In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Toy Story.”
I was born in the late seventies. That age when nurseries were neither blue or pink, but orange, brown or dark green. I had very hip Miffy curtains for my nursery, with Miffy and her friends set on the background of her garden. Which made the curtains a very distinct dark green. So it was for my baby clothes. Apart from the evergreen white cardigans, knitted hats and shoes that babies seemingly are obliged to wear, my mom dressed me in orange dresses, or a dark brown jumpsuit.
And all the while my mom was a traditional Staying At Home Mom like all the mothers in those days, she was a feminist at heart and she took it on herself to raise us as gender neutral as possible. In fact, she oblitarated every wish for anything girly. My sister and me were often mistaken for boys, being asked by the butcher if “this boy wants a slice of bologna?”. It wasn’t that crazy, with our short bobs, our mustard yellow corduroy pants and dark red wind jackets.
My mom didn’t stop there, o no. I think we even had more boy toys than girly toys. For my first ‘Sinterklaas’ party at pre-school my mom bought me a big Tonka truck to play in the sandbox with. We had a parking garage and a box full of Hot Wheels cars and Dinky Toys. We had ‘Hamertje Tik’ a game with a hammer and nails to build figures with. For my third birthday I got a doctor’s play set. Not a nurse, a doctor. And my sister and I shared a box full of Playmobil action figures, including a operation room.
But what we had most of was Legos. And in the early eigthies, Lego was as gender neutral as toys could get. The bricks had only primary colors, the Lego figures only had 1 color and 1 facial expression and there was no way you could replay a fairytale unless you built a yellow castle with a female figurine wearing dungarees. So we played ‘city’. We put together our street base plates, built some cars, the postal van, the ambulance, the police surveillance car. We built some houses and shops. When I grew older, my mom gave me a Lego Space Robot with some astronauts. Which was cool, because it hid a 9 volt battery in its belly to light up the lights on the robot. But it was completely useless, of course. How could we fit the robot in our city? The town we built was not Cape Canaveral, you know!
Today, I realize how grateful I am my mom raised us like a true feminist. Having gender neutral toys, expanded my choices of what I wanted to be and what I thought of being capable of becoming. Yes, I know how to fix a light. Yes, I can paste the wall paper myself. Yes, I can put this Ikea whatever together on my own.
I want the same thing for my boys, but today it’s not that easy. First, because it’s more accepted for girls to play with boy toys than the other way around. Secondly, because today’s girl toys are covered in pink. My toddler boy likes to imitate his parents. From early age, he likes to vacuum, and to cook. He wants to help me put on my make-up and put it on himself too. He pulled a worn out doll stroller from the garbage and rode it around walking his imaginary baby. He holds his bear up to his chest, pretending to breastfeed it.
But instead of a realistic red or grey, the toy vacuum cleaner is pink. The ironing board is pink. All baby dolls are girls, in pink baby clothes. The strollers for the baby dolls are pink. It’s so unreal I can’t even begin to explain the stupidity of it. What’s wrong with our sons playing make belief of being a caring father, a man who knows how to cook or clean his own home?
And now Lego has pink bricks and girly sets too. I’m lost for words. This is even more back to the future than that I could ever have imagined was possible. If my mom was a feminist for the sake of her daughters, then I should be one for the sake of my sons. Maybe even more so.
What’s your take on gender neutral parenting or toys?
xoxo – Irene