Last month, our annual Brooklyn Fresh Air Fund trip to Chez Oddmother lead to our semi-annual McDonald’s drive-thru lunch.
(Oh, come and get me Sanctimommies. My kids love the Apple Dippers.)
After I gritted my teeth and put in the request for two Happy Meals, I heard the strangest response through the scratchy loudspeaker.”
“Boy or girl.”
“Excuse me?” I asked, trying to figure out if there was suddenly some new version of apples that appealed to one sex or the other.
“Boy or girl.”
Suddenly it clicked. “Do you mean…for the toy? Boy or girl toy?”
“Yes,” she mumbled back, surely wondering who the idiot was on the other end of the speaker.
I quickly scanned the menu board to see what she might be referring to. For boys: Some kind of awesometastic space fighting Ben 10 something or other that looked BIG and FUN and had the word ALIEN in the name and arms that moved–basically something that could help the kids kill a few hours in the car without DVDs.
For girl: A keychain with a sparkly shoe on it from Sketchers. (Hours of fun!)
“The Ben 10 one” I said as quietly as I could into the speaker.
“What?” she asked.
“Boys,” I said a little louder. “Boys.”
Now my girls heard me.
“Why did you say boys, Mommy? Why don’t you tell them we’re girls?”
And that’s when I was got pissed at McDonald’s. For letting my daughters think that there’s something wrong with them if they’d have more fun with a toy that said boy on it. For training the employees at the register to ask boy or girl instead of saying Awesome Ben Ten Alien toy or dumb keychain. For making me have an uncomfortable conversation about why so many marketers don’t think a whole lot about our daughters, when my blood sugar was already low and all I wanted to do was inhale my mediocre chicken sandwich and get back on the road.
It’s not that I hate sparkly key chains or pink tulle or princess tiaras. Not by a long shot. It’s just that our girls hardly seem to have a choice these days.
So I turned around to face the back seat, and tried to explain, best I could, that the one called “boy” wasn’t actually just for boys and that the woman behind the counter was mistaken.
I struggled a bit with the worlds as I tried to describe how sometimes there are people who are lazy and don’t think, and so they take all things sparkly and pink and call them “girl toys” because they forget sometimes that girls also like to dress up like superheroes and build things and climb trees and use their brains. And sometimes these same people forget that boys like to wear nailpolish just like your friend Bryan does, and sometimes they like to read about fairies and princesses and wear pretty clothes or go to ballet class wearing pink tights like your friend Asher does.
“Well that’s not fair!” Thalia exclaimed.
“And I can be Geo!” Sage said. Because she always is Geo.
So I smiled, suddenly reminded of just how awesome my kids are.
And how this next generation just might be able to change the things we weren’t able to.
107 thoughts on “Boy or Girl?”
I have three boys and one girl. When we go to McDonald’s for apple dippers, we say “Four Happy Meals with Boys Toys” because my daughter prefers the toy they give the “boys happy meal” and to be honest, I would too.
I do wish they would just ask/label “which toy would you prefer” instead of girl/boy..That being said – we have 12 of those little Skecher keychains as we had to go back so many times to “collect them all!” and all 3 of my girls play with them and hang them on everything as well as trade with each other,etc…but we have an unhealthy addiction to Skechers in general perhaps…
When I use “William’s Doll” in dialogue with kids I finally get around to asking them where the idea of boys’ toys and girls’ toys come from. Five and six year olds often say, “Jesus!” The idea is so ethereal to them they think it must come from the netherworld. About the age of 8 they begin to realize that it’s a social construct. Overwhelmed by their newfound knowledge many get angry, some are confused, and many walk away with the realization that they have the power-if they have the courage-to change their world.
I wonder if this is a factor of parents not discussing it, the media presence being so strong, or simply Jesus being a convenient answer for anything confusing.
It bugs me, too. I always ask for the toddler toy.
What gets me riled up is that only kids get toys.
I might have to write to McDonalds asking why there can’t be an adult happy meal, served with margaritas or beer, and the toy options of a sparkly pink vibrator or a equivalent for men (what is it?)
But seriously (cause no corporate minion at McDonalds would run with my idea) I don’t see why McDonalds can’t just ask “what toy would you like”. It’s not difficult really.
Amen! I want a iPhone 5 in my Happy Meal.
