Thursday, September 27, 2012

Girls and Boys

Possibly a little scattered. Just a little... Here we go!

Since it's September again, (how the crap did that happen, anyway?) all the super-fun programs and activities for Thom are starting up again. One of which is a playgroup at our new local community center on Mondays and Thursdays. We go and Thom plays and hangs out with his buddies and it's generally a great time (until he crashes, because it's right at nap time).

Lately as I watch Thom and his buddies play I've become more and more aware of the (seemingly innate) differences between boys and girls in terms of gender roles. As I talk to parents it seems like we don't necessarily teach little girls how to play with dolls, or little boys how to drive trucks (complete with sound effects) but it was fascinating to see the little girls show up in playgroup and head for the dolls and the kitchen and the dress-up section, where the boys headed for the tool bench and the cars and trucks. Just thought it was interesting. I was speaking with some of Mike's co-workers yesterday and they mentioned that even if you don't necessarily expose your kid to the "gender stereotype" toys and activities, they will sometimes just be drawn that way. Little girls loving dolls and pink, even though their Mom tried to avoid it etc.

On that same note though, as Thom and I were sitting playing with some farm animals (he's a little obsessed with animal sounds right now) I was looking through some of the other smaller toys that were in buckets around us being played with by the bigger kids... I was kind of shocked and appalled. There were your typical "Barbie" style toys, wearing their crop-tops and their shorty-skirts (with roller-blades, because that's practical...) but nobody's surprised by those anymore. I'm thinking more about the "boy" toys, since that's what I'm dealing with right now! The policeman had some kind of crazy blaster-gun/backpack thing that I couldn't even identify, the pirates all had swords, the cowboy had some kind of weapon, but the thing that surprised me was how BEEFY these figurines were. Muscles everywhere, even their thighs. And it got me thinking; we focus so much on body image and girls and just what are we teaching them with their Barbies and their "Bratz" dolls (the horror), but the same goes for boys. When it comes to what it means to "be a man", does it have to be all about muscles and guns?
*Disclaimer* I am totally aware that all the toys at Playgroup are donated, nor do I place any blame on the playgroup itself for the toys! They are EVERYWHERE.

If you know our family at all, you know we try to be pretty free-flowing when it comes to gender/sexuality/all of that. I don't go so far as to not call him a boy, he has the dangley bit, so he's a boy. Unless or until he tells me otherwise. A rule I like for Thom (that Mike actually came up with!) is "if he picks it, we support it". But he chooses it for himself. So if he chooses to bring home a purple hedgehog from the dollar store, that's cool (has happened). If he decides he wants to carry around a baby doll, also cool (hasn't happened yet). He came really close to pink and purple running shoes, which would have been fine with me, but once he saw the bright green, he was sold. I want him to be able to make decisions for himself when it comes to toys, clothes etc. I want him to know that being a man has nothing to do with muscles and weapons. I know a lot of this is going to fall on Mike, and I'm okay with that because I think he's got a handle on it. I want Thom to be comfortable with the person he decides to be, because we will support him no matter what!