be appropriate to activities kids want to do. They should present a challenge, or open a child’s imagination, or teach a skill. And none of that has anything to do with gender-based limitations.