I can’t wait for the day that the Canadian family concealing their child’s gender drives through
That could be a whole other category of toys…
for the win.
They’d have to buy two happy meals so ‘it’ could choose for ‘itself’ which ‘it’ liked best…
Can we not use “it”? It connotes and inanimate object which that child is not. He/she or if that is too much to write the gender neutral zie or hir (for him/her).
Our language is hopelessly improper. We need a real gender neutral pronoun like “they.”
Zie is ridiculous.
I had to shop for a birthday gift for a 5-year-old girl recently, one of my daughter’s classmates.
The selection sucked.
It was Barbies, Littlest Pet Shops, Disney princess figures, baby dolls, those dolls that AREN’T Bratz even though they look exactly like Bratz dolls, jewelry, makeup… you get the idea.
I went with a princess dress-up dress and tiara, plus nail polish. I wasn’t proud (and it was 10 o’clock Friday night before the party), but I figured something that got her pretending to BE something would be better than a doll with unrealistic body dimensions.
Birthdays and Christmas will be challenging this year, but I am going to ask relatives to buy my girls books, games (including Wii and DSi games — action games, not “buying” games), and Easy-Bake oven mixes. I’m getting my oldest a microscope for her birthday — she’s requested it. My soon to be 5yo is already asking for Barbies, and I know it’s somewhat inevitable. However, she also likes legos.
I think girl toys in context aren’t necessarily bad. But pointing girls toward passive sparkly things is just wrong.
We’ve always been specific: Books and art supplies.
Of course sometimes the book ends up being “Pinkalicious,” but I figure it’s better than Barbies. (Though man, my kids love Barbies.)
They should just train the employees to ask which type of toy you’d prefer. But at least the toys were age appropriate. It bugs me when I see a movie tie-in toy offered in a kids meal when the movie is rated PG-13.
I always get my daughter the “boy” toy…she much prefers the action figures over the do-nothing, sparkly “girl” toy.
I feel no shame for loving Happy Meal toys. But my kids immediately plop all toys into three categories: Girl (anything pink) Boy (anything blue) I Will Deviate from my Own Desire to Categorize (read “fit in”) because it’s More Awesome.
I don’t think at this point my kids are making judgements of one being better than the other, though. My daughter rarely thinks the “Truck Toy” (as our McD’s calls it) is as interesting as the “Doll Toy.” I’m sure part of that may be her desire to be correctly categorized as a “girl,” not what that categorization implies (to some).
I find myself having worries that because she’s more likely to gravitate toward the flip-flop key chain if asked to decide between it and a cool alien toy. Will she be made to feel like less because to someone else it sees it as a lesser choice?
such good questions Siobhan. I don’t think my kids rank them either. I just want them to feel like they have choices, with no value associated with that. Shouldn’t the value judgment be their own?
I don’t think the two have to be mutually exclusive. My kid loves Littlest PetShops, and I tell her what I think of them. I also tell her that that’s my value and hers may differ. And I’m OK with that.
Agree! I’d rather them pick the Littlest PetShop because they love it, not because McDonald’s tells them to. (And not because I hate it. But you know…whole other post.)
Ugh. I deal with this so often with my husband and stepson, it’s really annoying. I was on a business trip and forgot to leave a present for a 2-year-old girl’s birthday party, so I had to walk my husband through gift-buying at Target. Yay! So he REALLY wanted to get her a doll. I insisted that she had enough dolls and that he should get her blocks or a doctor’s kit. So he finally accepted and found the doctor kit (and insisted it wasn’t enough so I tried to convince him to buy a stuffed animal so she could be a vet, but instead he bought…you guessed it…a doll. Whatever) and as he pulled it off the shelf he started laughing. I had heard my stepson mumble something so I asked what he said that was funny. My husband laughed again and said, “He said he doesn’t like this present because it’s for a boy.”
He is 6.
No Happy Meals here. We share adult orders – no drinks and no plastic crap.
Oliver does draw distinctions between boy colors vs. girl colors, but the rest of us gently remind him that boys can love pink and girls can love orange.
Yeah, it seems to have gotten worse lately. I was wildly thankful for the whole one toy for everyone Smurfs era, and not just because I wanted the one with the computer for myself.
We got the toy that makes sense for my girl’s tastes. Sometimes they are “girl” sometimes they are not. No matter what they are, I always end up hurting my feet on them.
