Earlier this year my six-year-old daughter and I attended an event at her elementary school. Students and parents wandered around the gym perusing tables covered with various knickknacks, books, toys, and holiday ornaments.
One table at the center of the room caught her eye. The Superhero Table!
“Mom, Mom, LOOK!” she squealed.
She excitedly inspected every toy on the table trying to decide which one she would buy herself. Then I watched her look of excitement melt away to a look of disappointment and even anger.
“What’s wrong, sweetie?” I asked.
She folded her arms and scowled in her very six-year-old way.
“I can’t get any of these. They’re only for boys!”
Sure enough a large sign hung on the front of the table.
I assured her that it was okay. She could pick something out from the table, but she wouldn’t listen.
“I don’t want to get something that’s only for boys.”
I could see from the look on her face that what was only seconds before exciting now embarrassed her. She walked away to find something on a table labeled “GIRLS.” And no matter of convincing would change her mind.
I spoke with the organizer and politely shared what happened. She assured me that next year they would “probably” just label the tables as “TOYS.”
And I talked again with Emma, telling her they shouldn’t have had a sign like that up and that people were allowed to like what they like.
Later that same night, we drove through McDonalds to grab dinner. Emma wanted a Happy Meal.
“Is that for a boy or a girl?” the drive-thru attendant asked me through the speakers.
I gave my usual calm response. “Can you please tell me what the toys options are and I will decide which one to get?”
“Sure. We have Batman for the boys and My Little Pony for the girls,” she replied.
“Well, my daughter would like a Batman if that’s okay with you!” That’s what I wanted to say, but I chose a politer route. “My daughter would like a Batman, please.”
Last year I wrote corporate McDonalds asking them to change their policy so that employees would not indicate that certain toys were for boys and certain toys were for girls. I received a letter back assuring me that it was NOT their policy to use that language. Funny how you can stop at any McDonalds in the country and this language is still used.
This morning as Emma got ready for school, she made an announcement:
Emma: I’m not really into princesses anymore. I like scary stuff.
Me: Scary stuff? Like what?
Emma: Like superheroes. But the real ones that look all serious.
She also happened to need new socks and underwear. She wanted superhero ones and specifically requested ones that were NOT pink. This from the girl with a hot pink coat, a hot pink hat, and a hot pink bedroom (her choice). She wanted serious superhero underwear.
My first thought – “Where are we going to find superhero underwear for girls? Maybe we could just buy boys?”
My second thought – “I’ll probably have to go online and special order something. What if I can’t find what she wants?”
Later that day I stopped at Target (recently in the news for removing gendered specific signage in their toy sections.) I walked by the girls’ underwear section to take a casual glance at the selection knowing I would likely have to settle for either pink superhero (if I was lucky) or something not pink, but not really superhero.
Then a light from heaven shone brightly down and I heard angels singing. There. They. Were.
Non-pink superhero underwear for girls. And they looked all kinds of serious. No tea parties or ball gowns in sight. Bravo, Target. Bravo.
There are so many subtle and not so subtle messages our daughters receive about what they should act like, look like, dress like. And some of these things are very hard to combat, but some things are very, very simple.
Take down the dumb signs.
Stop deciding what toy my daughter can get in her Happy Meal.
Give people options and let them make the best selection for their child.
Some people still don’t understand why things like this matter. Well, I have a daughter and it makes her feel bad when people suggest certain things are for boys that she wants to be for her. It tells her there’s something wrong with liking what she likes. It tells her there’s something wrong with her. So, knock it off world. Do better.
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