In Defense of “Girl Toys”

Everyday I see people denegrating toys that are marketed specifically to girls. I think the clearest example is the Lego Friends series – they took legos and designed new styles in an effort to make them more appealing to girls. Have you walked down the traditional Lego aisle of a toy store? It is filled will trucks and fire engines, ninja turtles and star wars. I would argue that the reason girls are drawn to the Friends series is not that the bricks include pink, but that there are more options- houses, schools,  treehouses, bakery and other shops, etc. In other words they are providing more choices.

The politically correct answer seems to be that girls should only play with gender neutral toys – boys can play with all toys but girls can’t play with anything special. Where do you draw the line – are dolls and toy strollers appropriate for boys and girls (I say yes), how about Barbies or do boys need to play with “action figues” instead? Are all toys ok for girls unless they are pink? Is dress-up ok? This morning Ruslan asked to watch Doc McStuffins – a cartoon that features a girl as the main character as well as a working mother. Is that a girl show? Should I restrict viewing of it in my house because it has female characters (and pink toys among others) or praise it because it includes a working mother?

In an age where we tell our daughters that they can grow up and conquer the world, why would you want to start their life by limited their choices? Why not give them the opportunity to grow and explore and choose the toys that are appealing to them.

Juliana loves math. In fact she is teaching herself multiplication, division and square roots in second grade because she thinks it’s fun. She also loves building with the Lego Friends kits because in the end she has something that tells a story and fosters her imagination. Some days she watches My Little Pony and other days Power Rangers – it’s ok for her to enjoy both.

In my opinion there are lots of reasons why girls grow up to be strong individuals and playing with Barbies and other pink toys has nothing to do with it. For me it is about having choices and balance. I would argue that you can be a girly girl and still grow up to be a confident, successful woman. Here is my story.

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I loved reading as a child. I read books where female characters were the stars – Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High. For years I wanted to be a detective when I grew up and then I started reading books about the FBI and I wanted to be an FBI agent. Books helped me explore the world outside my home and dream about the future.

My collection of Barbie Dream House furniture was my most prized possession and I spent hours playing with my Barbies. I slept in a white canopy bed with a pink canopy over my head. I also loved to climb trees, play kick-ball and ride my bike until dark.

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Most of my high school years I wore dresses and skirts to school each day. My hair alternated between big, 80′s hair and a sleek bob. But I also played basketball and there was nothing girly about that part of my high school years.

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In college I was probably the girl that the other girls hated because most mornings I got up and showered, put on a matching outfit, fixed my hair and wore make-up. Yes, even the days that I had an 8:00 am class. It was part of my routine, I felt more prepared for class when I looked presentable. I was doing it for me not for others.

I was an Earth Sciences major in the college of Earth and Mineral Sciences at Penn State. I don’t know the actual enrollment statitistics from the early 90′s but the current demographics are 20% female for that college. I would guess it was even lower in the early 90′s, but I never felt out of place. I never let anyone hold me back or tell me I couldn’t do anything because of my sex.

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I worked in Environmental consulting for the first part of my career. When I was 24, I remember being on a job site on the outskirts of a small town. I was wearing steel-toed boots and a hard hat. I was walking around the site with a clipboard instructing a team of drillers where to drill holes to collect groundwater samples. I was the only woman on the job site and it didn’t affect my ability to do my job. I was confident in my role on that job site and executed the project as planned.

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I spent the first part of this week in a conference room discussing a new corporate project. At one point I looked around and noted that all of the men in the room were wearing khaki or black pants and a striped or plaid button down shirt. And then I realized that of the 11 people in the room, I was the only woman. I hadn’t previously noticed it. I was asked to attend the meeting for the expertise that I could bring to the project and I was in a meeting of peers where I was just as welcome as everyone else in the room.

For the record I was wearing black dress pants and a pink sweater that day. I wasn’t wearing pink because I’m a girl and someone told me I needed to wear pink. I was wearing my pink sweater because I like it and it is my choice what color I wear the work.

Choices, self-confidence, seeking out opportunity – let’s focus the discussion on empowering our girls to grow up to be confident women and stop debating the color of the toys that they choose to play with.

pink-umbrella

 

 

 

8 comments to In Defense of “Girl Toys”

  • AMEN.

    I often think it’s the hyperawareness of gender that is part of the problem. If you’re confident in who you are and what you like it doesn’t matter whether you are the only woman in the room. If *you* act like your gender isn’t an issue, others will follow suit.

    I realize that isn’t a universal thing and that sexism does exist. But I do think confidence plays a key role.

    Also, re: Lego Friends – I don’t know why people hate on them so much. There’s this constant yelling about getting girls involved in STEM – what do you think Legos do?! They help in math AND science skills (physics, anyone?). I know that my boys are crazy for Legos an they also love math. We have a niece who loves the Lego Friends kits. What’s the big deal? If your girl loves Star Wars or The Legend of Chima or Ninjago – buy those! If they prefer something else, go for it. As you said, it’s all about choice.

  • Awesome post! You really capture the issue which is NOT toys, per se. It’s how we empower our girls to enjoy being a girl and understand that being a girl is not a limitation.

  • Pam_Wow

    Perfection. This issue and ongoing discussion has left me with so much to say (much of which you have so nicely articulated above) that I had been considering starting a blog again.

    Also: Our growing years seem to parallel a lot.

  • [...] a strong post from a friend regarding “girl toys”. The upshot of which is that any toy can be [...]

  • Jen

    EXACTLY. Yes. It’s not about playing with this toy and not that one or wearing pink or blue or whatever. It’s about doing what you LIKE and having people not criticize you for it. The end.

  • Kayla

    You make a great point. Everyone talks about how important it is for TV shows and movies to have strong, female-lead characters, so why can’t those characters be what our girls are playing with, too? My daughter does prefer mostly ‘girly’ toys, but she still loves to play soccer and will play with ‘boy’ toys all the time. Let’s let our kids be kids, okay?

  • Jess

    …and amidst this eloquent post, I MUST comment on the fact that I never knew that you also read Trixie Belden or we would have been friends MUCH earlier in life :-)