Category Archives: Gender



This awesome article was shared on FB and shows 10 female role models as Disney princesses. The art begs the question why we reduce any women to the mold of skinny, wearing a glittery dress, and always sporting a big smile. The women Dave Trumble, the artist, chose were: Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Hillary Clinton, Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Anne Frank, Harriet Tubman, Jane Goodall(in shorts!), Marie Curie, Gloria Steinem (who gets to wear sparkly pants), and Malala Yousafzai.

I think my list might include Goodall and Yousafzai. I would probably include Wangari Maathai, Mother Jones, Maya Angelou, Sojourner Truth, Ada Lovelace. Possibly Justice Sotomayor. I guess with Parks, Anthony, Frank, Tubman, and Curie I feel that these figures are already visible. I would want to draw out some less visible role models.

All of these women are great choices, but what would your top 10 be?

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Books and Girls

Someone highlighted this article on Facebook. It resonates far beyond the topic of books, but it also serves as a great lead in to the books I recently brought home from the branch library across the street. A few weeks ago, I selected some Seuss: Horton Hears a Who, The Cat in the Hat, Sneetches and Other Stories, and Yertle the Turtle and other Stories.

Horton Hears a Who mostly stands up to the passage of time. The violence that the kangaroos and monkeys attempt to perpetrate is shocking, but it is also very compelling. The kangaroos change their attitude in the end in ways we all wish bullies would. Horton’s unwavering belief in the who, his staunch defense of them, and his search for  them in the clover field are very exaggerated examples of some good qualities. And the scenes in Whoville are permanently etched in my brain. I remembered them before I even turned the page this time around. My daughter asked for over and over, and we talked about different characters in the book and why they did what they did.

The Cat in the Hat, was only a slight disappointment. It is good, but it doesn’t live up to some of the other titles Seuss put out. My daughter didn’t ask for this one as much as the others.

Sneeches and Other Stories was a hit. The machines that take stars on and off mesmerized my daughter, and the dejected looks on the plain belly sneetches is something that all kids feel at some point. We read and talked about that story very often, and I love the message within. Even the monkey that takes advantage of the sneetches is fodder for thought. However, it was What Was I Scared Of? story that was the blast from the past. I had completely forgotten about this story with the empty green pants, but the second page illustration with empty pale green pants walking down the path in the moonlight opened up a synapse and released memories from their cage of time. Wow!

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories similarly captured my daughter’s imagination. My daughter often states she wants to be a princess, and my stock reply that goes into how royalty make their money in unfair ways just doesn’t make a dent in the billion dollar princess industry. Yertle, however, very eloquently shows how being king comes at the cost of all the others just like you. The turtles had to suffer greatly for Yertle to be great, and a burp dislodged him from his high seat.

As usual, my wife and I were asked to read and reread these books seemingly without break. Seuss rhymes are infectious, and soon I was just talking like that when emerging from a marathon reading session. Time to send them back to the library for a rest.

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More, Please

Harrod’s toy store made it to CNN. Read more.

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Closing Ceremonies

My daughter rarely watches T.V. and even more rarely watches it live. The vast majority of her video watching has been one movie she likes to watch when she is sick; it is about bugs.

This year’s Olympics was an opportunity to show her amazing athletes, many of them women, performing sports at the highest level, but somehow that slipped by. I have been watching recorded events in the evening after putting the kids to bed, so my daughter missed the 2012 Summer Olympics and an opportunity to see these people in motion, in peak athletic form. It was not intentional to pass by this opportunity; it is just that our routines do not include T.V. during the day, so I didn’t think about it until the very end. The last few days were not as filled with events and had much more silly coverage of American reporters explaining things British.

It is a reminder to me that there is value in having my daughter and son see some things on T.V.

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Put a Sock in it.

Scene of the dyeing

I finally got around to the sock dyeing project that has been sitting, amongst all the other neglected ideas, in the dust-gathering piles in my office. I had the socks, the dyes, the bottles, the soda ash, and the rubber bands all ready.

Finally, with my departure Sunday afternoon for a week-long trip, the morning opened up as prime project time. I soaked socks and explained the process to my daughter. I did forget to get her gloves, so she declined to get her hands multi-colored though she did try squeezing a dye bottle for one pair of socks. She directed how she wanted the socks to be colored, and enjoyed the process. She tends to want to watch a new experience before trying it out herself, anyway. Next time I will have gloves and she may want to do more.

After one washing

The net result are some fun socks that lack the branding and mandatory pink and glitter that girls' socks have these days. They are also clothing that my daughter had input into the creative process for making them, so hopefully she will be excited about them.


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More Doll Research

Now I have to find dolls I can deal with. I recognize that dolls are a very important part of the toy chest for both boys and girls.