I agree, there are so many things I hope my daughter’s generation can change, and this obsession with gender identity is one of them. Outside of hollywood, I’m not sure I envision a world in which boys wear as much nail polish as girls do. But who am I to speak…in a few days i’ll be making a video of myself trying on blue lipstick as a result of a bet made on twitter.
This is a very long trip. Some of us got on this road in 1964…..before McDonald’s even existed. And you’re right, it’s another thing that can get you pissed off. HOWEVER, think of how far we’ve come over the last 47 years. Keep it up. Keep encouraging everyone to keep it up. We’re getting there.
Subway did something like this a while back. Boys got a bluish (?) bag with a Michael Phelps trading card and girls got a purplish-pink bag with a Laila Ali trading card. Like you, I was a little confused when the person asked “boy or girl?” — especially since my kids and I were standing inside the Subway, and I thought it was obvious that one child was a boy and the other was a girl. I didn’t know about the toy giveaway bit. Previously, there was just one option, which they shoved in the food bag and which I would sometimes hide or throw away so as to not contribute to the piles of plastic crap that would occasionally accumulate in our house.
And books and art supplies — yes!
I’ll give a little credit to Subway for putting Laila Ali in there instead of some princess crap.
OH MY GOD this makes me insane. Why on Earth McDonald’s got into the business of gender stereotyping, I have no idea. When I was a kid, there was one toy. That’s it. You liked it or you didn’t. No one had to feel bad one way or the other, because everyone got the same toy, so if you liked it, girl or boy, it was cool, because you know what? YOU GOT A FREE TOY!
Love you, Janel.
FWIW, Carls Jr is still like this. And actually, some of their toys aren’t bad. We still have this cool alien thing that makes a discrete “boing” noise when you jostle it. I may like it as much as the kids.
Not that we eat at Carls Jr that often, but my daughter loves it when we do. Even when she doesn’t like the toy.
I do think the “over-gendering” of things has gotten worse lately, or maybe it is just the “over-princessing” (and primarily Disney princessing) of the “girl” things. I was at the store tonight to buy a baby doll for my toddler’s upcoming 2 year birthday, and I was shocked to see that there are now “My First Princess” baby dolls. Little babies, but made to look like the Disney princesses. And then I wondered why I was so surprised, since Disney seems to have pushed those damn princesses everywhere else.
And of course, I was also buying the Disney princess backpack my 4 year old had picked out for her sister. Partly because she’s right: her sister WILL love having “‘rella” on her backpack. And partly because that was the only small backpack left in the store and I sure as hell wasn’t driving to another store tonight.
So I’m part of the problem that drives me crazy. It all started when I caved and bought my older daughter Cinderella, because all of her friends at day care were talking about the princesses, and she was feeling left out. And now we have princess underwear, and princess bandaids, and a princess backpack for a two year old who would have been just as happy with a non-branded one.
I wish we could let our girls have a little more variation in the girl-themed stuff beyond choosing their favorite Disney princess, but I have largely given up on the idea of keeping those princesses out of our lives. I just make a point of reading “Paper Bag Princess” a lot, and finding other ways to encourage my girls to pursue ALL of their interests- whether they are stereotypically “girl” or “boy” interests. And I think ( hope?) it is working. My 4 year old loves to dress up like Cinderella. But she also loves her trucks, and is turning into a pretty amazing Lego designer.
The whole princess thing has gotten crazy, it’s almost worse than Barbie dolls and general pinkness! But then I was a noncomformist child who loved Lego and hated Barbie (uh, how many girls or women actually legs that long and worse yet, unbendable?!) 😉
Just one last thing. Don’t you think that every girl should have a BOY TOY? All the 85 year old women in Palm Beach have them.
Here I am thinking of my 2 yo boy who loves shoes more than life. But then, if you ask him if he is a boy or girl, he says, “I not anyfing! I SuperMAN!” so I guess he’d be mad either way.
We had the opposite problem yesterday. Max wants to learn how to sew (and knit). I took him to Target to try to find a beginner’s sewing kit, and the only things we could find were pink and sparkly and had pictures of girls all over them. He ended up feeling dejected, and questioning his desire to learn sewing (because the boxes were all “girly”), and I determined that I’d have to make my own damn kit for the poor kid.
That sucks Danielle. At least girls can identify with “boys” toys more easily. They’re not stigmatized if they wear navy.
