6.16.2008

Failing Gloria Steinem Once Again?


Thalia has officially entered the "put clothes on my dolls" phase of toddlerhood.

It's awesome because it gives me something to do with all the clothes she and Sage have outgrown that I love and refuse to part with.

Seriously, the definition of insanity has to be when you start feeling bad for a onesie.

Thalia has this pair of dolls courtesy of one of Cool Mom Picks' favorite shops, The Silly Wagon - a boy and a girl. The artist, Galia Chai, named them Noa and Tom. Thalia calls them Dora and Diego.

It took me a while to figure out what she was talking about when she first demanded to go see Dora and Diego and then retreated to her room to play with dolls. Especially considering how pasty white these particular dolls are. They definitely do not have the world-weary look of children who have spent their youth traipsing unaccompanied across the Mexican countryside in the blazing sun.

Recently Thalia has decided Dora and Diego need to be dressed. And undressed. And dressed. And undressed. And dressed. And undressed. And once again, I found myself defaulting to stereotypical gender roles (Bad feminist! Bad! Bad!) when I opened Thalia's dresser and held out a football jersey for Diego and a frilly something or other for Dora.

Thalia, ever the free-thinker, politely declined.


Diego got the tank top. Dora got the flaming leg warmers.



Thalia got the Clinton Portis jersey.


And then she walked around the house in nothing but the jersey and a pair of plastic pink princess "heels" trimmed in marabou and probably dripping with unimaginable levels of lead paint. But Thalia likes them. So I like them. Enough.

She is going to defy all expectations, this girl of mine. I just know it. She's not a girlie girl. She's not a tomboy. She's just a cool little kid who wiggles when she gets excited and loves kicking a soccer ball and wants to try on my makeup and knows the Redskins fight song and thinks a princess is someone who dances in a special skirt and gets to save a prince.

All of this gender role stuff can be so impossible to get exactly right. It's hard for me to let her walk out of the house in a football jersey. It's hard to remember to buy her trucks along with the dolls. It's hard to when I try to describe what makes boys different than girls. It's hard to say "Sure, why not put Diego in a pink ribbed tank top . He looks fabulous, and hey, let's put on some early Madonna while we're at it and we can play West Village hairdresser. I'll bring the Prosecco."

I was raised to know better. So this really must be a bitch for other parents too.

I want so very much to allow Thalia to be who she is. Something tells me she won't have it any other way.


38 Comments:

Blogger Lady M said...

I thought I was so open minded, until someone gave us a purple sweatshirt with butterflies on it, and I hesitated to put it on Q, even though he was only 18 months old. I did it anyway, because I should know better than to worry about some butterflies being 'inappropriate' for a baby boy!

Best recent image - the young daughter of my colleague wearing a princess dress, tool belt, marabou slippers, and safety glasses.

6/17/08, 12:27 AM  
Anonymous Karen said...

Describing the difference between boys and girls is tough. I plan on telling my kid(s) that you can usually tell from people's faces but it takes practice. This frees me from making any generalisations about sex/gender/fashion. If you can't tell, just ask. A toddler can get away with this.

After HOURS of shopping on multiple occasions, I finally found ONE snowsuit that met my criteria. Except I couldn't bring myself to buy my son a hot pink snow suit. I eventually found another one but overpaid for something on the boyish side of neutral.

6/17/08, 12:39 AM  
Blogger Sunny said...

Yes we never generalize:)My daughter is a blue belt in Tae Kwon do and could kill a grown man with her bare hands, yet she insists on wearing as much pink as possible and loves a manicure;)

6/17/08, 2:28 AM  
Blogger Velma said...

I felt this way too, like a hypocrite for dressing my bald-as-a-ping-pong-ball little baby in pink, pink and more pink so that people would get a fucking clue and stop telling me what a "handsome fella" my baby girl was. But then she grew some hair and developed a whopping fixation on Thomas the Tank Engine, so I felt better. :)

6/17/08, 7:05 AM  
Anonymous motherhood uncensored said...

I try to follow their lead and interests and guide them when they ask.

Drew loves trucks and so I offer them to him, but he also fights his sister for the baby stroller.

Q loves princesses but also loves to build and will knock her bro down for a ball.

While gender stereotyping, even at the tiniest degree, might be inevitable, there's certainly a ton of parenting moments where you [collective you] put the bug in their head.

It's okay to dance in pants, I told Quinlan the other day when she told me she HAD to have a skirt on for dancing.

And I remind her almost daily that some boys have long hair, like the time she kept calling Notes to Self's (Kyran) son a "she" because of his kick-ass long blonde hair.