My initial search turned up Girls Explore Dolls. These are based on real people: Amelia Earhart, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Bessie Coleman, Dot Richardson, Harriet Tubman, and Mary Cassatt. I was hoping for a scientist, but orthopedic surgeon and former Olympian is pretty good. Amelia Earhart and Harriet Tubman are so integrated into the storytelling fabric of our culture that it is hard to pick out the myth from the fact, and I would be interested to read the biography that comes with each.

Further searching turned up the Only Hearts Club dolls. The idea of a club, the pink sprayed liberally around the site, and the merchandizing that clogs the store make this a bad choice for a child who would access these things. However, the dolls, all girls, are more realistic than Barbie. The context in which they are presented is troubling to me including a featured McDonald’s Promotion on the front page of the website. Many of the dolls veer into the gender types I am trying to avoid, but there are a few that could be considered. Each girl has a dog or a kitten; that is just weird. Their stories read like teen magazines. They look like they have evolved from the more neutral group of girls I see in an old photo of their lineup.

Next I ran into Karito Kids which also have an annoyingly animated, glitzy webpage designed to suck in girls and make them feel like they are helping the world by buying these dolls. At over $100 per doll and then the extra outfits and more, these are a big investment. They all come with books that have their stories, and they, too, have been painted by the pink brush.

Similarly, there are doll choices that look OK over at American Girl, but the same issues hold true here. The base cost is high, the extra items are equally outrageous, and the text that goes with the American Girl dolls is not creating stories of strength.  An excellent critique of the American Girl empire can be read here.

I then turned to Ebay and found a defunct line of dolls that included a doctor named Haley.  And then Etsy turned up a tomboy doll. Where to next?

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Breaking Norms, Causing Stress

Over the last few days, we have had two house guests, friends from our college days, staying with us, and my father-in-law staying at my brother-in-law’s house. Our guests came to attend another college friend’s wedding on Friday, and our FIL cared for the two kids to free up both my wife and me for this celebration. The ceremony and the whole event were wonderful. The bride, our friend, was truly radiant and joyous.

In the midst of the bedlam of extra people in the house, event schedules that are not necessarily aligned with our children’s timing, and being cared for by others, our kids did pretty well. Both are showing signs of needing a bit more attention, and both realize on some level that their mommy is leaving today for a trip. I think the ripples should settle by Tuesday or so.

One ripple was that one of our house guests, in a beautiful gesture of reaching out to us and of generosity, brought some presents for the kids. For our daughter, she brought a Cinderella doll which I did not even see. I was working in my office, and my wife came in to inform me she had seen it too late, and now our daughter was asking for it.

A quick switcheroo was performed prior to my wife coming in, and my daughter was occupied by the sticker book that had been meant for my son, but she still wanted the doll. My wife and I huddled and came up with a plan. I had to be out the door in fifteen minutes to chauffeur my friends and their parents to their wedding (I even ordered a costume cap to play the role!).

We called our daughter into my office and closed the door. Obviously this was different from normal, and she hunkered down; I worried that she was thinking she had done something wrong. We explained that it was about the doll. I asked her what she knew about Cinderella, and her response was, “She’s a princess.” Disney has indeed penetrated this market. I then asked her what Cinderella’s story was, and my daughter did not know. She did parrot back the words I have been saying that princesses (and other royalty) have to take money from people rather than doing jobs like mommy and daddy. I really have to stop that line of reasoning.  She just wanted the doll because it represents what she sees in the clothing, language, toys, and behavior of her peers.

I gave a quick synopsis of the story pointing out that Cinderella had a loving father, that her step mother and sisters were not nice to her, and that the prince liked her because of how she looked. I also talked about at the end of the story, Cinderella’s step mother and sisters were hurt, and maybe that would not help them from being mean. Bottom line, Cinderella was a loving person who could do things like cooking and cleaning like we do. However, the point of this story is that some one liked her just for how she looked.

We then talked about why we choose our friends, and we came up with a list together. My daughter chipped in as much as my wife and me about traits: caring, creative, smart, etc.

At that point, I noticed the Lego Mindstorms kit I brought home from school to learn this summer. I offered these things:

  • We would find dolls of people who fit our list of what makes a good friend. I have found these, and am looking for more.
  • She and I would learn the mindstorms together

My daughter seemed to accept this solution and even wanted to start that moment with the kit. Now I have to research dolls to see what might fit with our conditions. At least they should not be branded and have a predetermined role and story.

My wife talked several times with our friend who was completely gracious and supportive of our parenting; she is a parent, too. Later during the reception I entered one of these conversations, and she clearly articulated her perspective on it. I absolutely respect her opinions while at the same time not sharing all of them. I am just thankful that she seems not put out by this incident. I hope that it will not affect her relationship with my wife, and at the same time, I tremendously value my wife’s support in these issues.

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