My partner and I are hosting an Easter Egg Hunt for the neighborhood kids, and in the planning process we have learned how pervasive gender-role modeling is for children, and how unintentional it can be. For starters, we got baskets and prizes for all the children, who are a mix of boys and girls. We found ourselves at the 99 Cent Store unable to find treats and toys that were not gender-specific, down to the baskets, which came in pinks and lavender for girls and blues and greens for boys. We found the same sort of options for prizes. There were pink and purple play necklaces, princess-themed charms and bows for girls; and dark-colored toy cars, guns (which we would never buy) and sporty toys for boys. Even the candy was packed in boy-or girl-themed wrappers – Cinderella, Tinkerbell for girls and Tranformers and Cars for boys.
We found a few neutral items, like whistles, Silly Putty and Easter-themed Tootsie Rolls in pastel wrappers, and we agreed that some of the sports- and action-movie-themed items could be for a girl or a boy, but we realized our own bias when it came to the more girly items. We didn’t want to get Cinderella candies or the girly toys because we figured the boys (and their parents) would not want them. We were falling right into society’s strictures that say, “Tom-boy girls are okay, but feminine boys are not.”
So we decided to go ahead and get the princess charms and a variety of colored baskets, including pink, and we’d let the kids decide for themselves what they like. If they didn’t like what they got when they cracked open their plastic eggs, then they could trade with the other kids. Afterall, it is us, the grown-ups, who often tell kids what they should like, as a boy or a girl; but left to themselves they might have other preferences, so parents will just have to deal with it.
When we got home, my son Stephen immediately grabbed his favorite basket, a pink one.
Let the hunt begin!