“This is a toy for girls,” the woman told us, pointing and indicating that we should pick that one.
I was puzzled. A toy for girls? What would that be?
We were at a county fair. There were a variety of stands at the fair, including some run by charities. At the charity stalls, you could donate money and in turn get a chance to win a prize. Since we want our daughter to learn about what charities do and about choosing which charities to support, we decided to go to several of these stands.
At one of the stands, every donation enabled you to choose a “lucky dip.” You could randomly reach in and pick a small wrapped object. The woman at this charity directed our attention to the round objects and told us they were for girls and that therefore our daughter should pick that particular item.
“This is for boys,” the woman continued, pointing at something else. “I can’t remember what’s in the package.”
I asked about a third shape in the “lucky dip” container and was told it was “for boys and girls” and that it was candy.
I found this shocking. The sole object considered appropriate for both boys and girls was candy, which is not generally a healthy choice for anyone. And of course, this suggested that the people running this charity thought that the only thing boys and girls had in common was a taste for junk food.
Meanwhile, the other items were strictly gendered. As many people have pointed out before, the only toy that could be considered specifically for boys or for girls is one that is operated by their genitals, and that’s problematic because a) not all boys or girls have the genitals one might assume and b) if genitals are needed for a toy, then it’s very likely not actually for children anyway.
I stood by this tub of wrapped items and wavered. Should we choose the “boy’s toy” just to defy this woman? Or would it be something we disapproved of, like a toy gun?
The woman finally said, “The girl’s toy is a ball.”
My wife said, “Let’s just take it.”
So we did.
Our daughter enjoyed unwrapping the item. And sure enough, it was a little rubber ball. Why is a ball for girls? Apparently this one was because it was purple and had an image from the film Frozen on it. Our daughter doesn’t see TV or films, but the imagery is so pervasive that she recognized it. She was pleased with the ball and gripped it tightly as we walked around the fair.
I couldn’t help but think that many boys must like Frozen too and would have been happy to receive that ball. Or that the charity could have just chosen one object and given it to all children–a ball would have worked for everyone.
The experience on the whole was disappointing. Rather than focusing on donating money to charity (and arguably, getting a prize for giving money is another issue here), we ended up annoyed about the excessive gendering of toys. This seems to happen more and more lately, which leaves me wondering: shouldn’t toys be everyone? Can’t we try to remove gender from our way of thinking about children?
My daughter doesn’t need a purple ball because she’s a girl. She wants to play with a ball because she’s a child, and that’s all there is to it.