Thursday, November 03, 2016

Gender Bender

When I was small, I got baby dolls for my birthday and Christmas.  I don’t remember whether I asked for them or not; I just remember having them and playing with them.  Between my sister and I, we had Baby Tender Love and Baby Alive (Baby ALIVE??  Really, Kenner??  It’s alive…ALIVE!!).   If I remember correctly, you could give Baby Alive a bottle of water and baby food, and her mouth would num num.  You could give Baby Tender Love a bottle of water in her o-shaped mouth.  Baby Tender Love would cry when you squeezed her stomach, so you could pretend to comfort her when she did.  I think they both peed in their diapers and you could change them. 

Here’s the thing: when I played with them, I don’t remember giving them water or food or changing their diapers or holding them.  I had more fun squeezing BTL’s abdomen hard to see how loud I could make her shriek instead of just cry, because it sounded like I was killing her, and that was fascinating!  I let BA bite my fingers instead of feeding her baby food.  I think it was more fun to watch them pee in the sink instead of in their diapers.  I enjoyed putting them to bed and playing with either my toy cars or my stuffed cat or drawing, neglecting them for the rest of the day. 

Obviously, my maternal instincts were void; baby dolls were PROBABLY not the best choice of toy for me.

But either I saw them in the Sears catalog (remember when that would land in the mail before Christmas?  All the possibilities, in Technicolor!) and asked for them because they were in the girl toy section, because that’s what was suggested to me, or because people just bought dolls for me because I was a girl.  Now I did have some battery operated cars that I mentioned above, that I know I asked for, because I played with my cousin’s, and they were fun as hell to make them go whipping through the house.  I also had Barbie and Darcy and Wonder Woman dolls, which I liked way better because they were autonomous adults that could have adventures and you didn’t have to take care of them.  We had Ken, but I didn’t use him that much.  He mostly laid around watching TV, pantsless, with his socks on. 

And my sister?  Who hated dolls and dresses and all manner of things feminine when she was a kid?  She had a baby.  I didn’t have any kids.  I hear many of you breathing a sigh of relief that you don't have to check on the welfare of a child of mine...

What I’m saying is that gender-assigned toys are insanely ridiculous things to suggest or foist upon kids (as the case may be).  Because my parts were girl-shaped, I was supposed to like pink and taking care of babies and playing house.  I hated all of that.  I liked playing darts.  And just because another child’s parts were boy-shaped, he was supposed to like cars and GI Joe and football.   What if he likes babies?  What if he likes dancing?  What if he likes baking cakes?   And what about kids who know they’re transgender or genderqueer?  Some parents don’t know WHAT to do with that—how about: listen to and respect what your child wants?  There’s nothing wrong--and everything right--with a child having their own interests and preferences.  And often, those preferences have to do with the thing itself appealing to their brains and hearts, not their parts.  Sure, some kids will choose traditional gender roles, and if THEY do, without prodding from us or the media, no worries.  If girls want to become moms one day, or boys want to go off to become soldiers, they’ll figure that out themselves.  But it doesn’t have to be because we told them that’s what they’re supposed to do based on their sex.  Let boys want to adopt babies with their husbands one day, and girls want to become firefighters, too (hell, president!). 

Let’s just get rid of this “supposed to” tomfoolery right now.  Take it off the table.  Stop assigning anything to anyone's gender or sex.  It’s a choice.  Their choice.  Our choice. Shouldn't we know better by NOW?   

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