When I found out I was expecting a girl, I was dreading the idea of having one of those little girls who likes princesses and glitter and sparkles. I’m just not sure how I’d relate to that child, frankly. I’ve only worn a dress once as an adult (on my wedding day) and look how well THAT turned out.
Fortunately for me, Flea’s a tomboy. She likes pirates, she likes monsters and she likes dinosaurs. She prefers to wear jeans and she loves her red racing car trainers. When she grows up, she wants to be a burglar.
I don’t think I’ve encouraged her in any direction. My mantra has always been: “There is no such thing as boys’ toys or girls’ toys. You can play with whatever you like.”
The same applies to clothes. I’m sure if the girls’ section included clothes with dinosaurs and pirates on, Flea would be happy to wear girls’ clothes, but the reality is we mostly end up buying from the boys’ section. And I’ve never commented on that, I just let her choose what she likes. (for a great visual representation of this issue, check out Noble Savage’s post here)
The only thing I find odd about our situation is how odd other people find it. I've lost count of the number of children who have said to Flea, "You can't play with that, it's for boys," or "Why are you wearing a boy's t-shirt?".
Now Flea's at school, it's a real dilemma. I don't want her to feel weird, or to be the odd one out. But I also don't want her to buy into what I consider to be a stupid notion that girls should be 'cute' and 'pretty' while boys get to be 'cheeky' and 'adventurous'.
But we're really up against it. The retail industry works so very hard to convince us that boys and girls are entirely different creatures – has anyone else noticed now that even toys like the Leapfrog Tag and VTech Early Walker are available in boys' and girls' versions? You can even buy gender-specific tins of spaghetti hoops. Jesus, that’s depressing.
I recently watched High School Musical 3 with my six year old niece, who told me it was her favourite film. She loves Troy, of course. But am I the only person who was concerned with the scene where the group of male characters openly ogle a female character’s rear end? Yes, little girls, one day when you grow up, if you're very lucky, a group of teenage boys will ogle your arse, and then you'll know you're a success. Gross.
This kind of thing is a big part of the reason why Flea doesn’t watch television and I'm careful of what toys I introduce to her, but now she's at school, I'm increasingly aware that there will be new influences in her life. What do other mothers of girls (and boys) think? How do you approach issues of gender with your kids?