I feel you. My 4-yr-old son loves to play with play kitchens, but the ones that are affordable (read: free, as we are broke) are very pink and purple and (I’m the author of the comment about my husband and stepson considering a doctor’s kit to be a toy for boys) if I came home with one of those, my husband would burn it before any of his friends could see his son playing with such an insult to manhood. My fight definitely begins at home and I just hope that in the long run my children are better for it.
This is a CONCERN I share.
I was subjected to the “boy or girl” thing a few months ago and almost wrote in to mom-101 to request a special post but you know what? I knew she’d notice it on her own in time and so here we are.
I have two daughters and purposely and painfully decorated their nurseries gender neutral- painfully because relatives tsk tsked me for not embracing bows and lace and pink and frill. I wanted that to be a choice for them rather than a push. The nursery decor may seem like a small issue but I saw and still see it as a larger stepping stone to this very post. Sort of the gateway drug to all things princess, if you will.
Well, they do love princess crap but they decided that on their own with a heavy dose of pressure from their preschool peers and relatives who don’t speak the language of (please no plastic toys, please no princess toys) art supplies and books or anything handmade for presents.
I also request the boy toys at McD’s because my girls do enjoy them more. I too have had the, yes honey, I know you’re not a boy but…discussion in the drive thru lane.
I wish that toys were not sold in two different versions unless there was just an honest attempt at color option – like a red tool box or a yellow tool box. Please stop the insane choices like primary color tool box vs pink and purple glittery-sparkly-iridescent tool box. For that matter, how about a boy enjoying a cabbage patch doll or a Dora the Explorer backpack on the package box?
Whenever possible, I go to Chik Fil A because they attempt to provide gender neutral kids meal prizes – a lot of times it’s even…a book.
we’ll get there someday though because of discussions like these
I remember ages ago that I wrote about something similar (oh right–diapers with Cars v Princesses) and a commenter had said – yeah, your daughter can always wear Diego underwear. But do you know how hard it is for boys to find Dora underwear? I always remembered that. We have to do right by both our girls and our boys, as so many people here have commented.
I am constantly stunned at the crazy gender division that is happening now. I swear that there was less of this gender extremism when I was a kid in the mid-1970s than there is now in 2011. I thought that we, as a society, were moving toward less of this, not more.
We just had this experience this week for the first time and I thought it was awful too! Both toys were crap anyway but, still!
I grew up thinking I’d have three boys (I also thought I’d have them by 26, promptly get divorce and have a job that let me wear high heels and ankle socks. Ahem Kate and Allie/ZZ Top influenced).
I grew up to have three daughters. Funny how I spend my days trying to make sure they can have the same things boys have if they want them. This year has already seen us discussing that yes, girls can drive the train or fly the plane and that no, navy blue and superheroes are not reserved for boys.
I think the thing that upsets me most is the infrastructure for judgement and not fitting in, like we are assembling the inevitability of discord.
I have three boys and I am more worried that they each get the exact same toy when they get a kids meal, otherwise it is fisticuffs.
McD and all fast food chains spend tons of money on marketing these types of meals. The reason it is gender specific is probably because of studies and reports stating it should be gender specific, that would increase sales. McD is not trying to change the world. They are trying to sell food.
Should they ask boy or girl? No, they should just ask what toy. But again their business is not toys.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to comment on this. Mostly because it’s all been said.
Then I went to Amazon to order a baby gift for a cousin. I was looking at bottles, the ones on her list and it said: Nuk Bottle whimsy BOY. It had the capital letters, to make sure some unsuspecting grandma doesn’t make a wrong choice. It’s just a bottle. However, it’s BOY, because it’s blue. She’s having a girl, but that doesn’t matter. It’s listed: BOY. So what happens if her baby girl has a BOY colored bottle? I suppose the world may come to a crashing halt right?
Mostly I think it’s a part of a much greater problem. Boy/girl toys and stuff starts way too young.
For what it’s worth? All three of my kids decide on which one they want depending on what the actual toy is.
I recently made the journey back into eating at McDonald’s, so the boy/girl toy thing threw me for a loop when I was asked that same question a few weeks ago. It just happened that this time, my girls did want the light up Sketchers shoes because their friends all had one. But the next time we go, they may want the “boy” toy because it’s so much cooler than some crappy plastic bean from iCarly.