She'll form her own views, and they might be skewed. But I've taken it upon myself as her parent to make sure she's sees the other side when the world seems to pointing her in only ONE direction.

6/17/08, 8:09 AM  
Anonymous Vicki said...

LMAO. Your commenters this morning are funny. I grew up with two brothers and always liked their toys better than mine. We used to hold my barbies hostage with army men and drive away with them in dump trucks. Man, I miss those days!! I have a set of twin boys of my own now and I get them whatever they like because you're only young once. (Of course, they're only 14 m.o. so they can't exactly tell me what they like, they just reach for stuff, but I still get it, pink or not...)

6/17/08, 8:12 AM  
Anonymous Caroline said...

Its funny, being a college raised feminist, I thought that when *I* had kids, I was going to break all those gender barriers down with dolls for my boys and trucks for my girls. How hard could it be? What was everyones problem? Well, when my son was born, something came over me and I argued that I couldn't dress him in pink right now or else ppl would think he was a girl! (gasp, how horrid.) And then as he grew up, I seemed drawn into the whole "lets deck him out in that cute snails and puppy dog tails boy with his cap cocked to the side kind of look". Whats happened to me? Well, I'll tell you what happened to me. The other day he informed me pink was for girls. Nice job, Ms. women's college grad. Way to smash those gender barriers. (smacking forhead as I write this.) Am gonna go get him one of those cute boys pink polo shirts now, I swear. IF he'd even wear it! :(

6/17/08, 8:38 AM  
Blogger Queen of Shake-Shake said...

Gender roles are just another part of the game of life we play. Some of the roles played do need to change, while others I think we may worry too much over.

When my youngest son insisted boys don't iron clothes, well, I had to prove him wrong. But when it comes to choosing a shirt with a dump truck on it over one with butterflies for a boy or girl, I don't think it matters that much either way.

You're doing a great job finding the balance.

6/17/08, 8:58 AM  
Blogger Jaelithe said...

Hey, putting clothes on dolls is great for motor skills development!

I bought my son baby dolls to play with before he was even born, determined to teach him that boys can nurture, too. But he ignores them completely in favor of toy cars.

However, his cars all have names. And families. He "washes" them lovingly in his toy car wash. His cars go to the grocery store to get food for baby cars who are hungry. And when they're "sick," they go to the mechanic, which he also calls the car doctor, to get fixed up.

In short, he TREATS them like dolls.

He came up with this style of playing with them all on his own. Maybe it's not the toy itself so much that matters as the imagination behind it.

6/17/08, 9:58 AM  
Blogger Fannie Mae said...

Bah, I tried too hard with my girls. If they got a doll, I got them a tool box. If they got a tea set, I got them a dump truck. Guess which things languished at the bottom of the toy box?

Kids are their own people. Give them options and then sit back and let them be themselves.

(Hee! My word verification is SNOTT!)

6/17/08, 10:23 AM  
Blogger Mayberry said...

My son (age 3) has lately been carrying around a small, plush, pink purse stuffed with a baseball, an army man, and a whistle. I love it but my husband is horrified.

6/17/08, 11:08 AM  
Blogger mothergoosemouse said...

Your last line = perfect.

6/17/08, 11:19 AM  
Blogger Overwhelmed! said...

If it makes you feel any better, my 3-year old son has entered the dressing the dolls with clothes stage too. Oh, and he likes put leftover newborn diapers on his little sister's doll too. I actually took pictures of that.

The way I see it, he's modeling his stay-at-home Daddy and that's a wonderful thing to be proud of.

6/17/08, 2:08 PM  
Blogger b said...

I'm so lucky to have been born to a line of women who are who they chose to be? My grandmother was a shockingly elderly 32 before she married in 1935, and not for a lack of offers. Her mother left her husband and moved out of the ghetto in order to give her kids a better education, and didn't her husband come following three days later? I guess my point is I love this post because I think all the women in my family were BORN to be whomever they are all the time. We just don't know any other way!

6/17/08, 2:41 PM  
Blogger Elisa said...

ah, the eternal question... what makes boys different from girls?

My 8 year old seems to think that the love of Sephora is one of the main differences. She just figured that out :-)

6/17/08, 4:12 PM  
Blogger Emma said...

When my son was 2.5, I realised that I had never bought him a doll, but I was sure if he had been a girl I would have bought him cars and trains. So I got the doll, and he was super interested for a while, feeding it and putting it to bed... but even so, the toy he has loved the best for 2 years now is his train set.

I think letting kids play with what interests them, like girls playing with dolls and boys playing with trains, is not necessarily gender stereotyping them - the problem is more when people tell kids that what they want to do or wear is not appropriate because of their gender.

