20 July 2016

Give Girls the Opportunities to Play Whatever They Want

Yesterday I got together with an old friend, Vicky from The Mummy Chronicles. We've known each other since high school, long before blogging was a thing. We've kept in touch over the years but living in different states and different countries has made it difficult to see each other in person. Every time we see each other, though, it's like no time has passed. She's one of the few people from back then that I still keep in touch with regularly.

Our children met for the first time yesterday. The kids hit it off. A morning at the beach followed by lunch and backyard play, then ice cream, is a universally good day in the realm of kids. It was so nice that the kids are old enough to play together without needing adults, leaving plenty of time for Vicky and me to talk and catch up. When we noticed the kids were playing some sort of fighting game with a toy gun, a sword, and frisbee that doubled as a shield and a helmet I turned to Vicky and said she must have the same problem I do sometimes.

All our kids, four in total, are girls. And Vicky and I have both received comments, if not outright criticism, from other parents about having girls who play "boy" games.

This needs to stop. There is absolutely no reason for toys and games to be gendered. Saying that certain toys and games, such as "army" or "police," are boy games, is an insult to any woman who is in the military or in law enforcement and to any girl who has a parent or someone else close to them in those fields. Someone is really going to tell my daughter that she can't be in the military or be a cop like her father? Because by referring to those games as something only boys can play, that's exactly what girls hear. That's it's something they can't do.

I think a lot of parents don't even realize the content of their comments until someone else calls them on it. Or maybe they assume girls and boys grow out of these things and the careers they choose later in life have nothing to do with the games they play as children. What I see, though, is parents who are my age and younger, who grew up in the post-feminist movement, imposing gender stereotypes even more strictly than my parents' generation did. Look at those insipid Dick and Jane books. Jane may be wearing a pretty dress but she is playing the same games as Dick, with cars, in mud, and all that. Today, when I browse parenting boards, I see far too many posts from mothers talking about cars being a boys' toy. Why are we regressing? Some girls like princesses and that's fine. But are we really giving all our kids all the play options available or are we limiting them to what adults think are gender appropriate?

I'm going to throw this out here to think about: We need more female police officers right now. Which means we need to encourage young women to think of this as a career. Which means we need to let girls pretend to be cops when they play. There's been talk of police departments wanting to have more racially diverse forces to better reflect the communities they serve. We definitely need that. Let's work on gender diversity on those forces, too, since women make up half the population of this country.

We should be thrilled that they are playing outside in fresh air while the adults relax and talk, not worrying too much about the content of the game as long as no one is getting seriously injured. Parenting is hard. Why do other parents want to make it harder with gender stereotypes? There are so many battles to fight. I'm so tired of this one.

1 comment:

-Her Dad said...

Don't forget she'll be a hack bicycle and motorcycle mechanic like her dad, too...

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