So what I’m saying is yeah, gender marketing blows.
I think the good thing about living in NYC – no one eats at McDonald’s. So they don’t know about it from friends.
Except those Smurfs. How did everyone get those damn Smurfs?
I always ask for the boy toy. And I am always disappointed. A small plastic man was not exactly what I was expecting.
I’m wondering if that’s what Madonna had in mind…
I have the same problem with McDonald’s, but in reverse. My six-year-old boy eschews any kind of weapon (I can’t take credit for that; he was born that way) so 9 times out of 10 he chooses the “girl” toy. It frustrates me that they think all boys are interested in violence and fighting, and I’m thrilled when he chooses the sparkly piece of crap instead (though he hates that it means I have to say “girl, please”). Of course, if I had a daughter I’d be furious that they thought that’s all she was interested in or capable of, so it’s kind of a no-win here.
I know you’re in it for the apple dippers, but I will say that Wendy’s has far superior toys in their kids meals (primarily from a non-mass-marketed standpoint). They recently had a series that were family games, and — I kid you not — we spent an hour and a half sitting at the table playing after we had eaten our meal. We don’t do fast food often, but when we do, we look for a Wendy’s instead.
Hey, if they had a Wendy’s at I-95 rest stops we’d be all in. That sounds great.
How can you talk your kids into the apple dippers over the fries?!? My kids would pelt me with chicken nuggets if there weren’t fries.
Yeah, that whole thing sucks about boy/girl. And that the boy toys are usually FUN while the girls toys are just PRETTY. Ugh!
And, I’d like to know why McD’s/BK think it’s ok to include toys for scary PG movies in their kids’ meals? Indiana Jones/Hulk stuff for 5yo’s? (admittedly, it’s been a while since we’ve hit the drive through so my movie references are dated)
My kids eat three fries and then fight over apple dippers. One doesn’t even like the sugared syrup.
And holy moly. We’d never take Silas to see the Batman movies, but dang if the tiny toys don’t rock his world.
Last time I bought a Happy Meal I was asked girl toy or boy toy. I asked if you needed a penis to work the boy one. I think I confused the order taker.
That’s awesome. My inclination is always to say something like this, but then Nate yells at me and reminds me she’s just a 15 year-old who’s following orders back there. Yeah, yeah.
Awesome is an understatement. Pack yourself on the back Mama – those kids sound way better than awesome!!
I meant pat, not pack – ooops!
I agree with you that usually the “boy” toys are way cooler than the “girl” toys (that would be why I decided to openly declare myself a tomboy as a kid — so I could play with rocketships — though I did sorely miss the lace and glitter I had to give up to play the tomboy part convincingly enough to please adults who preferred I fit into SOME box or other).
But this one time my son got a “girl” toy in his kids’ meal by accident, and it was pretty cool — it was one of those little fashion designer doll toys where you get fabric swatches to stick into a template to design your own clothes. And at first he was disappointed that he got the “girl” toy but then I reminded him that there’s no such thing as toys that are “just for girls,” and he tried playing with it, and he REALLY LIKED it.
And two years later that dinky toy still in his room, but he hides it because he’s afraid his friends will make fun of him if they catch him designing doll clothes.
My one year old daughter Dylan walks around the house wearing an apron, a helmet, and swinging a sword. At the same time. She’s the most badass girlie girl I know. And would promptly chuck a sparkly shoe on a keychain at my head.
What bothers me about mcdonalds is that they now say” see you tomorrow” after you get your drive thru order(at least in canada)
It seems like McDonald’s takes turns with the crappy toys. I have 2 girls and 1 boy and I’ve ordered all of one kind or another. I’ve even gotten them toddler toys when the featured toy is just too annoying looking.
I must say that my oldest loves her sparkly keychain. It’s her spy light for investigating mysteries.
I was shocked the other day to see that Lego and Duplo where stored in the boy-section of the toy department. What the hell…?
I got a pitch yesterday that offered a toy just for girls, because their brothers have LEGOs and Lincoln Logs–it was a princess costume set.
I thought, let your girls play with the damn LEGOs! Gah!
This is so wrong! LEGOs actually try very hard to market themselves to girls, too- you can even by the pink bucket if you have a girl (or more likely, a set of parents) who insist that all girl toys must be pink.
True, I saw an adorable Hello Kitty LEGO set by Mega this week at a press preview. It was super cute. I have no beef with Hello Kitty! Or LEGO marketing.