6/17/08, 4:41 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

My girls have dolls, and they barely show them any interest. Cordy has always been more interested in blocks, trucks, and space ships, so I indulge her interests. She has both "boy" and "girl" toys all around her, and I try to remember not to push any agenda on her.

Some of it must be genetic, though, because Mira likes the trucks, but is far more fascinated with shoes and sparkly things.

6/17/08, 5:19 PM  
Blogger My Kids' Mom said...

I think there is a gender identification age right around there. Suddenly girls MUST wear pink and grow their hair long and color their fingernails. The boys suddenly refuse all such things and insist on their own gender stereotypic toys.

I think they all explore the stage, but I trust them to grow right back out of it. I had a feminist mother who always talked me out of the Barbie dolls, but I still became a fluffy pink girl. I am not that kind of a woman however; I'm much more like my mother now.

My younger son (4y) enjoys his dolls, but only at bedtime. He wants his toenails painted, but doesn't want to let anyone see them. He insists that boys have short hair and girls have long, despite family members to the contrary. He plays toy gun games and horrifies me being the Bad Guy all the time, but I hope that this too, shall pass.

6/17/08, 5:24 PM  
Anonymous Susan Getgood said...

My son occasionally plays with cars and trucks and the like, but his favorite toys are by far LEGOs, including the mini-figures. And his absolute favorite is Doggy, a stuffed animal he has had since he was 8.

The best thing though. In the early days of the presidential sweepstakes, he turned to me during the news and said (about HRC): I like her, she should be president. Lesson for me: it's far more important to model the world we want for our kids than it is to worry about what they play with. Good for you for not stressing too much about Thalia's choices.

6/17/08, 8:26 PM  
Anonymous Susan Getgood said...

He's 8 now. He's had doggy since he was one.

Long day

6/17/08, 8:27 PM  
Anonymous ilinap said...

My soon-to-be 3-year old son loves pink. He always picks the pink balloon at the grocery store. He loves to dress up in the red sparkly Dorothy shoes at the kids' museum. He once sported a tutu and a pair of lion slippers with a tool belt to boot. Other parents are already questioning his sexuality. Sexuality, seriously?! WTF? Nevermind that he also loves to dress up as Bob the Builder, Spider Man, and Jeff Gordon.

My other son asked Santa for two dolls when he was two. And you know what? He got 'em. He's almost five and still likes them (Groovy Girls, one boy and one girl).

6/17/08, 8:32 PM  
Blogger Stefanie said...

I don't know. I just give my kid what she wants to wear. A few weeks ago she couldn't have given a shit about princess attire and now that's all she wants to wear. I'm a tomboy and have no idea where she gets it. On the other hand, she too will don a football jersey and parade around like she's the shit!

6/17/08, 11:25 PM  
Blogger Karyn said...

Love it.

She is too damn cute, too. As a mother of boys, I have no idea if that is not the correct thing to say or not, but I live on a frickin' sandbar, what do I know.

6/18/08, 9:59 AM  
Blogger Kareer Woman said...

She's a cutie pie :)

6/18/08, 10:58 AM  
Blogger ~Kat~ said...

I love how there are so many blog women that I feel like I'm parenting right alongside. This has been the scene at our house lately after a recent church fair that we went to and made some blindly insane purchases because, as we all know... church fair sales are dirt cheap:
Iris is now the proud owner of (big gulp in a "going against every grain of feminist cells in my body" way) Tinkerbelle high. friggin. heels.
Oh and to compound my insanity even further we somehow ended up with her first ever Barbie.
Shit.
and do you KNOW what she's DOING with these things? Well.... she's playing... she's actually playing the most hard-core intense game of pretend that I've ever seen. And I'm actually in awe of her creativity and her range of emotion and her precise detail to role playing a woman's life in high heels. So- is she being damaged by Tinkerbelle's coy and wiley ways? Probably not...
Is she having a blast being *almost* three and fully immersed into the magic land of pretend play? Absolutely. So, like you- she loves it and I love her so there. End of story. I'm still eyeing the Barbie suspiciously though...)

6/18/08, 4:39 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

I found mine open to anything when she was younger - my favourite was how she'd wear a tutu and a hard hat together - but when she turned three, the age of gender took hold, and she's fairly girly now, though we were playing with trains again the other day, which was nice.

6/18/08, 6:39 PM  
Blogger J at www.jellyjules.com said...

Maya was into trains and dinosaurs and dolls and all of it. We resisted the barbie as long as we could, but she eventually invaded our house. I'm glad she's past that stage, and barbie is GONE. Whew.

