So, since I work for myself now and can decide I'm just going to write a rant instead of starting in on my to do list for the day, here goes.
Like many parents, I hate, absolutely hate, the marketing of some toys as "for boys" and others as "for girls." Toys are for children. OK, and also for grown ups who like to build things. (You should have seen the parents admiring my husband's LEGO AT walker at our last kid/parent party. Yes, it really is his. I gave it to him for Christmas a few years back.)
But I also hate, absolutely hate, the fact that so often we react to the explosion of pink and sparkle on the "girls toys" aisles by disparaging the toys. Or the sparkles and the color pink. There is nothing wrong with kids playing with a toy kitchen or stupid little plastic princess dolls, or with them wanting to explore chemistry by making perfumes. (True story: I once did that last one, but with things I found in the kitchen. I suspect my mom might have preferred I had a kit.)
I get where the instinct to bash those toys comes from. Hell, I agree with a lot of the sentiments behind that instinct. I also hate the way these toys are presented as the only acceptable things for girls to play with. I hate the way people assuming that a toy must be pink and/or sparkly to be of interest to girls is building a world in which that is becoming true.
But I also hate the way our reaction to these toys is telling my little girls that being interested in "girl things" is not as good as being interest in "boy things." I know that most of the world thinks that my older daughter's interest in cheer is less worthy than my younger daughter's interest in soccer, but I will not join them in that. Newsflash: neither interest is going to do much to conquer the problems of the world.
I get why people groan at yet another princess toy... but frankly, I want a princess castle my kids can build and then take apart for storage so badly that I'm trying to design one. (I'm still in the sketch and "ah damn, that won't work" phase.)
And that's just from the girl side. At least it is fairly socially acceptable for my girls to cross the imaginary sparkle line and shop on the "boys toys" aisle. I look at the pressures put on boys to only play with "boy toys" and I almost want to weep for what we're teaching our boys. Most boys we know look down on "girls toys" like dolls and cooking sets as lesser toys. They've already internalized the message that the stereotypical "boy interests" are better. And really, why should that surprise us? We're sending it to them loud and clear. But what does that do to how they view girls? What does it do to the boys who prefer cheer to soccer? What does it do to kids who are starting to suspect that their true gender doesn't match the body they were born with?
Surely, we can do better, and find a way to fight the pinksplosion and the ridiculous gender segregation in toys without disparaging our children's interests, whatever they may be. I'll join the fight to change the toy aisles, but only if we aim for a world in which a little boy going to choose a toy off the "Princesses" aisle is no more surprising than a little girl choosing one off the "Trains" aisle, and we recognize that both sorts of toys can help build useful skills.
OK, rant over. Now, to that to-do list...