I’d imagine the LEGOs in the “boy aisle” featured Star Wars or pirates…and perhaps the buyer hadn’t bought any of the “girl” character-based sets. The baby Duplo stuff, fortunately, is still pretty gender-neutral.
In Belgium Duplo has a ‘Cars’ set for boys and the girls get a dollhouse. *deep sigh*
But my girls dig Duplo, and I live in hope, yesterday the eldest told me she wants to be an engineer because she likes to build towers with Duplo. It is that or lion tamer…
Love this post!! I had the exact same experience with my two daughters a few months ago. I’ve put so much effort into teaching them that “everything is for everyone,” and it really bummed me out that prize had already been decided for them. I too told my kids that the people inside were mistaken. My youngest SLEEPS with the crazy looking poke-e-mon toy she got that day (hard plastic, orange and black fierce looking thing with a light up tail). She calls it her bunny…..
I have two boys, and a few years back, McDonald’s was offering tiny Build-a-Bear Workshop stuffed animals for girls and some weird robotic thing for boys. We got the “girl” toy every time we went. They adore their “stuffies,” and still play with them often. They’ve also had baby dolls and strollers, that sit parked beside their legos and swords.
I think it’s so sad to see how hung up on gender roles we’ve become – when I was younger, I played with my brother’s GI Joes AND my Barbies, and I think I turned out okay – what are parents so afraid of?
So I smiled, suddenly reminded of just how awesome my stepdaughter and grandkids are.
The battle will truly be won when fathers feel free to sign up for Daddy and Me ballet or scrapbooking classes with their sons.
That will be my signal for a victory cry.
That, or some man other than Johnny Weir figure skating in a tutu.
Oh my gosh! Come to Brooklyn Josette- I was one of the few moms in pre-ballet with Sage two years ago. It was all dads. (Cue victory cry!)
One of the best things about having teenagers is that we DON’T go to McDonalds any more for happy meals (or any other meals, really). When my kids were younger, though, they were offered the same “boy or girl” choice as today for happy meals. So clearly, this is how McDonalds is instructing their staff to refer to the meals. In addition to the inherent sexism in the marketing of the toys, my biggest concern as a parent was that my kids simply did not need one more piece of plastic junky crap…..
As the owner of a few of the Ben 10 toys from McDonald’s I must admit they’re pretty cool for McDonald’s toys. I just always say boy as placing the order (I feel like that disclosed how often we go — its really not that often!).
Here’s to hoping our girls can change the future. Reminds me of my letter to my daughter on her first birthday. http://lostandforgotten.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/to-my-daughter-on-her-first-birthday/
You should check out this tool for remixing gender stereotypical kids commercials:
Good times. Also, disturbing.
Thanks to you I yelled at the guy in the drive through when he would not accept my answer of “the iCarly toy”. M, from the back seat, after I yelled at him, said “but I like Power Rangers too, Mom”. Yeah, thanks for proving my point kid. 🙂
Another good one for cool & gender non specific toys is Sonic. They all have a tater tot theme. Right now it is cool stuffed dino-tots. We’ve also gotten a glider airplane thing from them that was pretty cool. If we are going to go the route of the fast food (which happens way more than I want to admit) I do tend to gravitate towards the places that offer one choice more than not.
I think you handled that just right. It’s best to demystify this crap whenever we can.
First of all I’m stealing Sanctimommies. That’s just bitchen’. And good for you for taking the time to explain the rigamarole to your girls. That’s a big change from our generation right there. xo
You handled this wonderfully! You said all of the right things. And how awesome are your little girls?!
I agree the boy/girl toy/colour division is ridiculous, and I try my best to instill the idea that there’s no such thing as a girl colour or a boy toy, what matters is whether you like it or not (just had this conversation with a neighbour’s kid this week in fact, after she told me that pink is a girl colour)… but as the mother of two boys who are both attracted to the pink and sparkly, I think it’s way harder for the boys than the girls. Even though girls might be marketed the pink and useless, it’s still OK for them to dress in whatever colour they like, play with swords and robots, and aspire to be something that was traditionally male dominated. For the boys who like pink and playing with dolls? Much much harder, socially and in terms of what’s available- my son likes pink things, but doesn’t want girly things, so gets upset e.g. when all the pink toothbrushes have fairies on them. Harder for me too, no matter how enlightened I think I am – if I had a daughter who wanted to wear boys’ clothes, I’d let her no question, but I direct my boys away from the sparkly Hello Kitty T-shirts. It’s something I really grapple with – http://quickcuppatea.blogspot.com/2011/05/gender-confusion.html
I don’t like gender stereotyping either, and I always ask my kids ahead of time which toy they want and let them have whatever, but I’m concerned with discussions like this how quickly it turns into holding up ‘boy’ things as superior. They aren’t.
