Tag Archives: Gender

The End of Hand-Me-Downs

We have been extraordinarily blessed with hand-me-downs from friends to clothe our children. They pass us almost the entire wardrobe for our children including winter coats and jackets. We have bought some shoes and boots, underwear, and some socks. Other than that, much of our clothes have been free or close to it. My daughter, however, has hit that part of life when she has stopped growing quite as fast and has caught up with our clothes donors in size. My wife and I took advantage of my mother’s visit to hop over to a thrift store and do a quick shopping. We are lucky to have a fully stocked kids section in our local store, so getting some variety was fairly easy. The discussions when my daughter was trying on her new clothes re-revealed the differences that my wife and I have about clothing. We have both shifted a lot on this topic, but there are still areas that are difficult. It is a process that has its ups and downs, and our shopping and trying on experience contained both of those.

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A Day Well Spent

Saturday, the family went out to do some errands. We braved Target mid afternoon. Luckily it was raining, and that made it only hard to find parking and somewhat packed inside. On a nice day, that store is crawling with people on the weekend. With shoes returned and some other things taken care of, we headed to a much more fun location.

Artist & Craftsman Supply is one of my favorite stores. Unlike most art supply stores, the people there not only really know their stuff, they are not snobby about me not knowing my stuff. They work with all levels of artistic ability/knowledge, the store is amazingly well stocked, and they are even friendly there. Imagine, an unpretentious art supply store where all feel welcome and really helped. I love it! I could spend hours, maybe days, there. We even had a yummy dinner at Life Alive.

The two stores do have a connecting thread. A few days ago, I went to Target with my two kids on a mission to get new shoes for both and some socks for my four year-old daughter. Boy’s socks are dark, covered with sports or other “male” themes. Even more irritating are the girl’s socks. We already get my daughter her underwear from Hanna Anderson, not because we are too wealthy and have nowhere to throw our money, but because it is nearly impossible to find girl’s underwear that is not violently pink and sparkly or covered with Disney or other branding or both conditions simultaneously. While one might take pleasure in placing iconic gender-typing images in the line of fire for a potty training child, only the parents would take joy in the metaphorical results. The real results would be more media saturation for my daughter, Disney as intimate as can be. No thanks.

Back to socks. Can’t find any that I like, so I turned to the Internet. Not there either. Then I looked at Etsy and found some socks dyed in cool shades and patterns, and it dawned on me that I can do that, too. I can do it a heck of a lot less expensively than the $10 per pair listed online, as well. Even better, it can be an art project that we do together, and then my daughter will have a real connection to her clothes.

White, cotton socks at Target. Dyes and related materials at the art store. Hopefully we’ll get this project done on Sunday.

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Branching Out

Usually, I walk across the street to the local library branch which is chock full of books for my daughter to read. I have found that going alone and picking some books is a good idea as many she chooses are odd or too difficult for her to read. We still go together and get these books, but they end up getting returned much more quickly. Amongst the ones I have selected, there have been quite a few that she has asked for again and have become favorites. It is an amazing resource to have such a child-centered branch library so close.

However, there are books from my childhood, books that I hear about from reviews, and books on important topics that I have not found in the shelves. There are so many books, that combing through the shelves might not reveal all of these, but the library belongs to a network of local libraries as well as all of the other branches of our town’s library, and it is easy to hop online and request that books be sent to our library.

I recently read a review of some books by Lesléa Newman who writes many children’s books with LGBT themes. I requested Daddy, Papa, and Me, Mommy, Mama, and Me, and Daddy’s Song. In the random accumulation of books that has happened, this is one of the areas that has not had as much attention as I would wish, so I decided to change that.

The first two are board books that follow a child through many activities with his/her parents. In both books, the child is fairly gender neutral. This sets up a two parent and one child family structure. The moms comb hair, rock in a chair, pack food, take walks, play on the playground, play hide and seek, hug, lay the child down for a nap, cook, read, bathe the child, and tuck him/her in for the night. The dad book starts with dialog with the child having a more active role. The dads are doing other things when the child engages them. They then move into fun play with much more active scenes. They play with costumes, cars, and airplanes. They paint and cook, play music, and catch balls. They sew and have a tea party. At the end of the book, they are worn out, and the child tucks them in on the sofa to rest. It is a much more engaging book, and both the parents and child have a greater breadth of roles.

