I was born in 1979, so grew up in the 80’s. Back then, the same sports weren’t offered to girls as were boys. I have very vivid memories of my sister and I being the only girls on the ALL BOY soccer and basketball teams. At least we were allowed to play, but I remember questioning why there weren’t more girls, and why we didn’t have the same opportunities as our male counterparts did. This wasn’t the only time I would feel this way. I remember hearing kids say, “you throw like a girl,” to boy classmates, as if that was a bad thing. Comments like that made my skin crawl. Early on, I felt the little feminist growing within. I developed a strong drive to compete with the boys, and let my voice be heard.
40 years later, little girls are still dealing with the same challenges, stereotypes and judgements. My husband and I have two girls, and a boy. I remember being blown away by the gender differences as soon as we found out we were having our first daughter. Pinks, purples, frills, bows, dolls and more. I couldn’t find anything blue or green in the girls section so I started shopping in the boys department. A few years later, we had our son.
Again, we were confronted with such stark differences in gender. Not only were things limited to specific colors, but trucks and dinosaurs seemed to be the preferred gift choice. Our kiddos will grow up learning they can wear any color they choose, play with any toy, and be in any activity they desire.
About a month ago we ordered two Happy Meals and I was caught off guard when I was asked, “are these for boys or girls?” This was the first time I was asked this. Because I was not prepared to answer, my immediate response was, “girls.” I didn’t think too much about it until we got home and they opened up their toys. Much to their dismay, they received Disney princesses.
They wanted Star Wars. I became angered because I now realized that they asked a gender specific question, and assigned a toy based on my response. I was now faced with a social experiment.
One month later, we returned to get two Happy Meals. I was prompted with the same question, and this time I said, I have girls, but they like Star Wars. I could tell this wasn’t a typical response, and I threw the person behind the headset for a loop. I could see on the screen he still typed in “Disney Princesses,” despite my request. At this point one could probably see steam coming out of my ears. I pushed it further, and said we would like Star Wars please. The tone of my voice prompted him to switch out the toys. I didn’t blame this person, because for all I knew, they were instructed to ask this question. What if the little boys want the princesses? They should be able to have the toy of their choice, so why not ask the simple question, “which toy would your child like?” I feel I unveiled a larger problem. We’re still teaching our children a “one size fits all” approach.
I don’t want my girls growing up believing they can’t have certain things, or do specific activities because they are “boy” items or activities. They learn by watching me, so I need to set the example for them. I am currently writing a letter to McDonald’s corporate. I will do a follow up post, and let you know how it goes. To all of the little girls out there, may the force be with you. And a special shout out to my MIL who is a die hard Star Wars Fan!
Be the change you wish to see in the world – Gandhi