As mentioned above by a few people, boys are not allowed the same freedom to cross that imagined gender line in our society. A girl who aspires to the boy things is considered cool. A boy who wants something pink or girl oriented is more likely to be ridiculed. This is obviously wrong, and I hate it, but it makes me question how we look at the girl toys to begin with. If things associated with girls are inferior, it’s a step down to choose toys they prefer. Pink is fine. For anybody.
A sparkly pink shoe may not be my thing, but I can see any of my kids coming up with something fun to do with it because they all have great imaginations. They all use legos, they all like dolls, they all like trains….
I know the marketing from above is overwhelming, but at the kid level they still pick what they like. A lot of girls like the stereotypical girl toys. Princess stuff is over the top girlie for my taste, but it’s not passive. They dress up, they play games, they make it their own while being sparkly. Can we not bash girl stuff on our quest to make things more accessible for both sexes?
I guess my point is that at the kid level they do not in fact pick what they like.
The choice was made for them when the McDonald’s clerk asked “girl or boy?”
I do see your point, although everyone I know looks at the toys before picking which meal regardless of the sex of their kid.
But I am still disturbed at the terms ‘lame’ and ‘crappy’ when talking about the girl toys in this thread, and ‘fun’ and ‘cool’ for the boy things. People are proud of girls when they aspire to boy things. I know I earn more respect for working with my shop full of tools than I do for knowing how to sew. The problem of girl things being considered ‘less than’ to me is a bigger problem than labeling the toys to begin with.
I’m a New Yorker! What do I know from picking Happy Meal toys at a I-95 drive-thru! Maybe that’s part of the problem?
You make a good point, Korinthia. “Girl” toys are not inherently inferior. Some are even superior. Even so, I think a lot of commenters are responding to a general marketing culture that promotes pretty things to girls and not a lot else. Sewing = awesome! For girls or boys. But I don’t see a lot of “my first hand mirror” toys for boys. I guess I’d argue that yeah, that’s inferior to LEGOs (or sewing) for a lot of reasons. When we want our girls to value more than being pretty, we shouldn’t have to work so hard to find help in the toy department, right?
I think the lazy marketing that presents us with things for girls to feel pretty is fairly balanced out by the same lazy marketing that presents us with things for boys to play at violence. Both are unfortunate in my opinion.
You probably feel the girl side more acutely because you have daughters, but I have two girls and a boy. On 4th of July when my 4-year-old son was handed a generic toy from the ‘boy prize box’ at a park event, he got a fake gun with a silencer on it. I’d have preferred they give him the hand mirror.
I think we can take heart that ultimately it comes down to what our kids bring to the toys. My kids would probably turn the hand mirror into a toy ice rink, and they wound up taking the gun apart.
Argh, this gets me every time! I hate that they have standard girl and boy toys, but what really bugs the heck out of me is that the girl toys are so lame!
Not a fan! What aggrevates me even more is when I ask for boys and the give me girls or just one girl and 2 boys….My three boys were NOT pleased. The last straw was getting a purple little tikes rocking horse that did absolutely nothing!!
GOOD post..i agree with AMY that’s right, I thought you mom’s may be interested in the newest kids craze in my town, Patch Hats! Check out a hat you have never seen before here at www patchhats com
Maybe you just turn to the daughter’s and say, “Would you like a awesome, fantastic space alien or a awesome, sparkly key-chain?”
Then upon receiving answer, you turn back to the big speaker who just wants your order and say, “I would like this___ or I would like this___,” and eliminate the drama completely. ?
Shouldn’t the freedom to choose be what’s stressed sometimes?
I think we’re making the same point.
Really? This really upset you? That a corporation with a drive through meant to serve food as fast as possible has toys categorized by gender? Now, if they had looked into your car and refused to give you the boy toy, that would be a story.