Daddy’s Song, is a fanciful goodnight song from a dad to his daughter. It is beautifully written and illustrated. The message is even if crazy things happen, Daddy is still here and he loves you. There are some basics about race, class, and gender in this book, but the connection between father and daughter is gorgeous. These books are certainly worthy of moving from being checked out to becoming part of our home book collection.

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Something Good is Cooking!

Today is the actual birthday. My daughter is four. And there were presents. Some came from guests at our party on Sunday, some from family, one even from a former co-worker. The wonderful thing was that they all fell nicely within the parameters of what my wife and I are trying to create for an environment that fosters creativity and avoids reinforcing gender and other stereotypes. It was such a relief to not be put in the place of being a gatekeeper. (No Ghostbusters jokes here!).

Art supplies, books, magnetic letters, and many other things made the evening special, so special that my daughter is still singing to herself almost an hour after being put to bed. Luckily, so far, this has not woken or annoyed her brother to the point of him yelling. We’ll see.

My wife’s father sent us a play kitchen set that we had put on our wish list. We keep an Amazon wishlist for family (and friends if they ask) to help guide choices. As a friend said, “People will buy presents anyway even if you ask them not to, so you might as well make a list.” And this kitchen is great, and my daughter’s grandfather very generously made it happen.

It is made of wood and is gender neutral. My son loves fiddling with it already. It has a fridge, clothes washer and dryer, stove, oven, sink, microwave, clock, phone, and storage shelving. It did come with a hanging chalk board that people wrote did not work very well. I am going to mount a small magnetic dry erase board where it would have gone.

The user reviews mentioned how difficult and time consuming putting this kitchen together was. Had I done it alone, it would have taken some time, but it was very straight forward. Besides thinking there was a missing piece when there wasn’t everything went well. Even better than that, my daughter helped me put it together. She was very excited to use the real tools required to assemble this toy, and now she is even more invested in it because she had a hand in putting it together. The two little tools that came with the kit promptly went in her play tool box and nestled amongst the plastic representations of the other tools we used. I am very glad that I recently purchased a new drill and driver set that is light enough for her to use and has settings that prevent tearing out compressed wood products. I love this product line from Bosch, and so does my daughter!

I look forward to many years of use with this awesome kitchen set. Thanks Saba.

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Targeting Gender

Today, I went to target to purchase a gate for the bottom of my parents’ stairs. My son is determined to climb these stairs any time regardless of adult supervision. He has now started going down stairs, too, using the backwards feel and slide method. A long, slippery set of wood stairs is not what he needs to learn on right now, so I went to get this gate. While at Target, I walked by the toy section where not only the packaging screams out gender, but the backing to the shelves themselves are color coded pink, blue, and even green for outdoors.

What stood out at first was the action figures. I walked by the girl’s section first. Barbie and Ken stared at me vacantly from behind their individual blister packaging. Both are caricatures of men and women. I became interested in what the gender norms for figures of the opposite gender would be for each section. There were several versions of Ken along with other male figures of the different sets. The pink shelving clearly stated that these figures were for girls.


One thing that struck me was that these figures seem much younger than the Barbies and Kens of the ’70s and ’80s. They look almost teen/young twenties. Maybe because their hair was just molded plastic, or the clothes they wore were more conservative. It just seems that Ken and Barbie have become younger.

Next I walked the blue boys’ section looking for female action figures. I found one. This was a small scale supporting character for G.I. Joe who stood at attention nearby in his fatigues. His uniform looked fairly convincing. Hers, not so much. The men from the WWE were completely different from the Ken dolls. Though the one with the water bottle seemed almost contemplative while staring at his beverage, the images on the packaging showed the rage and violence that did not appear in the girls’ section.

Looking down the sporting goods aisle, there was a definite place for girls’ gear. You could spot it by the splotch of pink amidst standard gear.

Plenty of people have written eloquently about this phenomenon, and here I am at 11:00, on the road, tired to the bone. What I observed:

  • Men are portrayed as nice and cute in the girls’ section while the boys’ section shows rage, violence, and lots of muscle.
  • Women are shown as breasted versions of men in the boys’ section. In the girls’s section, it seems that men are just another accessory for the bedecked women.
  • Girls can now play sports because there are pink versions of sporting goods for them.
I worry about the self image created by the same gendered toys, but the stereotypes promoted by opposite gender toys are also powerful. Unsurprisingly, none of this stuff is in my house, yet. I want both my children to make their gender observations based on people we know, on my wife and me, and on books and other media we choose for them and that portray complexity and depth for both male and female characters.

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