This post is inspired by my actual experience with my actual real live almost 2 year old.
I have always been very vocal about my thoughts on toys and stereotyped, gender-specific views on boy vs girl stuff. I’m a passionate advocate for gender-neutral play and toys.
As most posts go on this topic, I mostly address the public view on gender stereotypes, the corporate money-hungry toy companies’ shameless cashing in on said stereotypes and/or your family and friends buying your baby-girl pink socks … I’ve been waiting with interest how it will all pan out for us, in real life.
Cut to: Real life drama.
MOVING HOUSE! Holy heck what a nightmare. Especially bad for us this time around cause we decided to de-clutter completely. To free our lives of the trinkets and doodads we’ve been carting along with us, all around the world. This meant the usual weeks of pre-prep, driving car loads to the tip, and packing boxes. Then the actual move (all by ourselves with the help of my dad – thanks granny for taking care of the child in that time), the cleaning of the house that no longer looks like our beloved home, merely a shell of its former glory, and then, finally, the unpacking. Cue: small box, marked “random stuff”, opened to reveal two barbies I couldn’t part with. One of which is Ultra hair Barbie. the longest-haired Barbie ever.
(note: see there at the end, poor Ken desperately vying for a place in the market. ha. couldn’t care less. Wasn’t interested in boys then, barely interested in them now).
Now, Lu has been absolutely LOVING the unpacking process. I’ve never seen her occupy herself at home, by herself, for so long. It’s been a thrill to see how much she’s grown and developed. All the new interests. All the new experiments.
Well, Barbie didn’t hold her attention as long as, say, packing out the box of her books, reading and rediscovering them all, but it did give her 5 minutes of “tannie loop”. Directly translated: “lady walk”. That’s it. She saw that the lady had shoes on and two (very long) legs, and like most of her role playing at the moment, it was about imitating the adult world. I think it’s the same reason why she likes to help clean and cook, walk around with a handbag, containing a cellphone and keys, ask to wear a watch (like her daddy), dress the doll cause she’s cold and ride off on her scooter saying “Luca winkel”. (Loosely translated: “I’m off to the shops”.) And off she scoots: “see ya dude”.
WATCH-ing Tallulah eat.
Pre child, looking in on this, I’d be mortified that my daughter is playing with a BARBIE, cleaning house and doing the shopping…. But isn’t that how our babies learn? To imitate. Not to mention that playing with duplo and helping to screw her bed back together after the move and loving diggers and trucks and playing football and climbing (lots and lots of very brave climbing) and swimming and painting and dancing and singing and hanging out with Spidey. It’s all there.
The point being: what’s the fuss.
Daisy, remembering my Barbie-playing-days and really looking intently at the reasons for hanging out with my girlfriends, sometimes playing Barbie, really truly being honest about it … I can say I never once thought of Barbie as a role model. Not in any way. It was a bit like what Lu is doing now. Imitating the adult world. What we’d do if we had our own place. Where we’d work, who we’ll grow up to be. I definitely agree that it would be an ideal world to get those proportions better …. but until the toy companies get on board, I’d like to offer up the wise words of my mother, confirmed by my own experience.
“If you don’t make an issue out of it, there won’t be one”. This is a very bad summary of one of the many life lessons she so quietly, gently, imparted on me. Trying to condense it into a sentence is hard. What I’m trying to say is that my mom never said, “o wow look how beautiful barbie is, she has killer legs”. or. “I wish Mattel would stop putting these notions of what beauty is into our daughters heads”. I didn’t get a chance to think of any of that…. It’s like how I found out much much later in life that there is a chunk of society saying that the Ninja turtles were evil. WHAT! I frikking love them. I was always Michelangelo, for heavens sake. Most of my childhood was me fantasising about being a ninja warrior.
I was trusted to make my own choices, formulate my own thoughts.
Yes, it’s a fine line. You don’t want your daughters unaware of the crazy stupid world we live in where you as a woman couldn’t vote till the other day… but I’m also saying maybe you don’t have to point out to your two year old that “Barbies are from the devil and I don’t want you growing up thinking you should be one”. Huh. “But I was only dressing the Barbie Mommy, I didn’t realise I could be wishing to be as thin as her!”
Lu noticed the pink cupcake tutu dress her fabulous Aunty in America sent her the other day. And since she’s usually allowed to wear what she likes, I didn’t go running out the front door throwing the dress in the nearest bin. Nope, she wore her pink cupcake frilly tutu dress to school. And why not. Of course she’ll like it – as soon as she saw it she said “Ouma cupcake”. Her granny bakes the best cupcakes and she always associates any cake-type treats with her Ouma. She was homage-ing her granny. (What I didn’t love though was the reaction she got. The “o so beautiful” and “how cute” from strangers and passersbys…. Why don’t you comment when she’s in her brown pants and Tee, or why comment on clothes at all? Why not comment on her beautiful smile, her wicked sense of humour or the weather?)
Scooter shopping. Best Christmas present ever!
Cut back to original point: This is a hopeful post. A post for mums and dads with daughters. I actually truly think it’s going to be Ok. Toy companies and society be damned. My child will have me as a role model … I hope this kind of level-headedness lasts beyond her second birthday (next month!).
Keep fighting the good fight,