Upset, Cath. DISTRAUGHT. As you can tell from my post I can hardly even function since this happened. I just lie in bed all day long, dabbing my mascara-stained cheeks with a greasy McDonald’s napkin (they’re so hard to part with), and whispering Gloria Steinem’s name. Help me!
Halfway way through you lost me when you started making such a(what seemed to me, a reader) huge point. Sometimes we can make bigger points to our children by transcending perceived(rightfully so at times) stereotyping and personality squelching by just gracefully exercising our right to choose? I agree with Cath, they didn’t refuse to give you the “boy” toy.
It’s your blog and I’m not commenting to show respect. I really enjoy your style.
Respectful dissent always permitted here.
And you know, maybe it is a huge point. Maybe a mega-corporation that asks millions of children a day, “boy or girl toy?” can have some influence in the world by simply making that one small change. And maybe they wouldn’t even think about doing so until we have public conversations like these and it catches the eye of someone in marketing who thinks wait, maybe we have this great opportunity here…
Or hey, maybe I’m overreacting. It wouldn’t be the first time.
*disrespect!! That’s embarrassing.
I have an almost 4 year old girl that loves princesses but really loves superheroes. I usually order boy toys at McDonald’s for her and at first she got upset because apparently there is nothing worse than someone thinking she is a boy. But then she realized that they have way cooler toys for boys at McD’s. Now she is proud to tell people she thinks boy toys are way cooler. My point of things not being boy or girl didn’t really work out, but at least she doesn’t think everything has to be sparkly and pink. Mission semi accomplished.
You rock. That is all.
Hello! I am reminded so many times a day all the ways gender stereotyping is shoved down our throats especially if we are parents. And the sad truth is most don’t even question it. When I mention how hoppin mad I get at that damn McD’s (or many other food chains-doctor’s office stickers….on and on) question “girl or boy” people often look at me like Im neurotic. Well maybe I am, but not about this. By the age of like 2 my little boy (who is nurtured in a feminist household) said- “I cant like pink Mommy bc Im a boy” and countless other such little darts have been shot me now that he is four- I get pissed. It has always been this way, true. One need only look at old movies, adverts etc to know this…but today with hypermarketing of EVERYTHING, marketers are promoting increasingly strict gender norms and the world is responding by making my son at the tender age of four question if its OK to like the more pleasant looking, less monstrous toys that are pushed on boys everywhere you go. Boys are expected to like the gruesome, the cruel and the “tough” hype. If they don’t, believe me – they get sideways glances (well at least I as his Mom does). No wonder in short time boys lose their voice. As a feminist I focused a lot of my life on the crap that is pushed on girls- and it is a worthy target for change-HUGE. But I now am looking much more seriously and with sadness as I see all this louder, bigger, tougher, more mean ( toys, movies, shows etc.) “boys stuff” and how it is dominating little minds.
thanks for your comment Kris. Like so many other commenters mentioned here, you’re right. We have to do better by our boys too.
Thanks to you. Just saw your comment ! And so it goes. My son now says, “don’t answer yet Mommy- what’s the option?”
No knee jerk robotic sheep my son- he just wants the toy he will like the best. 🙂
Some things won’t change.
When I was a girl, I was often told no on toys and clothes I wanted because I was a girl. So never ever was I going to say that to my daughters…… I have three boys. Boys who, when they went to kindergarten, loved pink (and red and purple and orange and even more all these colors combined) and long hair. And I let them. I lived on welfare and I made the clothes myself, in any color they choose. Boy, I was amazed at the critical questions I got …… from the other mothers. In those days (early nineties) boys had to be shaven. I thought that made them look like little criminals but kept that to myself.
It makes me want to SCREAM when I hear that question at the drive-through. All of my girls (4 of them) would prefer Batman and Transformers over Barbie and Hello Kitty (although we’re gonna say “girl” to those fabulous My Little Ponies every time). Is it really that hard to ask, “Would you prefer Iron Man or LaLa Loopsy?”
I struggle with the boy/girl question all the time. My go-to response was usually, “Ill take (say the toy that my daughter really wanted).” I refused for so many years to classify. Now, although my daughter is 8 and about done with Happy Meals, I usually just say the gender because it is the quickest way to get me out of there. LOL!
Great post! Glad I stumbled upon it and that I am not the only one that would get ticked at that question.
Comments are closed.