Gendered Childhood

Relatively speaking, gendering childhood doesn't seem as big of a deal as say, childhood sexual abuse. So it seems silly and a bit frivolous to talk about how problematic it is that our society (including friends and family) points parents to a specific color (pink), identity (princess), brand or toy dependent on whether or not we have a girl or boy child. So, instead of unpacking this concept, let me show you an example of what I mean:

 Send the "availability" message early...at age 6 months at your local Buy Buy Baby!

Send the "availability" message early...at age 6 months at your local Buy Buy Baby!

...and if that's not enough, we have an all-boy or all-girl diaper selection at my local Harris Teeter. Could I find a pull-up that wasn't blue, pink or with a Disney character on it? Nope.

This is a problem. (Okay, I will talk about it.) What's the issue? some parents might ask. I love pink, others might add. I love pink too. So much so that my first company logo was pink...and brown. I do love pink. But I'm also an adult with access and awareness of other colors and choices.

The problem with gendering childhood is complicated but for me, boils down to two things. The first is about choice. When there is a lack of choice (a plain white size 5 diaper for example) choosing becomes an access and privilege issue. I can order Seventh Generation pull-ups from Amazon, a brand of diaper we've used since Elisabeth was born. They will come "free and clear", not only from chemicals but also from colors and branding. But that's a privilege. They are more expensive than the pink or blue Huggies. Money shouldn't dictate access, although we know that it does, as anyone who has ever looked at preschool for their child is aware.

 Something else makes a product good enough for this mom to buy: inclusion of dads as parents who also care about kids' teeth.

Something else makes a product good enough for this mom to buy: inclusion of dads as parents who also care about kids' teeth.

The second issue that I have with gendering childhood is that gendering is stereotyping. When we stereotype, we miss who someone really is. Stereotypes limit our vision both for ourselves (what we can see of someone else) and for others (who they truly are). They are ultimately about inequality. When we pigeonhole people, in this case, children, it greatly limits their ability to express themselves. To be who they truly are. There's nothing good about that.

When Elisabeth is not singing or banging on something, she enjoys playing with dinosaurs (just ask her what Baryonyx used to eat!), jumping in puddles and getting her hands dirty. She also likes putting her dolls to sleep in her big girl bed or our couch, covering them up and saying quietly, "I'm here, I'm here,". Is she a "typical" girl? I don't know and don't care. What I do care about is making sure Elisabeth knows that she is accepted and loved for who she is. That means extra time to find sneakers without glitter and clothes that allow her to actually play in them. I'll do it because its important to me and I have the privilege of extra time and money for things that are important for our family. But I shouldn't have to. No one should.