I did enjoy playing "little mermaid", though, and making one of her barbies be King Tritan after his sex change operation, singing "I could have danced all night". Maya laughed pretty hard at that, and it doesn't seem to have scarred her much.

6/18/08, 7:30 PM  
Blogger The other me said...

I get so annoyed with myself because my nearly 5 year old son is still obsessed with the colour pink, sparkly shoes, likes his shirts good and long because then they are like a dress and ooooooh pretty necklace, can I have it please? And I find myself wishing he would grow out of it already. Pretty sure that when he is 15 I will so be able to make him squirm with tales of how no woman was safe in our house, he tells them all they have to take off their shoes ( so he can wear them, naturally!)

6/19/08, 3:27 AM  
Anonymous D Austin said...

That was awesome! There is something life changing about children... but I think especially to have a little girl! We see so much in them, about them, in ourselves, and it causes us to gasp, sigh, weep, laugh and groan. They're a handmirror sometimes. Or a window to a new world. Great stuff! Keep it going!

6/19/08, 4:20 AM  
Blogger Princess Katie said...

You sound like a great mom and your kids will really appreciate the fact that you're letting them be who they truly are...perfect and innocent.

Rock royally,

PK

6/19/08, 11:17 AM  
Blogger Tracee said...

I thought I was very progressive about these things. Then I had a son and I thought - why did it never occur to me to buy our daughter a train set?

(BTW - I don't think Gloria Steinham is walking around in slate blue workman's grease covered overalls - I think she's in a feminine pantsuit and some tasteful pumps and even has long hair, sometimes worn in a pony tail or feminine bun. She even wore a bunny tail for a while. I swear I've seen her in a skirt or dress and lipstick.)

6/21/08, 10:45 PM  
Anonymous Izzy said...

My newly 3 yr old son was tottering around in a pair of my heels the other day and plays with Barbie dolls. He also likes to whack things with a toy bat and smash his cars and trucks into each other.

At this age, their conception of "gender roles" is gloriously fuzzy, at best. It's when they get older and I see the REST of the world pigeonholing them that my ass starts to feel a bit chapped...

6/22/08, 10:05 AM  
Anonymous houndrat said...

I feel for you. My son virtually came out of the womb making truck noises and bashing things. When he was three, an older girl gave him a Barbie (let's not even go there, although in my defense her hair had been shorn). He did enjoy dressing her a few times but soon discovered that running her over with his cars was more to his liking. Sigh.

It did my heart good to hear that at his two-day-a-week home day care, he fought with the girls about which Princess dress he got to wear.

But I'm forced to admit--I dress my daughter in pink. And we still get told, "What an adorable baby. How old is he?" On the bright side, maybe that means there are so many moms in touch with their inner Gloria Steinham, that folks are used to seeing infant males in fuschia tutus.

6/22/08, 7:24 PM  
Blogger the new girl said...

Oh, awesome post, Liz.

'She's going to defy all expectations, this girl of mine.'

I love that. LOVE.

6/25/08, 8:02 PM  
Anonymous gurukarm said...

My DS, now 14, loved to let his 5+ years older big sis and her friends paint his fingernails when he was little (2, 3, and older even). When the other boys would tease him about it, he'd hold himself with great dignity and say "I like it!"

Kids are so cool!

6/28/08, 7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You just spoke to what I've spent the entire morning thinking about & doing. :) We bought our 2-year-old daugther a baseball glove yesterday. Okay, so yes it is pink & purple and lights up when she catches the ball, but she LOVES playing catch. And kicking a soccer ball and picking up worms. But she also loves pink, putting on my eyeliner (yeah - that was funny), and shoes.

I am now pregnant with daughter #2. Daughter #1 wants the baby's room to be frogs. So what did I do all morning? Look online for the parody of the The Frog Prince where the independent girl has frog legs for dinner and thinks "I don't think so" - here's the link: http://www.jibjab.com/view/197341

6/30/08, 3:13 PM  
Blogger caramama said...

This was a great post. This issue is going to be a constant balancing act for me and my husband, because we are very against gender stereotyping.

Right now she is 15 months, and I buy her dolls and cars... she seems to prefer the cars at the moment. But I'll keep offering her all the toys out there and let her play with what she wants.

We are also trying to teach her the Redskins fight song. It's never too young to start rooting for the Skins. ;-)

6/30/08, 10:51 PM  
Blogger Kyran said...

New Year's Resolution for 2010: try to read more Mom101. Stumbled on this post while googling for something on my own blog. Great, as usual! Happy New Year, Liz. It's going to be a great decade for you, and I hope to see you before we get very far into it!

1/1/10, 11:10 AM  

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