Yesterday, Chuck Wendig wrote in his blog about the gender divide with children’s toys. His comments opened a discussion among his subscribers. Some subscribers mentioned that their parents championed their child’s right to play with any toy they chose, whereas other subscribers had been victims of the divide: boys who wanted an E-Z Bake Oven, girls who wanted to play with toy soldiers, but were stopped by an adult and guided toward the “appropriate” toys.
In an attempt to expose the horrific, social conditioning my own parents imposed on me, I started making a list of toys I had as a child, certain that I would be able to point at my aged parental units and shout, “Aha! Mere humans! Your attempts to turn me into a pink-clothed shopaholic stereotype have failed! They have failed miserably!” (Cue laughter, thunder, and lightning as I swirl my cape around me and exit, stage left)
My brainstormed list of toys was short, consisting of Barbies (sans Ken…more on that later), a Cabbage Patch Kid and a few board games. This meager amount of toys perfectly coincided with my oft-told adult tales of the Dickensian poverty of my later childhood in which the birth of my brother compelled my family to accept government assistance.
*edit* When I read this blog entry aloud to my mother, she was quick to point out, “We didn’t get government assistance! You made it sound like we were on welfare!” Let me clarify: the “government assistance” I talked about was WIC, a government-funded program.
Still, I knew I had more toys than what I could instantly remember, debunking my woe-was-my-childhood stories. I then did what anyone else would do: I took to the Internet. This turned into an hour of me pointing excitedly at my screen, squealing, “Oh my God, I had that toy!” In total, I had over thirty different toys, many of which began with the words “Fisher Price.” If we could have afforded it, we should have bought stock in that company.
As I looked at my list, it turned out that my Barbie dolls and possibly my Cabbage Patch Kid, Walter, were the only evidence to any kind of conditioning on my parents’ part. I also had board games such as Hungry Hungry Hippos, Chutes and Ladders, Hi-Ho Cherry-O ―I’m sorry, what exactly was the point of that game?― , Battleship ―worthless if you don’t have an opponent sitting across from you―, and Candyland. Not only were we not as dirt-poor as I recalled, but I was never even a victim of gender-based social conditioning,? What kind of world is this?
It was a magical world full of musical Ferris wheels, coloring books, Superman trading cards, a lone shark puppet, and Play-doh. There were, of course, toys that I wanted and never got, such as the Snoopy Snow Cone Machine, Lite Brite, Star Wars stuff (but only after I went to Matty Cepkauskas’ house and saw the toy Millennium Falcon he had) and a Ken doll.
Wait, a Ken doll? Why did I have four or five Barbies but no Ken? I asked my mother about this and the conversation went a little like this.
Me: Why didn’t you ever buy me a Ken doll when I was little? You were trying to turn me into a lesbian, weren’t you?
Mom: I didn’t want you undressing him and checking out what was on the front. (Uh…my mom has seen the non-descript genitalia on those dolls, hasn’t she?)
Well, ha! I found a way around the lack of a Ken doll when Barbie went on a date! I simply took one of my other Barbies, dressed her up, tied her hair back, and turned her body around so her boobs were behind her, but she was still face-to-face with Main Barbie for their kiss at the end of the date.
Necessity, after all, is the mother of invention.
I’ve discovered that I am simply the doesn’t-fit-into-a-gender-stereotype offspring of two people who also don’t fit into stereotypes. My dad spends his free time reading and cares nothing about sports. In fact, he only reads about sports so he can have a conversation with his co-workers. The only shopping my mother engages in is grocery shopping yet she is not what I would call a “domestic” woman. She cooks, but only because her family needs to eat. She’s not the kind who is always in the kitchen whipping up something just because she felt like it. There was never a time in my life where I pictured my mother as a June Cleaver type. My mom, though a housewife until I was 17, was more like Roseanne Conner, a bossy working-class wife who had no problem speaking up.
So, for all their faults, they never forced me to be a girly girl-child. And now, I’m off to play The Sims where I can have girl and boy Barbies. I win.